Regional headlines: Kyrgyz leader resigns; discriminating against COVID; protecting Polish farm animals; Austria’s Bosnians; and the new Borat movie.
Kyrgyz President Steps Down as Turmoil Continues
Kyrgyzstani President Sooronbai Jeenbekov resigned today, urging competing political factions that have been tussling since his disputed election to withdraw their supporters from the streets of Bishkek. In an address to the public, Jeenbekov said he had yesterday signed a decree to approve parliament’s nomination of a new prime minister. “But this did not ease the tension,” 24.kg quotes him as saying. The turmoil broke out when opposition parties denounced Jeenbekov’s re-election last month as flawed, saying vote-buying and other irregularities tarnished the voting. He was unable to reconcile the competing political forces, in effect handing power to parliament. Lawmakers nominated Sadyr Japarov, a supporter of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, to the premiership, even though he was serving a prison sentence for organizing a kidnapping during protests against management of the Kumtor gold mine, Kyrgyzstan’s major source of foreign investment. He is seen as a nationalist who backs nationalization of the mines and redistribution of their profits to the people, Al Jazeera writes. His supporters are suspected of threatening other politicians and stoking violence at rallies. “I think nobody can tell really how it’s possible that Japarov jumped from a place of detention immediately to the highest echelons of power. Nobody can answer this question currently, and it’s puzzling all of us,” Kyrgyz academic Asel Doolotkeldieva told Al Jazeera.
Roma Crackdowns in the Name of Public Health
Human rights activists in Bulgaria have charged officials there, and in other countries with large Roma populations, with stepping up repressive measures in the name of combating the COVID-19 pandemic. “In Bulgaria, Roma communities were sprayed with disinfectant from crop dusters this spring as coronavirus cases surged in the country,” Associated Press reports. “In Slovakia, their villages were the only ones where the army conducted testing.” In March, Bulgarian authorities cordoned off Roma areas in several cities and sometimes blocked the roads leading to them, Reuters wrote. Spraying disinfectant on Roma settlements “was clearly racist, because it was only done in Roma neighborhoods,” Radoslav Stoyanov of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee told the AP. “The broader message that was sent to the non-Roma population was that the Roma are dangerous.” A recent report by the Slovak human rights ombudsman concluded that quarantines in three Roma communities unfairly infringed their right to free movement. Officials in Moldova, Ukraine and France have also suggested that Roma areas were hotspots for the coronavirus, although there is little evidence for this, AP says.
Fur Flies in Poland Over Animal-Rights Bill
Thousands of farmers demonstrated in Warsaw, Tuesday, in the latest protest against a bill to ban fur farms and the export of kosher and halal meat. The bill, proposed by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), has alienated farmers who, until now have been “devoted supporters” of the government, Associated Press writes. Critics say the bill would hurt a significant export sector of the economy. The bill, backed by PiS’s cat-loving leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has opened a rift between the until-now bulletproof Kaczynski and others on the party’s right wing, Transitions columnist Martin Ehl says. Backpedaling, the government proposed to offer compensation to closed farms and to delay the bill. Poland’s Senate yesterday adopted its version of the bill, pushing its start date back three years to 2025, The Times of Israel reports. The bill will still allow ritual kosher and halal slaughter but bans the export of these products, a trade which now generates some $1.8 billion a year. President Andrej Duda has suggested he might refuse to sign the bill, the AP says.
Bosnians Seek Recognition in Austria
Bosnia’s foreign minister has asked Austrian authorities to consider allowing dual citizenship for Bosnians. Bisera Turkovic raised the issue at a meeting late last month in Vienna with Austrian Justice Minister Alma Zadic, Sarajevo Times reported. Turkovic said about half the 170,000 Austrian citizens of Bosnian origin had to give up their Bosnian citizenships when obtaining Austrian citizenship. Some Austrian Bosnians hope to maintain cultural identity through another legal avenue, that of being recognized as a national minority. Bosnian ties to Austria date back to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Balkan Insight notes, although many Bosnians arrived during the turmoil of the 1990s Yugoslav wars, and more came during the migration wave of the past five years. However, under current Austrian law, only communities long present on Austria soil can achieve national minority recognition and the special legal status the comes with it. These include Carinthian Slovenes, Burgenland Croats, Roma, and Sinti. Tina Kordic, a pianist who came to Austria from besieged Sarajevo in 1994, said nationality had always been “foreign” to her, although she sees the advantages it could bring to Austria’s Bosnians. “To be recognized as a national minority means, above all, to receive a kind of award, confirmation for your outstanding contribution to the cultural, historical and political life of the country of Austria,” Kordic told Balkan Insight.
Kazakhstan Braces for Borat Sequel
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 Borat movie divided critics, earned a ton of money, and infuriated many in Kazakhstan, the supposed home country of its raunchy, hopelessly doltish main character. The sequel – coming 23 October on Amazon Prime – is, if anything, in worse taste, as it follows Borat’s trip from Kazakhstan to America during the COVID-19 pandemic, where he tries to introduce his daughter to Vice President Mike Pence (whom he claims impregnated her). The film is already garnering good/bad publicity. Its creators of “are being sued by the estate of a late Holocaust survivor who reportedly appeared in the sequel because she thought she was being interviewed for a serious documentary,” The Independent writes, citing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In keeping with Baron Cohen’s penchant for obfuscation, the film’s full title is a mystery. Rolling Stone gives it as “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” while the Associated Press version runs “Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan.”
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer