Sometimes a Beard is Just a Beard

This week was a touch slow in Central Asia, it was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II (or the Great Patriotic War, if you’re of a Soviet mind) and that seemed to dominate. Friday, I wrote about how Central Asia was celebrating. With parades, obviously, and visits to Moscow.

Back to the beginning of the week. Are the recent threats posted on buildings in a city outside the Uzbek capital from ISIS as some have begun to claim? Probably not. And will Turkmenistan be supplying Europe with gas by 2020? Maybe, but only if the Caspian sea dispute is settled. This is part of the diversification schemes for both Turkmenistan AND Europe. Diversifying away from dependence on Russia (and for Turkmenistan China as well). So Russia doesn’t have much incentive to help settle the decades-old dispute over who owns what part of the world’s largest lake.

Kyrgyzstan has more than one troublesome gold mine. Meet Jerooy. A Russian company just won the rights to exploit the mine, but they also won its legal defense fees. Which are considerable. The mine’s last patron is suing for $549 million.

SIGAR (the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction), my favorite government-created, ruthlessly independent watchdog, gave a speech at the Weill Cornell Medical College this week. It has some great lines:

Obviously, the thought was that with your expertise in treating intractable diseases, you would also be interested in Afghanistan reconstruction.

He also has some extremely astute observations regarding the danger of basing assessments off strict numbers also, without context. Sometimes data doesn’t actually say what people say it says. Lies, damned lies, and statistics after all.

Four men were sentenced to death for the March murder by mob of Farkhunda in Afghanistan. The trial was only four days long and no one seems convinced justice has been served. For one, there are countless videos of the crime and only a fraction of the men in the videos have even been brought up on charges. Also due process usually takes more than four days, and the defendants should probably all have lawyers. Even if they’re guilty.

Kazakhstan is trying to brand itself as a great mediator. Some of the Syrian opposition is scheduled to be in Astana at the end of May for talks. Who else is coming hasn’t been announced. Kazakhstan is more interested in burnishing its diplomatic image than preoccupied by any delusion that the Syrian conflict (or the Iran nukes, or Ukraine) will be settled around a table in Astana.

And last but not least, Tajikistan is considering a law to ban Arabic-style names. That’s problematic since their president’s name, Emomali, is derived from that of the fourth caliph, Imam Ali. Whoops. Worked that development in with a good essay by a GW prof on Central Asia’s mismanagement of religion.

Sometimes a beard is just a beard.

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