April 4, 2014

The Revolution in Ukraine and the Position of the States of Central Asia 2

Part 1. The Revolution in Ukraine and the Position of the States of Central Asia

 

Part 2. Has the “Russian Spring” Come?

Last year we saw the collapse of the “Arab Spring” and now in the yard there is already the “Russian Spring”.

So, the revolution in Ukraine has triumphed, Russia invaded the Crimea, and having violated all international norms, has annexed it. The whole world has condemned its actions, but it stubbornly keeps talking about the “free will” of the people of the Crimea. Western countries have resorted to sanctions against both, individual citizens of Russia and the Crimea, and against the Russian Federation as a whole, but the latter persistently and deliberately are escalating the situation around Ukraine.

Russia has used its right to “veto” on the ballot in the UN Security Council, but the UN General Assembly by the majority vote supported the resolution on Ukraine's territorial integrity. At the meeting of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, March 27 in New York, 100 states voted for the adoption of the document, 11—against, 58 — abstained.

The revolution in Ukraine, the Russian occupation of the Crimea and the response of the international community can influence the situation in the republics of Central Asia

“We reaffirm our commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders”, — is written in the Resolution. The UN General Assembly also called upon all states to refrain from any actions aimed at the disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempt to change the borders of Ukraine by force or other unlawful acts.

“We strongly call upon all parties to resolve the situation around Ukraine peacefully through direct political dialogue, to exercise restraint, to refrain from unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric that could increase tensions and to make full use of international mediation efforts”, — is stated in the adopted Resolution.

The document also welcomes the efforts of UN, OSCE and other international and regional organizations to assist Ukraine in protecting the rights of all persons, including minorities.

“We emphasize that the referendum in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea and Sevastopol city on March 16, 2014 has no legal force, cannot serve as the basis for any changes of the status of the ARC and Sevastopol”, — is pointed out in the Resolution.

The UN General Assembly has called upon all states, international organizations and other institutions not to recognize any change in the status of the Crimea and Sevastopol based on the aforementioned referendum and to refrain from any actions that could be interpreted as recognizing any changes of this status.

Now I propose to consider the possibility and potential sizes of the impact of economic sanctions against Russia on the situation in the Central Asian republics.

Today, after two decades after the collapse of the USSR, economies of these countries remain closely dependent on the Russian economy. This dependence was obvious even before the confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine. The need to maintain high oil and gas prices for Russia to maintain its balance discourages investors, who fear increases in the budget deficit. The situation was worsened by the fact that at the end of last year, Washington began to curtail the program of purchasing Treasury bonds, and investors began to turn away from developing markets, which immediately affected the depreciation of local currency.

Thus, Kazakhstan joined the Customs Union, and the poorest republics of the region — Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — are completely dependent on remittances from their migrant workers. Everyone knows that today millions of people from these republics are working in the Russian Federation, sending their earned dollars to their homes, thereby adding to the budgets of their countries. Thus, according to the latest data of the World Bank, in Tajikistan immigrant remittances constitute an amount equivalent to 47 percent of the GDP. In Kyrgyzstan, this amount reaches 29 percent.

This year, the ruble against the dollar has dropped by 11 percent, and mainly before Russian troops invaded the Crimea. Following the Russian currency, in the same period, nearly by 15 percent against the dollar depreciated Kyrgyzstan's som, while Kazakhstan in February 2014 had to allow its tenge to drop by almost 20 percent. Depreciation of the ruble with tenge has become a serious blow to thousands of migrants-workers, because they usually before sending money home had been exchanging it for dollars.

 

Migrant workers at workMigrant workers at work

 

“Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are fed by migrants, — says Izzat Amon, who heads the Moscow Union of Tajikistan’s Youth, designed to provide comprehensive support to migrant workers. “If Russia undergoes recession, migrants will suffer the most”. They will lose their jobs in construction, jobs of street cleaners and market traders throughout the country.

In the case of prolonged downturn, Russian energy companies operating in the region can significantly increase the tariffs and this will painfully hit on Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, receiving petroleum products duty-free from Russia. In this connection, it makes sense to mention the Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Sergey Belyakov's statement. On March 17 he stated that the Russian economy began to show clear signs of crisis. If he is right, then the Central Asian economies should also get prepared for the worst.

You are not welcome hereYou are not welcome here

 

Besides, the situation where millions of dollars flow away from Russia, bypassing its budget, does not suit the central government. Currently are being developed measures to change this situation. Thus, the Public Chamber of the Russian federation proposes to give each illegal migrant (who number in Russia 3 to 7 million people) a taxpayer identification number (TIN) to make them pay taxes.

In search of happinessIn search of happiness

 

“In the interests of Russia it is necessary to ensure protection of both, the rights of migrants working in Russia, and the budget revenues of the Russian Federation. Sorting out these issues will create prerequisites for reducing the informal sector of labor migration and for a significant increase in the budget revenue”, — reads the draft Resolution of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation.

Today, governments of Central Asian republics with great concern are watching the developments in the Crimea, fearing that Russia's tough actions against Ukraine and the response of the international community to these actions may have a sad result for them. The probability of losing jobs and having to return to the impoverished homeland of millions of angry migrants is quite high, and their discontent they can splash out onto the streets in the form of mass demonstrations and protests.

Thus, in Tajikistan, already have set in motion forces led by the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP), more than really threatening the current regime.

So far the sides are exchanging mutual accusations.

 

Islamic Renaissance Party of TajikistanNote

The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (tadzh. Hizbi Nahzati Islomii Tojikiston) is the only Islamic party, officially acting at the territory of Central Asia. The founder and leader of the party in 1993–2006 was Said Nuri, who was considered one of the most influential Tajik politicians and religious leaders. Since Nuri's death in 2006, the Party has been led by Muhiddin Kabiri.

 

Chairman of IRP KabiriChairman of IRP Kabiri

 

During the 1992-1997 civil war in Tajikistan, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan was part of the United Tajik Opposition opposing the People's Front.

In June 1997, Said Nuri and Tajikistan's President Emomalii Rahmon signed a General Agreement on Peace in Tajikistan, which put an end to the civil war, and until 2000, Said Nuri headed the National Reconciliation Commission, established to implement the Agreement (in 2000 the Commission was dismissed as such that had fulfilled its functions).

The IRP participated in the 2005 parliamentary elections and won two parliamentary seats.

In 2010, in the next parliamentary elections, the Party won 8.2% of the votes and also got two seats in the lower house of the parliament of the Republic of Tajikistan.

At the next 9th Congress of the Party of the Islamic Revival in 2011, M. Kabiri was elected its Chairman.

Today 40 thousand people in Tajikistan are members of the IRP.

 

Don't forget that in the early 2000s between the government and the yesterday's armed opposition there were already serious disagreements. The Islamic Renaissance Partyaccused the leadership of the republic of violation of the agreements, in particular — of the extrusion of its supporters from all levels of government and President E. Rahmon's desire to establish unrestricted power.

The wave of disturbances increased significantly on the eve of the presidential elections in November 2013. The IRP put forward the candidacy of the human rights activist Oynihol Bobonazarova. But she failed to collect the required number of signatures in her support because of open resistance of authorities. As a result, the IRP refused to recognize the elections' results.

The “soft” confrontation between the opposition and central government, with the moral support of some Western countries, continues today. Thus, Oynihol Bobonazarova, who was representing the Party at the elections, in early March of this year was awarded the prize “For Courage”, which the U.S. State Department gives annually to ten women. Apart from the Tajik human rights activist, singer Ruslana won the award, who, as said Bobonazarova herself, “had been inspiring people on Maidan in Kiev”.

But the events in Ukraine inspire not only Ruslana. Conducting on March 1 a meeting with the youth, the IRP leader M. Kabiri said bluntly, “These events will sure repeat themselves in Central Asia”. According to him, now there are 10 to 15 dictatorships in the world, and all of them, including the Central Asian ones, are doomed.

The republic's authorities must have realized the seriousness of the risks they face and intend to strengthen the struggle against the Islamic Renaissance Party. It is expected that the struggle will escalate as the next year's parliamentary elections in Tajikistan come nearer. “The authorities are preparing for this. Nevertheless, we also intend to get prepared well and to adequately conduct these elections,”- said in an interview M. Kabiri.

The struggle for power in Tajikistan has just begun.

Kiev's Maidan and events in the Crimea seem to have alarmed the Uzbekistan's authorities not jokingly. Thus, they are going to amend the Constitution, providing for the transfer of the presidential powers to the leader of the government and for the empowerment of the Parliament. Relevant amendments are being considered by the lower house of the legislative body. The Parliament is considering a possibility of strengthening the role of Prime Minister, of increasing responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers, executive bodies, public and parliamentary control. This draft law has been prepared in accordance with the ideas of the president of Uzbekistan, voiced at a solemn meeting dedicated to the 21st anniversary of the Constitution.

Another feature of the upcoming changes is the constitutional recognition of an independent system of democratic formation of the Central Election Commission, as well as of the basic principles of its activity.

At the same time, Uzbekistan's government has decided to increase from April 1 this year, gas tariffs (by 8.9%), and by 9.5 % — those for electricity.

A sort of, so to speak, 1st April's “joke”...

Analysts believe that in the case of worsening of the economic and political situation in the country, from all parties, legally operating at the territory of Uzbekistan, none is able become a leader. Today in Uzbekistan there are the following parties:

  • People's Democratic party of Uzbekistan — successor of Uzbekistan's Communist Party
  • Social Democratic Party “Adolat”;
  • Democratic Party “Milliy Tiklanish”;
  • National Democratic Party “Fidokorlar” (at the beginning of 2008 the political Parties “Milliy Tiklanish” and “Fidokorlar” announced a merger into one Party called “Milliy Tiklanish”);
  • Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (UzLiDeP);
  •  Public Association “Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan.”

The driving force of protests can be led by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, as in the country Islamic sentiments are quite strong.

 

 

The emblem of the Islamic Movement of UzbekistanNote

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is the Islamist organization founded in 1996 by former members of a number of banned in Uzbekistan political parties and movements, including “Adolat Uyushmasi” (“Society of Justice”), “The Islamic Renaissance Party”, “Islamic Party of Turkestan”, “Islom Lashkorlari”(“Warriors of Islam”), etc.

The political leader of the Movement became Tohir Yo’ldosh, the leader of the military unit — Jumma Khodzhiev (Namangani). February 4, 2003 the Supreme Court declared the organization a terrorist one and banned its activities in the territory of the Russian Federation.

The IMU is regarded as a terrorist organization by many countries, Russia and the United States included.

The IMU activities are pursued by the Uzbek authorities, so most of the leaders and ordinary members of the Movement are in exile. Headquarters before the counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan were located in Kandahar (Afghanistan).

Many of the IMU members participated in the civil war in Tajikistan on the side of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). During the process of the resolving of the conflict, many IMU commanders refused to comply with the terms of the Agreement signed between the government and the UTO. In August 1999, IMU units (up to 1000 people) invaded from the North of Tajikistan to the southern regions of Kyrgyzstan (Batken events). In October of the same year, the units of the Movement left the territory of the republic.

During the counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, the IMU members took part in resistance to United International Forces because during the bombing in November 2001 was killed the military leader of the Movement, Jumma Khodzhiev (Namangani).

Forced to leave Afghanistan, armed groups of the IMU, led by Tohir Yo’ldosh, settled in the Pakistani provinces of North and South Waziristan, where they took a direct part in Waziristan wars on the side of the Taliban against the Pakistani army.

In December 2002, the IMU organized a terrorist attack in Bishkek. In May 2003, — in the city of Osh. At the same time the group changed its name to the “Islamic Movement of Turkestan”.

Тахир Юлдаш, колишній лідер Ісламського руху Узбекистану
Tohir Yo’ldosh, former leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

 

Information about T. Yo’ldosh's being killed has been spread repeatedly by both, representatives of the International Coalition Forces and Afghan police. According to the latest report, the IMU leader was seriously wounded in a rocket attack caused by the U.S. unmanned aircraft in August 2009, and later died in hospital, but the representatives of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had been denying this information until 2010.

After Yo’ldosh's death, the IMU was headed by Usman Adil. At the end of January 2012 there was information about his being killed in Afghanistan. Later, this information turned out to be false, but already in April Adil died in Pakistan as a result of a strike of an American drone.

In August 2012 the IMU acknowledged the death of Usman Adil, at the same time it was announced that the new leader of the IMU became Osman Ghazi.

 

The Crimea and Southern Azerbaijan

Південний Азербайджан на карті Ірану Southern Azerbaijan in the map of Iran

 

Moscow, under the pretext of restoring historical justice, annexed the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea to Russia. Putin and his environment, despite continuing criticism of their breach of international law, states that the Crimea, which had belonged to Russia since 1783, was forcibly transferred to Ukraine in 1954 on the orders of Nikita Khrushchov. Today lots of articles and comments are published on this subject, with arguments and counterarguments, are being predicted consequences of the “Anschluss” of the Crimea, various historical and international parallels are being drawn.

Let's draw one more parallel and compare the situation around the Crimea with the old historical problem of the divided Azerbaijan. If Moscow is so persistently adhered to the principle of restoring historical justice, it must spread it to the problem of the divided Azerbaijani people.

Claims of Armenia to Karabakh, its occupation, the illegal actions of Russia in the Crimea to overcome Khrushchov’s voluntarism give moral and historical right to the people of Azerbaijan to seek guarantee of their legal rights. The official Baku can and should rise on the international level, the question of invalidity of the Russian-Iranian treaties of 1813 and 1828, which were the product of wars of conquest and led to the division of a whole nation.

 

Note

As a result of Iran's defeat, on November 17, 1813 was signed Gulistan peace treaty, under which Russia withdrew Karabakh, Ganja, Shirvan, Shaki, Derbent, Kuban and Talysh Khanates.

Another Russian-Iranian war began in July 1826 with Erivan Sardar's attack on the Russian territories.

February 22, 1828 was signed Turkmanchay peace treaty, according to which the Russian Empire included Erivan and Nakhichevan Khanates and the Russian-Iranian border was along the river Arak.

During the Russian-Iranian war of 1826-1828, as well as throughout the whole 19th century, as a result of mass migration of Armenians from Iran, Turkey and South Azerbaijan to Northern Azerbaijan, including Karabakh, their numbers here increased with each passing year. In 1828-1830 to the mountainous part of Karabakh were officially resettled 124 thousand and unofficial — much more than 200 thousand Armenians.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries resettlement of Armenians to South Caucasus continued. Over 13 years, from 1896 to 1908, to the South Caucasus moved 400 thousand Armenians, and their total number reached 1 million 300 thousand.

As a result, the settlement of Armenians in the Azerbaijani territories affected the demographic situation in the mountainous part of Karabakh, the processes in the region and was the cause for future territorial claims.

 

Unlike the Armenian and Russian scenarios, based on military intervention, the Azerbaijani side will most likely resolve this issue exclusively by diplomatic means, using historical arguments. Indirect diplomatic pressure on Moscow and Tehran, in addition to the main goal, may have some impact on their pro-Armenian position in the Karabakh issue.

Although it is hard to believe that the current leadership of Azerbaijan will do this, as the president is concerned mainly with how to stay in power as long as possible, and he is strengthening the regime inside the country while pursuing a cautious foreign policy. Nevertheless, we consider it our duty to draw attention to this urgent problem, and hope that the new generation of Azerbaijani politicians in the near future will take decisive steps to consolidate the people and to eliminate the glaring historical injustice.

So, the revolution in Ukraine, the Russian occupation of the Crimea and the response of the international community can influence the situation in the republics of Central Asia.

Today, Central Asia and the Middle East have more than enough problems of disputed territories and unresolved conflicts, and if you follow the logic of Moscow, it's time to resolve these conflicts, which will certainly completely disrupt the established world order and lead to redrawing of borders.