Issue 6!

IMG_0196Issue 6 of the Magazine is out. The cover story is on Vietnam 40 years after the war ended, and other lead pieces look at how to assess the North Korean nuclear threat, saving Indonesia’s forests, and Thailand’s self-absorbed dictatorship. We’ve also added a photo essay on the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal.

I’ve got a piece in the Central Asia section on the events that led up to the 2005 Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, the anniversary of which is May 13.

On Thursday, May 12, 2005 the BBC ran a story titled “Uzbekistan’s most orderly protest” in which Jenny Norton, a reporter who was on the ground in Andijan, praised the thousands gathered there as being “well-spoken, dignified, and orderly.” She recounted how every day for the previous four months protesters had gathered in Andijan, a city in eastern Uzbekistan, outside the court where 23 local businessmen were on trial, accused of being extremists.

The hearings had ended Wednesday and the crowd outside was, to Norton’s eyes, waiting patiently for a verdict. Thursday evening, however, everything changed.

I’ll have something on the site closer to the anniversary on where Uzbekistan is now with regard to human rights, but you can probably guess what I’ll be saying.

For the site this week, I started off by recapping the Kazakhstan election–which the incumbent Nazarbayev won 97.7 percent of the vote, and the government says 95 percent of eligible voters voted. Personally, I do not think an election in which no policy alternatives are considered, to be much of an election.

Monday evening, Turkmenistan’s first communications satellite blasted into orbit on the back of a SpaceX Falcon 9. Last week I covered how the country has declared war on satellite dishes. Oh, the irony.

Freedom House released its Press Freedom 2015 report, the news isn’t good in Central Asia. And I wrote another story on Tajik beard shaving. My colleagues have cautioned me to not become known for stories about beards. Russia and Kazakhstan are having a don’t-call-it-a-trade-war trade war, victims so far: Russian milk, chocolate, and meat; Kazakh cheese. Doesn’t bode well for the Eurasian Economic Union, a trade-bloc that Kyrgyzstan has delayed joining (again).

And speaking of freedom, a US commission that advises the State Department on which countries to designate as of “particular concern” regarding religious freedom released its report and recommendations. Again, Central Asia gets plenty of red cards. State doesn’t have to listen to the commission–and while it designates Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as concerning, it has also waived any punitive actions for both.

For me, this illustrates something I’ve noticed those abroad misunderstand about the American system (and which Americans equally misunderstand about other governments)–not every arm, leg, and tentacle of the US government is on-board and happy with the policies pursued by the government as a whole. The difference between the US and other places, however, is this internal dissent is by and large welcomed or at the very least, not persecuted.

On Afghanistan I discussed Ghani leaving late for India, because of violence in Kunduz, and yet another damning SIGAR report.

Finished the week with a roundup of links to other developments in the region, as well as a number of differing perspectives on what the Kazakhstan election means.

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