Kyrgyzstan’s security services are on the hunt for fake diplomas.
The State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, announced last week that it has drawn up a list of almost 100 lawmakers, judges, teachers, and police officers, among other government personnel, it suspects of possessing fake academic qualifications.
“Nine people have voluntarily handed over their diplomas, and 16 resigned [from their jobs] of their own free will,” the GKNB said in a statement on March 14.
The names of the MPs believed to have forged their academic credentials have not been disclosed. This has annoyed some lawmakers who say they have been unjustly accused by social media users.
“Reveal their names,” one MP, Chyngyz Azhibayev, said in parliament. “Somebody this morning, it turns out, wrote that Azhibayev has a fake diploma. But I studied for five years at university to graduate.”
What has been discovered so far may only be the tip of the iceberg, though. The GKNB wants more fraudulent civil servants to either voluntarily confess to owning fake diplomas or to leave their jobs. It says they are sifting through “tens of thousands of documents" to uncover the full extent of the problem.
It is not only academic credentials in the crosshairs of the GKNB. Investigators are also looking for government workers with dual citizenship, which is not permitted. They have found 12 people in violation so far.
This campaign to hunt down fake qualifications follows calls made in January by President Sadyr Japarov to check all civil servants for fake diplomas and foreign passports.
There are some who suspect there may be a political angle to all this, though.
One of the first targets of this search happened to be a prominent representative of the opposition-leaning Butun Kyrgyzstan political party, Orozayym Narmatova, who won a seat in parliament in November’s elections.
Narmatova, a former Japarov supporter who then turned against him, was summoned for questioning by the GKNB in mid-January to face questioning for allegedly obtaining a university degree through fraud. She was stripped of her parliamentary mandate over the charges. Narmatova has told Eurasianet that the accusations leveled against her were false and that she was being persecuted on pretextual grounds simply because university staff lost her paperwork.
The requirement for aspiring MPs to possess a university degree was introduced by the government in August.
The GKNB says it is running checks on more than 20 universities across the country for fake diplomas. According to the committee, almost all the bogus diplomas discovered to date – 28 of them – were issued by the Kyrgyz National University, one of the country’s largest universities.
The hunt for fake diplomas has taken a tragic turn in at least one case.
On March 9, a 54-year-old primary school teacher in the Naryn region hanged herself after being repeatedly interrogated by local prosecutors about her credentials. The principal at the teacher’s school, Zyina Abdrayeva, said the woman had complained about the incessant interrogations and had pleaded to be let go from her job.
“I didn’t know she had a fake diploma. She asked me if we would have a whip-round to somehow get this case closed. She said that she herself could not give a lot of money, that her husband would kill her. She wasn’t familiar with teaching methods, so I helped her. But there were no complaints from parents. She was a very good person,” Abdrayeva told 24.kg news website.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.