For The Los Angeles Times: Istanbul, Turkey — Adil Ahmad, 15, has had no contact with his parents since February 2017, when he received a frantic phone call from his mother in the Uighur homeland of China’s western Xinjiang region. “She said my father was in some kind of trouble with the police,” recalls Ahmad, whose parents had brought him and his older brother to Egypt to study Arabic. “She said, ‘Don’t come back to China.’” When Ahmad tried calling a few days later, none…Continue Reading “Uighurs abroad cut off from relatives in Chinese detention”

For The Los Angeles Times: The last time Anurkhol Bipolotov saw her husband, Fakhriddin, was across a street, outside a police station in Istanbul, on March 9. “He couldn’t speak, and I asked to speak with him, but they shouted, ‘You cannot speak.’ Then they sent him to Uzbekistan,” she recalled. “Now I have no idea where he is.” That night, Turkish counter-terrorism police conducted 10 simultaneous raids across Istanbul, based on an anonymous tip placed to a hotline set up to report suspicious activity….Continue Reading “Central Asian migrants caught in Turkey’s anti-terror raids”

For The Los Angeles Times Istanbul — Only one man has ruled the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Islam Karimov was the Uzbek leader even before independence, and he has held on to power for more than a quarter of a century with all the tools at a despot’s disposal, his many critics say. But Karimov’s grip on his country appears to be at an end, with persistent reports in recent days that he is…Continue Reading “Speculation swirls that the man who ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist for 25 years may be dead”

Kyrgyzstan and the Islamists

For The Diplomat: While detained in a Kyrgyzstan prison cell, our reporter speaks with some former ISIS members. On October 7, a judge in southern Kyrgyzstan sentenced one of the country’s most prominent imams, Rashat Kamalov, to five years in prison for “inciting religious hatred” and “possessing extremist materials” – part of what prosecutors say was a scheme for sending recruits to Syria to join the Islamic State. Officials with the State Committee on National Security (GKNB), the successor to the KGB in Kyrgyzstan, say…Continue Reading “Kyrgyzstan and the Islamists”

For The Christian Science Monitor: Gilgit, Pakistani-controlled Gilgit-Baltistan — Pakistan’s disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region, located above India’s Kashmir Valley and the site of a bitter war between India and Pakistan in the late 1990s, is today ground zero for a pending China pipeline to the Indian Ocean – a $46 billion project that represents Pakistan’s largest-ever foreign investment. It was also the site of elections earlier this month that saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League take a majority in the 24-seat assembly. Pakistan says…Continue Reading “Great game: Polls in Pakistani Kashmir smooth way for epic China pipeline”

Why Baba Jan Won

For Tanqeed.org: GAKUCH, PAKISTAN — June 10, 2015 – Getting to Baba Jan was not an easy task on election day in Gilgit-Baltistan. Everything seemed fine as I handed over my belongings to the guard at the Damas jail in Ghizer district, until the prison’s deputy superintendent ran towards me. “I am sorry, but I do not want to get in trouble. This is a very sensitive issue and you need to get permission from the district commissioner.” So began a game of cat and…Continue Reading “Why Baba Jan Won”

Grief not justice for Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan

For IRIN News: OSH, 26 May 2015 (IRIN) – Zahira doesn’t like to return to the site, a concrete slab which covers the entrance to the cellar where her twin brother Hassan hid. “Most of us women and children went to camps at the border [with Uzbekistan], but the men stayed behind to protect our homes,” said Zahira*. Hassan was among them. “I called him around noon and he said they were hiding in the cellar. I called again at 5pm and no one answered.”…Continue Reading “Grief not justice for Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan”

Hope and fear: Kyrgyz migrants in Russia

For IRIN News: OSH, 24 April 2015 (IRIN) – At a government-run centre for migrant labourers in the Kyrgyzstani city of Osh, 23-year-old Nurbek waits patiently for advice on how to return to Moscow. “My family has lived in Russia for more than 10 years, I want to go back to them,” he said. “I was deported 10 days ago after police said I’m on a blacklist. Now I’m hoping to be removed from the list.” Nurbek is one of around 1.5 million Kyrgyz –…Continue Reading “Hope and fear: Kyrgyz migrants in Russia”

The Hunted: Tracking Uzbekistan’s long arm

For Foreign Policy: Uzbekistan’s president has jailed, tortured, and murdered his opponents at home. Now, he’s hiring hit men to track down and kill dissidents abroad. ISTANBUL — A cold drizzle fell on Istanbul on the morning of Dec. 10, 2014, as Abdullah Bukhari made his way to teach his students at a madrasa nestled amid apartment blocks and hardware stores in the Zeytinburnu neighborhood. A white prayer cap on his head, Bukhari made two crucial departures from his daily routine, according to one of…Continue Reading “The Hunted: Tracking Uzbekistan’s long arm”

Turning the Uyghur East

For The Revealer: KASHGAR, XINJIANG, CHINA — “U-yu-ghur, we say U-yu-ghur,” Hajji Abdulaziz* gently explains to me, as I take a seat at the front of his fabric shop, blankets and seat cushions in a dizzying array of colors, stacked from floor to ceiling. A smile cracks across his face, floating in the middle of short white facial hair, and he reaches for a piece of cardboard and a pen. “See, this is how it is written.” Abdulaziz slowly writes out the word Uyghur, in…Continue Reading “Turning the Uyghur East”