by Mohira Suyarkulova
When one strolls along the streets of Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, it never registers that this city was once a centre for space research. A modest building on Toktogul Street, which is now home to textile sweatshops, once housed a unique institution with a long cryptic abbreviated name – OKB IKI AN SSSR (Особое конструкторское бюро Института космических исследований Академии наук СССР), which when translated from Russian stands for “Special design bureau of the Institute of space research of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR”. Continue reading →
When Zafar was a platoon commander in Afghanistan during the Soviet war of 1979-1989, he put together an album that he has kept until this day. He labelled the album “Memory of Service” and studded its pages with photographs from his service and text cuttings that praised the Soviet military. On one page he stuck a banner that read “Glory to the defenders of the motherland”. On another he glued stickers of the Soviet army insignia and the Soviet navy flag. Some of his photographs show him standing proudly in his uniform, his face determined, in Afghan landscapes. Continue reading →
English walnut fruit. Photo: Utah State University.
Emil Shukurov remembers what the great walnut forest of Central Asia was like. His first memory dates back to shortly after World War II, when expansion plans of the centralized Soviet economy had only barely touched remote valleys in southern Kyrgyzstan where tens of thousands of acres of walnut trees grew. It was—and is—a complex ecosystem that also hosts apple, pear and plum trees—130 species overall—and wild boars, deer, bears, owls, hawks and other wildlife, as well as farmers, herders and nomads descended from people who roamed the region for centuries. Continue reading →
In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, locals’ discussions on Hazara history and recent oppressions faced by Hazaras would often incorporate the meanings that two Buddha statues, built in the 6th and 7th centuries and destroyed on March 10 2001 by the Taliban, held for Hazaras. During my stays in Bamiyan between 2011 and 2013, some individuals recalled myths that explained the statues as symbolising the foundational ancestors of Hazaras, while others considered them to be nothing more than un-Islamic idols. Against the background of these myths, many locals pondered whether the destruction of the statues by the Taliban epitomised the suffering of Hazaras that reaches far into history. Continue reading →
Since I hail from Osh, which is known as one of the most religious cities in Kyrgyzstan, the news stories about hundreds of men and women from Central Asia leaving for jihad in Syria make me wonder what these news stories have to do with my own city? Since Central Asia is repeatedly portrayed as a fertile ground for religious extremism in both local and Western media, it is worth to have a look at how Islam is actually lived by those who are too often collectively suspected to conspire with extremist movements such as IS. Continue reading →