Today we sat in stony silence, attendants like solemn pilgrims below a sermon of cold fire from the pulpit passing a coming death sentence on the crowd.
For on July 16th the US State Department commemorated Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyz citizen currently languishing in a state prison for crimes heinous perhaps committed during the 2010 unrest in Osh with the “Human Rights Defender Award”. Needless to say, the Kyrgyz government was not happy with this slight to their rule. Last night the government denounced the 1993 bilateral cooperation agreement with the US, with absolution of the agreement to take place one month hence, on August 20th (news article here).
While this means a lot of things for the US embassy and their extraordinary network of programs in the country, not to mention all the embassy-attached army personnel, for NGOs it has a more specific ramification: all USAID funding will now come under taxation. Which means that either USAID will refuse to pay into state coffers (and aid money, and thus projects) will be cut, or USAID will appeal for a budget increase to cover regular spending + taxes, or (unlikely, it seems) programs will continue, albeit with shrunken budgets. Considering that almost all projects in country receive aid from either the UN or USAID (shared about equally between the two organizations), this could be a huge blow to many NGOs, programs, and program staff – the majority of whom are local.
So this morning our whole staff pulled into the conference room and were told to brace for the worst and possibly prepare to wind down the projects reliant on USAID – which funds all but one or two of our current projects. Though nothing is certain, as the US Embassy/USAID/State Department have yet to announce an official decision, it is as though everyone was told they must be led to the guillotine for a summary [career] execution. For, as noted above, it isn’t just our organization that might be affected. It’s probably closer to 1/3 of like organizations in the country, along with a substantial number of contracting companies. These people sitting at the table wouldn’t just be losing their jobs – they’d be losing a whole avenue of employment. And what is to happen when thousands of the country’s most educated, most informed and most experienced in inter-organization and interpersonal organization are suddenly and all at once put out of a job?
It would appear that USAID is not going to shut down any current projects; they will continue (and continue to be funded) until completion, by which point USAID and the US State Department will have hopefully come up with a coping strategy.
And in other Kyrgyzstan rumor-news:
– Apparently current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will bless the country (and the university) with his presence on September 9th, in part to call on his good old friend local president Atambayev. (only article I could fine here, though most of it is hidden behind a surprisingly steep 7000 som/$114 paywall). July 22nd Turkey’s foreign minister (Çavuşoğlu) made a visit to Bishkek, where there were mutual agreements to maintain bilateral cooperation, including Turkish funding of certain projects and schools and release from any tax burdens. Apparently, the ‘deepening of military-related bilateral relations’ was also on the table.
– Apparently the 2015 Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections which were supposed to happen in November or December will now take place at the end of August? I doubt this piece of news, but the herald bearer was as adamant about its veracity as he was about Erdogan’s visit.