Tursunbai Bakir uluu, Defender of the Faith

by Nathan Hamm on 8/18/2006 · 5 comments

In Wednesday’s post on US-Kyrgyz relations, I mentioned Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uluu’s decision not to visit the US to protest President Bush’s use of the term “Islamic Fascists.” Edil Baisalov commented on Bakir uluu’s motives for the decision.

He is being spontaneous but this step is good politics for him: first of all, for many years he’ll use this refusal to deny well-grounded regular accusations of him using his office for tourism; he is also aligning himself with the newly found Bakiev’s anti-americanism, a few months ago he proposed a ban on NGO’s foreign funding again in an effort to bring himself closer to the administration; and number three reason – he is pleasing his foreign friend-patrons in Tehran and elsewhere and supposedly strengthening his Islamic credentials with the local electorate: Bakir uulu positions himself as the most Muslim friendly Kyrgyz politician as it was visible during his last year bid for presidency.

Seems that’s the case. Bakir uluu said the other day that the imam of the Qorasuv mosque, Muhammadrafik Kamalov, who was recently killed in a raid by Kyrgyz security services, may have been deliberately murdered. He criticizes cooperation with Uzbek security services because, he says, it makes such killings more likely and increases the likelihood of torture and abuse in interrogations. So, it certainly does appear that his decision not to visit the US has less to do with US-Kyrgyz relations than it does with him presenting himself as a defender of Muslims.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Laurence August 20, 2006 at 8:40 am

Or perhaps a defender of “Islamic fascists.”

Matt August 28, 2006 at 4:26 pm

I think the guy is generally a good ombudsman. He spent years criticizing Akayev from the same position, so I don’t think we can say he’s alligning himself with the Bakiyev administration. The rest though has some merit – I get the impression that Uluu is waiting for the day people in Kyrgyzstan become more ‘radicalised’ and turn to him as their leader. Personally I cant see it

Edil August 29, 2006 at 12:57 am

response to Matt

Bakir uulu is not a good ombudsman. While his election to the post back in 2003 was quite controversial, the NGO community pledged its support to ‘The Main Human Rights Defender’, however, Bakir uulu quickly disappointed by establishing a quasi-ministry of 120 staff, appointing his former party officials to most important positions and using his office for political purposes as it was evident later by his decision to participate in 2005 presidential elections.

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