The International Situation of Afghan Asylum-Seekers
The pullout of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Afghan government has generated a wave of Afghan people fleeing incoming Taliban rule. With the Taliban committed to governing according to fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, concerns are particularly heightened for women, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQ+ people, journalists, and those who supported the fight against the Taliban. Abroad, governments have debated whether and to what degree to accept asylum-seekers, with many seeking to either offshore asylum processing or contain refugees to the immediate region of southwest and Central Asia. For refugees who do make it out, the intensification of anti-immigrant sentiment across the world’s regions in recent years—including the increasing political power of far-right nativist movements—has created new threats for asylum-seekers in their destination countries.
While politicians and analysts around the world bicker over responsibility and blame, Afghans scramble to exit before the full weight of the new Taliban regime comes down. Here is a collection of reporting on the conditions in Afghanistan for those needing refuge, which countries are offering haven, and reactions from the Afghan diaspora.
Continue reading Global Event: The Afghanistan Exodus
Saving the Kazakh Language, One Film at a Time
Despite its predominantly ethnic Kazakh population, Kazakhstan has struggled to promote widespread use of the Kazakh language within its borders. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstanis have nevertheless demonstrated continued preference for Russian, with 84.4% of the population speaking the language. For film distribution, this has meant that Russian-dubbed foreign films—many coming from Hollywood—have been in considerably higher demand than Kazakh-dubbed ones. The government has sought to promote the integration of the country’s historical language via Kazakh’s status as the official language and laws requiring film distributors to dub or subtitle foreign films in Kazakh. EurasiaNet explores the challenges within the film industry of balancing cultural and political considerations with social demand for what some ethnic Kazakhs worry may become a marginalized language.
“Kazakhstan: Movies Going Kazakh, But Distributors and Audiences Resist” (EurasiaNet)
(Image Credit: CityKey.net, via EurasiaNet)
Suspicion of land privatization policies erupts into rare protests across Kazakhstan
- Despite the Kazakhstani government’s low tolerance for dissent, thousands rallied across the cities of Aqtobe, Semei, and Atyrau to protest proposed land privatization policies that will put 1.7 million hectares of public land up for auction beginning on July 1.
- Kazakhstanis have expressed concern that land will be sold to foreigners (particularly the Chinese) or will end up in the hands of the elite, inflected by centuries of redrawn borders that have seen ethnic Kazakhs divided between Kazakhstan, Russia, and China.
- Government officials have stated that the legislation only extends the foreign lease period cap from 10 to 25 years foreigners and have threatened to punish those who say otherwise.
“Kazakhstan’s land reform protests explained” (BBC)
“Protesters In Kazakhstan Rally Against Land-Privatization Plan” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
“Land Sales Unearth Kazakhs’ Love For The Motherland” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
(Image Credit: Sania Tolken/RFE-RL)
Kazakhstan’s Unfolding Mental Health Crisis
An economic downturn in Kazakhstan has led to deteriorating mental health conditions for a population of men struggling to find work and support their families in a heavily patriarchal society. Mental health professionals have reported significant increases in the number of male clients, though numbers of those afflicted with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are believed to be significantly underreported given cultural attitudes that deter men from seeking professional help. An IWPR report highlights some of the factors compounding Kazakh men’s social, economic, and psychological alienation and attempts to provide assistance to the community.
“Kazakhstan’s mental health crisis: ‘as men we can’t seek help’” (Institute for War & Peace Reporting, via The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Igor Kovalenko/EPA, via The Guardian)
Discovering Opportunity Beyond Illness in Kazakhstan
With an estimated 200,000 registered in the country as afflicted with chronic psychiatric illness, Kazakhstan has a significant population that has suffered under punitive models of psychiatric care inherited from the Soviet era. Psychiatric professionals and advocates are battling the ward-to-grave pipeline and wasted human potential through new efforts to provide visibility for a community that often languishes behind walls in the Central Asian country. In addition to political and medical reforms, work initiatives have given birth to opportunity through businesses like the Training Café, a restaurant in Almaty that employs people with learning disabilities and other mental illnesses. EurasiaNet profiles ongoing efforts to de-institutionalize and integrate Kazakhstanis with mental illness into productive society.
“Kazakhstan: Cafe Dispels Disability Stereotypes” (EurasiaNet)
“Kazakhstan to eliminate discrimation against disabled persons” (Tengrinews, March 2015)
“Business Centre for Disabled Opens in East Kazakhstan” (The Astana Times, June 2015)
(Image Credit: Joanna Lillis/EurasiaNet)
Three-month suspension of independent magazine in Kazakhstan raises press freedom alarms
- Adam (Person) magazine, known for its critique of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s administration, was handed a three-month suspension by the government for publishing only in Russian when it claimed to publish in both the Russian and Kazakh languages.
- Press freedom watchdogs claim such bureaucratic tactics are frequently used to shutter independent journalism, with Kazakhstan sitting at 160th among the 177 countries ranked by Reporters Without Borders.
- The suspension follows a libel conviction likely to bankrupt an independent journalist for reporting on alleged corruption in the city of Almaty’s construction industry.
“In Kazakhstan the closure of any media outlet is a matter decided by political bodies. … Of course this is connected to politics.”
Read the full story at EurasiaNet.
Kazakhstan police detain protesters attempting to launch an anti-corruption demonstration
- Around 10 protesters were rounded up in the street and carried away to detention by police.
- The demonstrators identified themselves as construction workers protesting the exclusion of construction firms from the market by the government.
- Rights watchdogs have criticized the country for widespread corruption and intolerance of dissent
Watch the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report on YouTube.
Asian Jews from Steppe to Sea
One the “bridge between Islamic and Jewish countries” and the other the largest Muslim nation in the world, Kazakhstan and Indonesia have strikingly different attitudes towards their Jewish communities. While the former hosts the largest synagogue in Central Asia despite being a Muslim-majority country, the latter pushes Jewish religious expression to the margins and sees rampant, politically opportunistic anti-Semitism. The Jakarta Post takes a comparative look at the conditions faced by Kazakhstani and Indonesian Jews.
Read the full feature at the Jakarta Post.
Kazakhstan extends visa-free travel to 19 countries
- Following a successful pilot program over the past year, the Kazakh government has extended visa-free travel for up to 15 days to residents of Australia, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Finland, France, Switzerland and Japan.
- Should residents desire to stay longer than 15 days, they will be required to reenter or obtain a visa.
- The program will last through the end of 2017 and has been implemented as Kazakhstan plans to host two major international sporting and cultural events–Winter Universiade and Expo 2017–in the next two years.
Read the full story at Tengrinews.
(Image Credit: Infopass.ru, via Tengrinews)
Kazakhstan strikes down anti-gay “propaganda” law ahead of bid for 2022 Winter Olympics. More from EurasiaNet.
Protests in Saudi Arabia following the anti-Shiite suicide bombing, assisted suicide debates in the U.K., Myanmar’s anti-Rohingya protests, Russia’s community for parents and their gay children, immigration reform’s stumble in the U.S., Dubai’s motorcycle women, and 45 other stories in this week’s news rounds… Continue reading The Mid-week Rounds