Myths, Radicals, and Satellite Dishes Too

As expected, I didn’t get as much written this week as in past weeks. The 6th issue of the magazine comes out next week so I had a bunch of editing to do for that.

What makes up for the slow week on my part was that on Monday Strategy Bridge published a piece I’d written a few months back on what can be learned from looking at the in-between moments of history. Based on research I did in 2009 (as part of an undergraduate history methods course) on a 1934 Congressional committee investigating the US munitions industry. This is from where we get the phrase “merchants to death.”  War on the Rocks picked it up in their Weekend Reading list.

For The Diplomat this week I started off  with a question: Why is Kazakhstan even having an election? (They are on Sunday and we know who is going to win.) The country has the routine of democracy down, but lack of actually policy debate is troubling. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is exempted from term-limits by a 2007 amendment to the constitution. He’s going to win. My guess for the vote is 91(+/-3) percent.

Tuesday I attended a workshop at George Washington University, hosted by their Central Asia Program centered around a report by John Heathershaw and David Montgomery examining what they call the six myths of Muslim radicalization in post-Soviet Central Asian states. The difficulty here is people read the title and decide they know Muslim radicalization is an issue in the region. Their scholarship dissects that idea and finds it largely over-simplified and fabricated. I encourage you to actually read the report and then decide if they’re on to something. I think they are.

Then IWPR put out an interview with Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a fascinating woman. Related to the above, she was put forth by Tajikistan’s Islamist party as the presidential nominee from a coalition of opposition parties in 2013. Never made it to the election but think the through the reasons an Islamist party would put forth a liberal female candidate–maybe because they view Islam as the basis of social morality and the state as a secular institution and see no contradiction therein. Anyway Bobonazarova had this to say about the Tajik government’s recent, weird, lawmaking:

We have massive economic problems, the problems with our migrants, and the current [financial] crisis. But everyone is suddenly concerned about women’s clothing. Apparently that is the most pressing concern. Personally, I don’t think a woman’s clothes are important.

Friday it was officially announced that both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan would be moving their Victory Day parades up by two days so their presidents could travel to Moscow and attend the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. It looks like all of Central Asia’s leaders are going, possibly a first in recent years though I’m having trouble verifying that. Nazarbayev hasn’t confirmed, since it’s after the election. But previous lists included Kazakhstan on those who are going. The Parade is May 9. More on that when it happens.

And lastly, Turkmenistan has declared war on satellite dishes. Sure, they’re ugly but perhaps the powers that be in Ashgabat should ask themselves why so many people have them in the first place? (Hint: actually getting news channels)

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