On a warm autumn day in early November, pedestrians in downtown Bishkek met an unusual sight: a 500-strong crowd of hijab-sporting female Muslim activists riding bicycles, heading to a state hospital to donate blood. “Passersby were in shock,” laughed Jamal Frontbek kyzy, whose organization Mutakallim helped organize the event. “We wanted to dispel stereotypes.
China is striving to forge Central Asia into a streamlined conduit for its regional trade and energy ambitions. But Beijing is finding that domestic insecurity and fractious bilateral relations among the region’s five former-Soviet republics have created a web of obstacles.
Outside Aslan Arlozorov’s cottage in suburban Bishkek three people discuss their ailments as they wait in line. One has asthma; a second has a stomach ulcer; a third, cancer of the liver. The last patient is turning to Arlozorov, a practitioner of herbal medicine, or a “travnik,” out of desperation.
Despite budget shortfalls and social unrest, Kyrgyz leaders are forging ahead with the most expensive film in Kyrgyzstan’s history, apparently in the hope that a tale of a 19th century heroine can promote a sense of cultural unity. Critics worry that the epic’s nation-building aim is overly ambitious, and it will end up flopping.
Almost five years ago, as his village in northern Kyrgyzstan endured daily power outages, rays of light always emitted from Sabyr Kurmanov’s garage. They came from his egg incubator, a 12-volt contraption powered by something he and his neighbors have in abundance – wind.
In 2010, Kyrgyzstan tried to promote good governance and reduce corruption by attaching public watchdogs to major ministries and state agencies. Almost three years later, the watchdogs are still functioning, but many express frustration about bureaucratic resistance that hinders their ability to do their jobs.
With Westerners now leery of investing in Kyrgyzstan, it is perhaps inevitable that officials in Bishkek turn to China as they try to attract capital for infrastructure development. Beijing professes a desire to help Kyrgyzstan without setting conditions on assistance. Yet, as some Kyrgyz experts note, there are still sovereignty concerns connected to forging closer economic ties to China.
Kyrgyzstan’s collective thirst for vodka should provide a nice revenue stream for a government budget consistently starving for funds. But instead of reaping benefits from an excise tax, the state is mostly feeling high and dry.
Two collapsed coalitions, the odd bloody nose, and the delicate matter of a stolen bicycle: As Kyrgyzstan’s first truly multi-party parliament enters its third year, observers and participants agree that the legislature has a lot of growing up to do.