Kyrgyzstan must protect itself from Arab Islamists and gay-loving Americans; so say supporters of a sweeping draft law that could shutter many non-governmental organizations and, like a Russian bill adopted in 2012, label foreign-funded activists as “foreign agents.”
Kyrgyzstan currently has the most vibrant civil society in Central Asia. But critics of the bill feel that with Russia expanding its grip on the region, and Kyrgyz lawmakers seemingly eager to please Moscow, the walls are fast closing in on free speech and other civil liberties. Even if this particular bill does not pass, other legislative changes are chipping away at basic rights, they say. In recent weeks, for example, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) has prosecuted a local anti-torture campaigner and harassed the American watchdog Freedom House for merely distributing an opinion poll that asks sensitive questions.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.