No Akaev!

by Joshua Foust on 4/30/2007 · 19 comments

Permit me the liberty of quoting one of my favorite teevee shows, Weeds. In the first season, Heylia was talking to her errant nephew, Conrad, about Nancy, the suburban soccer mom turned drug lord. Heylia warned him not to hang out with her anymore, or she would “freeze him out so bad” he’d have to “go to the North Pole to warm back up.”

BermetI was reminded of this (don’t ask) while reading of the travails of Bermet Akaeva, Askar Akaev’s daughter-turned-martyr politician. She was recently detained in relation to a series of riots over the Supreme Court’s decision to bar her candidacy for parliament. Bonnie Boyd has a great backgrounder on the whole gory story, including rumors that Ms. Akaeva was tortured during her detention.

The real question I want to know is: why, if she lives in Russia most of the time anyway, is Ms. Akaeva trying to force her way back in Kyrgyz politics? You’d think that when her entire family was chased out of the country by an angry mob, it might have been time to move on to other things, like maybe philanthropy. She has quite literally been frozen out of the political scene there—both by the electorate as a whole, and by its legal system. Some battles are just not worth fighting.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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AK May 1, 2007 at 10:49 pm

How did you come up with the conclusion “some battles are just not worth fighting?”
I deeply admire her bravery,courage, and dedication to serve her country.
It is clear that Bakiev administration felt threatened by Bermet Akaeva if she were to be elected. As a member of parliament, it would have given her a legitimate platform to voice her view in the national political arena.
She is clearly popular in that region, and most likely would have won the elections if she was registered on the ballot.
This incident clearly shows despotism supersedes democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Joshua Foust May 2, 2007 at 4:04 am

Your last statement is a bit ironic, given that despotism is why Akaeva’s father was driven out of the country. Besides which, she might not be all that popular: in the story I quoted, she is accused of having paid people to agitate on her behalf. I don’t see bravery, courage, or patriotism in what she’s doing, merely power lust.

Paul Shirley May 3, 2007 at 9:35 am

Everyone is accused of everything in Kyrgyzstan, does it take a voice of a lone looser for you to support such false statements? And for her being frozen “out of the political scene”, i think people strongly disagree with you on this one, as the majority has voted against everyone and clearly have shown support for Bermet throughout the elections. And for her courage and bravery, i guess you have to live her life to understand the amount of pressure that she’s under, physical and psychological attacks that are purposefully engeneered in the labs of the white house. And regardless whether you think it is her fathers fault, if you cant see bravery and courage in what this woman does against all kind of odds, then you better keep doing what you do best, write shit about people from the comforts of your home

Partial observer May 3, 2007 at 10:00 am

A plague on both your houses! I don’t think Bermet is an angel or a devil – she’s just a politician with vast financial resources trying to get back into parliament. I imagine she wants to get in partly to secure some of the family’s business interests, and partly because she believes “only she can save Kyrgyzstan from disaster.”

She’s faced by vast administrative resources wielded by Bakiev’s favourites. She’s definitely brave but not all the odds are against her. And she’s definitely not averse to good PR – in an interview in 2005 she told a newspaper she didn’t manage to take anything but her t-shirt and jeans with her after the March events – as if she didn’t have millions siphoned away abroad.

I don’t think Akaev or Bakiev’s regime could be called “despotic” or “democratic”. Some things are better now, some are worse than before March 2005.

Joshua Foust May 3, 2007 at 10:16 am

I think Partial Observer is right, and her status as just a self-obsessed politician is what I was getting at in my post. But the White House? It has labs? Labs where they care about MPs in countries it cuts out of its annual budgets? That made me giggle, a bit.

Publius May 3, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Shame on the Kyrgyz government for disbanding Akaeva’s candidacy for parliament—it is blatantly obvious that the decision was politically motivated. Bermet Akaeva is a strong leader who has broad support in her region. Remember the thousands of people who came out publicly to support her in the Kemin district? I also strongly admire Akaeva’s bravery and personally have a ton of respect for her wanting to serve her native people and saving her native country from spiraling down into a failed state. Bermet Akaeva has all the attributes of a statesman, something the current government desperately lacks in.

AK May 3, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Joshua, can you validate your claim that she is not all that popular in the Kemin region? You are very wrong, please go to that area and talk to the people yourself. Bakiev knew she would win the election if she was on the ballot. Bakiev was clearly afraid of her presence in the parliament, and used all the means available to him to drive her out.
The greater irony lies in the people that used the name of democracy and freedom to launch a revolution that has obviously not led to a more transparent democracy.
Opposition newspapers raided by security forces, opposition members arrested, corruption still rampant, economic conditions worsened. Are you still telling me the country is better off today with Bakiev?
Don’t judge Bermet based on her father, and your unsubstantiated accusations. She has every right as a Kyrgyz national to run in parliamentary elections. Shame on the government and its interference in democratic elections. Isn’t this precisely the reason why Bakiev and Roza, and all the opposition members overthrew Akaev?

Joshua Foust May 3, 2007 at 8:07 pm

So, I’m simply expressing doubt about the real reasons behind Akaeva’s troubles. As I pointed out, she’s been accused of paying people to agitate on her behalf—something, if you recall, that was not beyond the means or inclinations of her father, and not at all unusual in the broader region. I don’t know for certain, but I never claimed to—I simply said rushing to annoint her a martyr for democracy is more than a bit premature.

As Partial Observer rightly pointed out, she comes off not as a valiant warrior for democracy, but a politician with a big checkbook trying to buy her way back into power. That doesn’t mean her intentions are nefarious, and it isn’t meant to excuse or forgive Bakiyev, as I find him quite distasteful. It is simply pointing out what has actually happened, and wondering why she even bothers.

Y’all need to calm down and stop telling me I’m saying things I’m not.

AK May 3, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Can you please explain how she is trying to so called “buy her way back in to power?” Have you thought for a moment that the government is framing her and throwing false accusations to discredit her?
Did you also know that Bakiev and his gang paid people to join the revolution in 2005?
Just because you fail to understand her dedication to the country and her belief that she can change for the country for the better that does not mean you can label her as a self obsessed politician. As Paul Shirley noted, it is easy for you to say these thing from the comfort of your home, but I wonder if you can even live one day under the pressure that she does.
And for some one to suggest that she is running for parliament in order to secure business interest is ridiculous? What do you think she can possibly do as a member of parliament to do that with Bakiev and his gang watching right over her.

Joshua Foust May 3, 2007 at 8:31 pm

AK, if you cannot accept people expressing skepticism about political intrigue then you should really move on elsewhere. I am merely quoting published accounts of her political record, which come in the midst of a widely condemned election run by her father, and allegations that her husband had committed fraud.

Again, I have no idea whether or not to take stock in any of this; but her blind defense of her obviously corrupt father doesn’t help her appear the blameless, sacrificial democratic lamb you make her out to be. Color me unimpressed by your outrage.

Publius May 3, 2007 at 9:01 pm


You reach conclusions about Bermet Akaeva based on accusations made by her opponents. Bermet Akaeva’s opponents have made numerous and unfair, groundless accusations against her that are naturally politically motivated and aimed solely to destroy her and family. The groundless accusations regarding Akaeva’s motivations and “checkbook” and so on are the same fantasies created and maliciously spread by Bakiev and his so called “revolutionaries” in their attempt distract the country from their own failures in fulfilling the promises made in the March 2005 coup d’etat that illegally overthrew a constitutional government.

Joshua Foust May 3, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Perhaps you’re not reading the part where I say I don’t necessarily believe the allegations against her, or that I think Bakiev is good or right. In 2005 I was deeply apathetic over the revolution, in part because of the involvement of US agencies and in part because I didn’t think things would get much better.

At the same time, however, I guess I must have also missed the time where Akaev was celebrated for his free and fair elections, and his complete non-use of despotism to get his children into positions of power.

My skepticism is not born of opposition. Spin goes both ways, and I take her statements with as many pieces of salt as I take Bakiyev’s.

Publius May 3, 2007 at 9:25 pm

Joshua, yes, if you are referring to the so called “revolution” organized by Bakiev and his cronies that was internally financed by gangs and drug money and externally financed by US agencies, I am with you on this one. I find it despicable that Bakiev brags about economic development under his watch when he has in truth led Kyrgyzstan one step closer to a failed state.

Partial observer May 3, 2007 at 10:14 pm

I think, all things being equal, in a fair vote Bermet would have won the seat in Kemin, because of her family connections in the area, and because of all they’ve done for the region. But some of the comments in her support have been ludicrously one-sided. Do these people deny that there was falsification of the University constituency election when Bermet stood in 2005? Do they deny that the Akaev family siphoned off millions of dollars during Askar’s rule? The fact that Bakiev and his family and cronies are doing exactly the same more crudely doesn’t suddenly make Bermet a knight in shining armour. You’d be hard pressed to organise a pro-Akaev family demonstration made up of non-Kemin people, because folk memories of 15 years of Akaev political fixing and corruption are long. Maybe this will change if the economy and political situation slides further and people get nostalgic for the relative stability of the Akaev era, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And as for support from criminal gangs and drug money, and US support, I think you’ll find that Akaev had all of that before Bayaman and the White House saw their interests would be better served with support for the “revolution”.

Publius May 4, 2007 at 7:51 am

According to today’s news release on Akipress, Bakiev made a statement stating that he is tired of politicsy. After all, he has good reasons to be tired of politics. After creating an Orwellian type totalitarian state and arresting anyone who dares to exercise free speech against him, he should be tired of himself and his own evil malice.

Joshua Foust May 4, 2007 at 9:29 am

Funny, though, you say that as if Akaev were noticeably better. Unless Human Rights Watch was lying in 2002 when they accused him of a horrendous human rights record, of rigging elections, and of murdering protestors, it’s a tough sell to say Bakiev is worse.

Look, neither is or was or will be very good for the country.

Publius2 May 4, 2007 at 10:14 am

Yes, the accusations you speak of were made by the government currently in power and the “revolutionaries” with the help of external influence. We all know the results of the mean slandering against Akaev that led to the unconstitutional coup d’etat. Plus, let Human Rights Watch say what they want. They don’t have monopoly on truth.

Joshua Foust May 4, 2007 at 11:59 am

Umm, is there such a thing as a constitutional coup d’etat?

Matt May 4, 2007 at 7:41 pm

I think the White House referred to in Paul Shirley’s post is the one in Bishkek, not Washington Joshua

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