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KAZAKSTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 349 - (25/01/10)

The Kazakhs are the leading denizens of the OSCE
We surely live in an Alice in Wonderland world. Kazakhstan, a blatant dictatorship, took over the leadership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on New Year's Day for the next year. This comes amid grave concern over its human rights record. It is the first former Soviet state to chair the 56-nation trans-Atlantic security body, after making promises of democratic reforms.

It is of course a very major player on the world scene as regards primary commodities and above all abundant energy resources, of oil and gas and uranium. It is also a vast country that is bound to play a vital role in Eurasian affairs in coming years. It is too important for the West to ignore.

"We have concerns about the situation of human rights, media and other areas ...throughout the region, including Kazakhstan," Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said in early December. While conceding that "no state is without problems," Lenarcic said at a meeting of ministers in Athens on December 2, "clearly there is a challenge for the incoming chairmanship whether they will be able to lead by example."

In a statement issued in Astana on New Year’s Day, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev pledged "to uphold the fundamental principles and values of the organization, to proceed according to the interests of all participating states and to strengthen the role of the OSCE as a significant platform for dialogue contributing to security in the wider Eurasian space."

Saudabayev outlined Astana's priorities in a speech on January 14 to the OSCE's permanent council in Vienna and plans to host a summit of the organisation during the year.

Embarrassing facts
Kazakhstan, which takes over the reins from Greece, has been attacked in recent months for jailing Yevgeny Zhovtis, a prominent rights activist, to four years in prison over his role in a fatal car accident and for raids on a well-known independent newspaper.

In November Human Rights Watch called on OSCE members to put more pressure on the country to do more to protect the freedom of the press and improve human rights.

Kazakhstan ranked 142 out 175 countries on media watchdog ‘Reporters without Borders' annual worldwide press freedom index in 2009. Last month also saw the murder of a Kyrgyz opposition journalist in the Kazakh financial capital of Almaty. Gennady Pavlyuk was apparently thrown from the sixth-floor window of an apartment with his hands and feet bound with duct tape.

On December 30 Kazakhstan angrily denied that it planned to sell purified uranium ore to Iran, calling media reports to this effect "groundless insinuations." The reports prompted a warning from the United States that such a transfer was prohibited under UN sanctions on Iran.

New version of the OSCE mission
Kazakhstan says it will put the main emphasis on security and development, rather than democracy, during its chairmanship of the OSCE. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe had for years been too fixated on Western values.

What this means in practice is becoming evident.

Kazakhstan cracks down on press freedom on eve of leading OSCE
For the leading dissident journal, Respublika, it has been a long battle for survival. In September bailiffs seized the opposition newspaper's entire print run.

Working through the night, reporters retrieved the proofs from a USB flash disk, photocopied them, and stapled them together. By 7 a.m. they had churned out 2,000 homemade copies – not exactly a big edition, but a small symbolic victory in the struggle for media freedom in Kazakhstan.

Respublika's long-running scrap with officialdom isn't unusual for Central Asia, a region not known for its pluralism. What made it extraordinary of course was that Kazakhstan was about to assume the chairmanship of the OSCE, the Vienna-based body devoted to democracy and press freedom . Since 2007, when member states voted it OSCE chair, Kazakhstan's own record on press freedom has worsened.

Respublika is known for its mocking criticism of Kazakhstan's autocratic government, which has responded by repeatedly trying to close it. In 2002 Respublika's editorial office mysteriously burned down. The arsonists left a headless dog dangling from a ground-floor window. Attached to it was a note. It read: "You won't get a second warning."

Respublika now appears in text that cannot be read without squinting and is stuck together with a couple of staples. The amateurish format is familiar to anyone who remembers the late Soviet Union. "We're the new samizdat," Respublika's deputy editor-in-chief, Oxana Makushina, explains in the paper's small office in Almaty, Kazakhstan's attractive former capital on the edge of the snowy Tian Shan mountains. "When we outwitted the bailiffs we felt triumphant. The next day all of our copies sold out immediately."

Other Central Asian countries share Kazakhstan's iron-fist approach to critical newspapers. A bunch of variously repressive super-presidents rule all five post-communist Central Asian republics: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan's ageing leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in the job for 18 years. He shows no signs of retiring.

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