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Political trouble brewing in oil-rich
—another central Asian Islamic Paradise
In the last two years, the world heard earful of news of
political dissensions in several of the ex-Soviet republics.
Some of these nations are located near Euro-Asian border in Caucasus
region while one is in
. The protesters wore different
colored scarves in different dissenting nations thus engendering new and catchy
names for each of the revolution.
Take the case of Georgia (Rose Revolution) where in late
November 2003 a pro-West politician by the name Mikhail Saakashvili ousted a
tyrannical president Eduard Shevarnadze, an aging ex-communist who was the
foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev.
The second revolution took place in
in December 2004 to protest a rigged election in which a pro-Russian
presidential hopeful, Viktor Yanukovych, was declared a winner by a slim margin.
For weeks, protesters jammed the central city square wearing orange
scarf. The end result was the
declaration of the rigged election null and void.
Within weeks, a new election put the dissident politician, Viktor
Yushchenko, into power and christening the term the “Orange Revolution.”
In late March 2005, trouble brewed in Kyrgyzstan, a
tranquil central Asian ex-Soviet republic, where the despotic president, Askar
Akayev, who enforced an iron clad rule since the summer of 1991 when Soviet
union imploded due to President Mikhail Gorbachev’s implementation of
perestroika and glasnost. Ordinary
citizens and political dissidents stormed the presidential palace and government
offices in capital city of
. During the tumult, the deposed
president Askar Akayev fled the country to neighboring nation of
. The country is now under the
control of pro-west politicians.
On May 13, 2005, a political trouble escalated in Ferghana
valley, which is politically controlled by
. In the eastern-most city of
(in Ferghana), the government troop fired indiscriminately killing more than
600 protesters and bystanders.
is ruled iron-fistedly by a dictator named Islam Karomov who is supported by
Kremlin and tolerated by American Administration.
Many Uzbek dissenters moved into neighboring
in the aftermath of May 13 carnage. After
the putsch, life seems to be returning to normalcy in eastern
. Only time will tell if the seed of
political discontent sowed in spring 2005 will amount to anything in the future.
A month could hardly pass when we read in the news that a
new trouble brewed up in the oil-rich nation of
, which is located to the west of
, and which is also considered an eastern Transcaucasian nation.
The geo-political significance of
cannot be underestimated. It sits
at the far end of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas
pipelines, situated between the Black and Caspian seas, containing two, possibly
three breakaway provinces, and borders Iran, Georgia, Armenia, and Russia.
Some background information should come handy to better
appreciate what ails this oil-rich nation inhabited by nearly 8 million people
living in a land about half the size of
. Azerbaijanis are essentially
Turkic and Muslim whose nation regained independence after the collapse of the
in summer of 1991. Trouble brewed
in 1994 with the neighboring nation,
, over disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh enclave where Armenian people live.
Despite a 1994 cease-fire,
has yet to resolve its conflict with
. The country has lost 16% of its
territory in the conflict and must support some 571,000 internally displaced
persons because of the conflict. The
sad part of
story is that corruption is ubiquitous and the promise of nation building from
oil revenues remains largely unfulfilled. One
parenthetical note about Azerbaijanis is that most of them are Shiites.
Culturally, they are similar to people who live in
whose capital city is
A personal anecdote about Azerbaijani people and their
devotion to religion Islam. In early
1960s when I was a high school student in Tejgaon, Dhaka, the Soviet Union sent
a soccer team to
for friendly matches. The Soviet
team happened to be the Baku Oil Mill, which was one of the best team in the
communist paradise. A couple of my
friend befriended a team member who had a Perso-Arabic name.
He told us that he is an Azeri. We
wanted to give him a gift as a token of our friendship.
He asked for a prayer mat and a copy of Koran for his elderly parents.
I now gather that during Soviet rule, the Azerbaijanis were not allowed
to practice their religion in public; however, in private people maintained
their faith. The response from the
visiting team member asking for a copy of Koran and prayer mat speaks in volume
for a thriving religion in private.
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