This week on our podcast, Aigerim Toleukhanova and Alisher Khamidov discuss local cynicism about the American commitment to Central Asia following U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit. Russia is more dependent on good relations with Central Asia than ever before, and China gives billions without demanding reforms.
Kazakhstan, which will hold parliamentary elections this weekend, still operates by the old dictum – attributed often, though probably apocryphally – to Stalin: ‘It doesn't matter who people vote for, but only how the votes are counted.’ Our hosts are skeptical that a single-mandate system will significantly change how Kazakhstan’s rubber-stamp legislature operates.
International Women’s Day on March 8 featured small, independent marches demanding equal rights and an end to violence against women, while governments also organized rallies. Bishkek's promoted what it called "traditional values" without defining what those are.
And Central Asia has repatriated hundreds of citizens from Syria and Iraq – often women and children who had been brought there by militants fighting with ISIS. Alisher tells the story of a relative who, fleeing religious persecution in Kyrgyzstan in 2013, took his wife and children to Syria. After he died, his family was stuck in camps run by rebel groups. Though they are now back in Kyrgyzstan, they are being held by a government unsure what to do with them. Is Central Asia ready to finally discuss the difference between radicalization and piety?
Aigerim Toleukhanova is a journalist and researcher from Kazakhstan.
Alisher Khamidov is a writer based in Bishkek.