ClimateWatch periodically analyzes the security climates of the world’s regions, focusing on conditions and developments affecting the most vulnerable identity communities while highlighting meaningful political and social steps towards security and integration. This week’s Eurasian report summarizes developments in identity security from late July through mid-August.
As with its eastern neighbors, the Eurasian security climate was largely dominated by ongoing attempts by governments to suppress criticism among ideological dissidents. Azerbaijan, still under the thumb of international outrage for its treatment of journalists and critics, saw two senior human rights activists with several major illnesses sentenced to prison terms for their work.
Construction workers in Kazakhstan protesting the government’s exclusion of construction firms from the contract market were quickly detained after an attempt at demonstrating in Astana. While activists have indicated such suppression is relatively common in the Central Asian country, Turkey faced more sustained blowback for its blackout of pro-Kurdish and left-wing websites as it launched a military offensive against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The Kurdish opposition staged attacks against the government for what militants claim is the government’s complicity in recent Islamic State attacks in Kurdish-majority cities in the country’s south.
In the Caucasus, women’s rights advocates in Armenia celebrated a proposal from the Ministry of Health to criminalize sex-selective abortion. Entrenched in the more conservative elements of Armenian society, the practice has led to one of the highest male-to-female birth rates in the world. Men in Turkmenistan, meanwhile, lost an important economic tool as the government ended its sponsorship of education abroad for males–one of the most popular means of gaining higher education–to increase military conscription.
Instability along a number of fronts including President Erdogan’s inability to form a coalition government following the summer’s elections, new Islamic State incursions into Turkey, and renewed conflict between Turkey’s militant Kurdish faction and the government will lead to continued (and likely expanded) crackdowns on dissidence. Similarly, Asian visitors and individuals perceived as Chinese sympathizers have been subject to attack by Turkish nationalists in Istanbul as relations between Turkey and China have been strained over China’s treatment of its Muslim minority.
Russia has seen a number of opposition politicians barred from local election ballots in recent weeks. Concerns of electoral interference by the Kremlin and further consolidation of President Putin’s power over ideological dissidents have mounted. Poor economic conditions throughout the Eurasian region have created tight situations for many Central Asian migrants who typically turn to Russia as a work destination but are encountering newly erected barriers to employment in the country. The consolidation of the Eurasian Economic Union aims to stimulate the economies of its member states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Belarus), but Euro-American sanctions on Russia continue to constrain the economy and, consequently, opportunities and services for migrants.