Hooligans and the Quiet End of the NDN

Last week was hectic. Not only was it Hell Week (ie the week before the Magazine goes out), but Wednesday I confronted that demon that haunts all writers at one point or another–writers block. I stared at my computer, fingers twitching but no words coming out. At least I had a mound of editing to do for the Magazine to make me feel somewhat productive.

But, it was one bad day surrounded by some interesting developments in Central Asia.

Not (at all) surprising things: Kyrgyzstan (finally) joined the EEU. Casey Michel has an interesting article in the upcoming Magazine about the tough spot Kyrgyzstan was in and illuminates the reluctance in the country regarding joining the club. Also in Kyrgyzstan, and not entirely unrelated, the parliament is considering a law that would slap a very broad “foreign agents” label on most NGOs. I do a little false-analogy debunking–the Russian “foreign agents” law on which the Kyrgyz one is based, is nothing like the US’ foreign agents act. Hello whataboutism, my old comrade.

Things that seem, at first glance, surprising: It may sound impressive that Turkmenistan pardoned 1200 prisoners on occasion of its Constitution Day. But then you learn that this a semi-annual thing. Another periodic occurrence is the trade of prisoners among the region’s states–this time Tajikistan and China look set to trade.

Russia this week officially closed the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). It hasn’t been used much in recent months–but in a way it looks like the Ukraine crisis finally made it to Afghanistan, though thankfully too late to impact last year’s withdrawal. I’d never say Putin missed an opportunity, but a closure last year would have caused a lot of trouble. This year, hardly a blip on the radar.

Somewhat surprising: Kyrgyz authorities have charged the anti-gay nationalists who broke up an LGBT gathering on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia last week. The charge? Hooliganism. This is unlikely to effect the worsening situation with regard to LGBT rights in the country, but the hooligans being charged rather than the party goers is somewhat surprising.

Mysteries unfolding: The Tajik OMON commander who disappeared was reported to have turned up in Turkey, was arrested trying to get into Syria and extradited. Trouble is, Tajikistan says such reports are baseless.

And in the mystery category I’ll include my weekly roundup of interesting links and tidbits. While the body count of dead Saiga antelope keeps climbing (from 100 to 1,000 to 20,000 and upward), the degradation of the Aral Sea is an old sin. NatGeo has a fantastic story worth your time and pageviews.

Next week: Magazine Issue 7!!! (Holy crap, how can it be 7 already?)

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