The Trials and Travails of Presidential Daughters

by Joshua Foust on 7/17/2007 · 13 comments

The women of Central Asian tyrants sure have their work cut out for them: whether beating up old men over tea, marrying accused murderers and thieves, or defrauding their homelands of millions of dollars before fleeing from a violent mob, it’s just darn tough to establish that certain gravitas an established, functional politician in a normal country might muster to sail into office. I guess being the child of a thug-ruler is the next best thing. Nathan has done an admirable job of covering Karimova’s thuggery in Tashkent; it is the futures of two other embattled princesses that intrigue me now.

Dariga Nazarbayeva, eldest power-daughter of Uncle Nazzy, is now its most recently disgraced politician:

With Kazakhstan’s election campaign scheduled to kick off on July 18, Dariga will not be one of the candidates vying for a parliamentary mandate.

Nazarbayeva, currently a member of parliament, has been embroiled in controversy since her husband, Rakhat Aliyev, was indicted on racketeering charges and summarily dismissed from his post as ambassador to the OSCE in Vienna. In addition to being left off the pro-presidential Nur Otan Party list of candidates, Nazarbayeva also was forced out as deputy party leader. Both moves were made July 4 during a party congress.

Now that is interesting. Is there a connection between Aliyev and Nazarbayeva, despite the divorce proceedings? It’s hard to say. I honestly wonder if she divorced Aliyev to spare her political career, or if it was a legit falling out between two unhappy people. If she did throw away her marriage to save her career, it must sting now. If she simply continues to be guilty by association—perhaps a Kazakh version of the Clinton twinge?—then it is truly unfortunate she can’t separate herself from the alleged activities of her estranged husband (who have, let it be remembered, played a role in extortion, kidnapping, and murder, but most importantly not supporting Uncle Nazzy).

But before we all jump on the “Nazarbayev = Shah” bandwagon, let’s take a big step back. Yes, it is unfortunate to see the Kazakh political scene consolidating into a one-party system (the Nur Otan party has nearly a million members, in a country of only 18 million people), and it is unfortunate to see the system punish dissent. I would still much rather live there than, say Uzbekistan. Or Turkmenistan. While Kazakhstan remains a capricious state, with less chance now than ever before of a change in leadership without death, it is still by far the least capricious of the Central Asian states.

To the south, my favorite Kyrgyz, Bermet Akayeva, is trying to make more waves than when she stole millions of dollars and fled to Russia then tried to return as a martyred politician-for-peace.

EurasiaNet: Is this obstruction of justice charge going to go away?
Akayeva: No, no. Yesterday (June 21) I was in interrogation. I think it’s going to go to the courts and I think I’m going to get convicted. Just the way the investigation is going. This is my impression.

EurasiaNet: Do you think you will go to prison?
Akayeva: I don’t think so. I’m charged with obstruction of justice. They want some punishment, I think, but I believe it (a prison sentence) will be suspended. … Unofficially, I am being delivered a message: if I leave, they will drop the charges against me – on the condition I don’t come back. It’s like a punishment, but they don’t want to make a [political martyr] out of me. I think they realize that. If convicted, I would not be able to run for any office.

EurasiaNet: If you are placed on probation, do you plan to remain in the country?
Akayeva: Oh yes, I will. I am opening an institute on Central Asian research, on Central Asian studies. It’s an independent think tank on the problems not only of Kyrgyzstan, but on regional problems. It opened it in Moscow a few months ago. And I’m opening an office here (in Bishkek). We’re trying to [gain] registration.

EurasiaNet: What are the implications for nationhood?
Akayeva: We have to think seriously about the big structures, about changing the big structures so they are not played off each other. Some people say we should leave the party system and make it a parliamentarian system and all the differences will disappear. I don’t believe it. I don’t think they’ll just go away. Probably we should think more about a kind of federation structure, so that the regions are a bit more independent, they have a bit more power. I think that’s the major source of discontent, basically; the different groups and the division of the power, the division of the wealth. Maybe a federal kind of structure would work better for us. We have to think about it; the parliamentary system is not going to work, I think.”

So, she wants an independent Kemin? Sounds about right—no one else in the Parliamentary system wants her corrupt family around, and the government itself does not like her paying agitators to vandalize the courts when they dislike a ruling. What a brave patriot only out for her country’s good.

Actually, she might be that. But I have yet to see any evidence that she isn’t just a different brand of power lust and petty corruption than her father, or Bakiyev for that matter. Kyrgyzstan’s political system really is in serious decline and crisis; but I don’t see how such an establishment figure, with her own geographical power base and a vast war chest at her disposal, can be considered a reliable or trustworthy advocate for any sort of useful reforms.


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– 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 Registan.net. 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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{ 13 comments }

Partial Observer July 17, 2007 at 11:59 pm

– While Kazakhstan remains a capricious state, with less chance now than ever before of a change in leadership without death, it is still by far the least capricious of the Central Asian states.

I don’t agree – I’d say it’s probably at about the capriciousness level of Tajikistan, and far more capricious than Kyrgyzstan. But then, I suppose it depends on your understanding of capriciousness.

Bonnie Boyd July 18, 2007 at 3:09 am

Dear Joshua,
You know, I don’t see anything that remarkable about Nazarbaeva sitting out an election. This is what happens in most states when one’s spouse is being indicted on racketeering charges. I don’t count her out either, in the medium term. She’s got time to consolidate and scrub up her image. The only thing that would stop that is if she lost the media empire. The other wild card is that there are still a few appointee places left in the legislature, which she might well fill– And that would be post-election. Caprice sounds like a better adjective for Akaeva–but I don’t even think that’s right. Looks like testing the waters to me . . .
Bonnie

E.K July 18, 2007 at 7:39 am

The choice of words and language in the post “The Trials and Travails of Presidential Daughters” makes it sound like the center of evil in this world rests in Central Asia.

If 1% of time and energy is spent writing about the American political system as Joshua Foust(is Joshua related to Goethe’s Foust?) does unleashing diatribes against Central Asian politics, the world would be a much better place. The allegations about corruption and violence in Central Asia pales compared to the actions of America’s very own democracy-loving, freedom-loving, law-loving, human-rights loving government and political system.

Let me flesh out what I mean so that there is no misunderstanding as to what I am talking about. First, lets talk about torture. We all know that thousands of innocent people are tortured in Guantanamo bay. These people are denied habeus corpus and have been denied basic human rights stipulated under Geneva Conventions. Why? Because apparently, according to John Yoo,(or as I call him John BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!) the architect of Bush’s torture policies, these people are so evil that they do not deserve POW status. Now that these people have been neatly locked up in Guantanamo bay prisons for years, stripped of all legal rights that basic human beings inherently deserve(according to the American government, freedom is God’s gift for all), it has become evident that their only crime is looking “Muslim” and having darker skin and for most of them being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps, this is why Colin Powell said that if he were in power, Guantanamo would be shut down immediately. Before I move on, let me just remind us all that Jose Padilla, a US citizen, was denied habeus corpus and only God knows what Padilla’s own government did to him. Yes, this happened to America’s very own citizen. This is the same government that wants bright, flamboyant, and colorful flower revolutions around the world.

Moving onto Iraq(for the revolution there, I label it the “Dandelion revolution”): after pretending that Iraqis posed a national threat to America, we all know that the war in Iraq has turned out to be nothing short of a total fiasco, disaster, and tragedy. Attacking a sovereign nation under false pretences(will George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld please stand up and explain to the world where those Weapons of Mass Destructions are?) Was it not Bush and Cheney who said that Iraqis would greet Americans as liberators and wave American flags and so on. Oh right to the Republic of Neoconservatives, now we see that that this war and occupation has unleashed a massive civil war unprecedented for all the poor Iraqis(who probably are just as confused as the people sitting in the Oval Office of the White House) and resulted in the brutal murderings of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis(by the way, in the name of promoting democracy to the “oppressed” Iraqis and disposing Saddam Hussein who was actively supported in 1980s against Iran, we have all seen the pictures of Rumsfeld holding hands with Uncle Saddam) and displacing millions of Iraqis from their own homes and families. I am sure the oppression right now Iraqis suffer under America’s democracy banner are wondering if democracy-promotion really is actually a code-world for oil and Western imperialism.(the British and the French argued for “freedom” when they attacked Iraq and Algeria in the 20th Century, respectively) Will Ms. Condoleeza Rice, the same Secretary of State who made an international sensation out of Andijan, please answer to the whole world what on earth is going on in Iraq?

Right, so the war in Iraq was meant to be the center of the “war on terror.” Oops, now Iraq is soon to displace the Taliban Afghanistan as the center for global jihad. Congratulations! Talking about torture in Central Asia? I am sure America’s hero in Iraq, Monsieur Premier Ministre Nouri Al-Maliki could teach a lesson or two on it. I almost forgot about Abu Ghraib. The pictures from Abu Ghraib made it undeniable that the democracy promoters have turned Iraq into the center for rape, torture, and carnage. Before anyone mentions Andijan, Rakhat Aliyev, and so-called corruption in Central Asia, let us not forget that “Operation Iraqi freedom” has turned Iraq into the Mecca of the world’s most ugly and hideous violence, corruption, and crimes against humanity possibly imaginable to man.

Still not convinced? We all know by now that the CIA has randomly picked up hundreds of “Muslims” off the streets around the world because of their darker skins or having a name like Youssef, Mohammad, or Hamza.(Whatever happened to Uncle Usama Bin Laden?) Not only were they kidnapped, they were shipped to places like Egypt and Eastern Europe to “secret” CIA prisons(which turned out as we all know by now not to be so secret after all) and were brutally tortured. Yes, this is the extreme renditions. I am sure al-Libby(ironically his last name rhymes with Cheney’s disgraced former-Chief of Staff Scooter Libby) could say a thing or two about his experience with the democracy, human rights loving, law abiding Americans in Egypt. (Not to mention how he successfully tricked American authorities about threats from Afghanistan that turned out to be a spectacular fiction even Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Gogol would have enjoyed)

Also, regarding authoritanism in Central Asia. Whose Ministry of Justice fired multiple attorneys for political reasons? Which country’s executive branch is refusing subpeanas mandated by Parliament? Of course, we are talking about the “US and A,”(this is my little tribute to Borat who has made Kazakhstan known to peasants in the boonies of North Dakota) Let us not forget that even esteemed constitutional scholars of American universities have said that the concept of checks-and-balances and separation of power stipulated by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and other Founding Fathers of America have been trashed. Please, let us not forget that Dick Cheney’s chief of Staff Scooter Libby was convicted for lying to the government in the case related to the White House (mistakenly) making public the “secret” CIA agent Valerie Plame. His punishment? Bush commutes Libby(what would al-Libby think about this juicy scandal?), making it evident that maybe even in America not everyone is equal under the law after all. Oh right, don’t forget about the illegal wiretapping and the so-called “P.A.T.R.I.O.T ACT”. I am sure Americans are happy about their phones being tapped. By the way, why can’t the American government keep their government secrets hidden? (Isn’t that the purpose of secrets?)

Still had not enough? Corruption in government. Why don’t you ask Jack Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay? More corruption stories? The shareholders of Haliburton know why their stock prices have sky-rocketed in the last couple of years since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Before anyone talks about Gulnara Karimova and the so-called prostitution ring she allegedly runs. Why don’t you ask US Senator David Vitter’s trips to “Deborah Palfrey’s” whore houses? This very same Senator(interestingly from one of the most conservative states of Louisiana) consistently voted in the US parliament to impose sexual morality in America and is supposed to be the defender of conservatism and Republican virtues from his theocratic state of Louisiana. (a heartland of the so-called America’s deep South) Of course, in talking about morality and politics, one cannot fail to mention Bill Clinton receiving pop from Monica Lewinsky(crouched uncomfortably under his desk in the Oval office of the White House) while he was eating pizza and talking on the phone to other authorities in his cabinet. What did Clinton do with the cigar that he stuck in Lewinsky’s “you-know?” and also the blue dress with his semen. I read somewhere that it is hanging nicely in Clinton’s Presidential Museum.

Before anyone accuses Bermet Akaeva and Dariga Nazarbayeva of being power hungry: Hillary Clinton doesn’t have any? Bill Clinton himself said that before he married Hilllary that they exchanged vows to become future Presidents of the United States of America and transform the Democratic Party into a more moderate party.(Yes, this occurred when Bill and Hillary were in their mid-20s before they even began their official political careers) This sounds more power hungry than anything Bermet Akaeva ever said in her life. What about the political ambitions of President’s children? I am sure George W. Bush could offer some advice.

Lastly, regarding accusations about geographical divisions in Kyrgyzstan: how did Bush win elections in 2000 and 2004? We all know Bush’s chief strategist Karl Rove(with the geeky glasses he wears) divided America in order to rally up the Christian evangelicals(who by the way want the American and Christian version of Saudia Arabia’s theocracy) to vote for the Republican party.

Please Joshua, before you badmouth Central Asian politics, please do me and the world a favor and look at yourself in the mirror and think about what democracy, law, and human rights truly means for you and your own government. Thank you!

P.S I am sure Abraham Lincoln would be rolling around his grave. Perhaps Lincoln’s very own government “by the people, of the people, and for the people” needs their own cleanup and shakeup. Since we all know how important hamburgers are to Americans, perhaps Lincoln himself wouldn’t mind a “Hamburger Revolution”!!!!

Bonnie Boyd July 18, 2007 at 7:56 am

Okay, Josh, you got that?! Bonnie 🙂 Well okay den.

Joshua Foust July 18, 2007 at 7:59 am

PO, I think the Kyrgyzstan argument applies only recently, to Bakiyev’s regime after the second (or was it third?) round of protests about his government.

Bonnie, I don’t know the real deal behind Nazarbayeva’s current troubles. I didn’t mean to imply any malfeasance on her part (and rereading my language, I don’t think I did). But I just don’t trust Akayeva.

EK, the very reason this blog exists is that not enough people write about Central Asia. Simply load Technocrati and type “election 2008” or something similar to see how very saturated (and conflicted) the discussion of American politics is. And no, I am not related to Goethe’s FAUST (notice the “a”), so please no Satan jokes.

You kind of threw the kitchen sink at us there. I’ll be the first to admit my country has serious problems, and the people in charge of it need to be voted out. In fact, the very problems you mentioned — hundreds (not thousands) illegally imprisoned at Guantanamo, torture, and so on — are why I now stand in opposition to my government.

But there’s the rub – we can vote our president out of office, and if we choose not to for whatever reasons, he still can only serve two terms. Not a single Central Asian country does its people such a courtesy. Plus, you’re forgetting the very cogent fact that we don’t cover American politics here. We cover Central Asia, and that is our focus. Saying the United States is an imperfect place does not make a single thing I said invalid… and in fact, if you were to go to my other blog and read what I write there, you’ll find a similar (I would say stronger) level or ire levied at my own government.

And please don’t bring up Abraham Lincoln. Surely, if you’re complaining that Americans are hypocrites, you wouldn’t want to elevate a man who suspended every civil liberty we claim to cherish (including press, speech, assembly) and started a war with his own people as the best we have to offer. Or I could adopt the Central Asian attitude of victimization and say our Civil War was the result of a conspiracy by more powerful European countries to break apart a country whose people they condescended to and whose vast natural resources they wanted. Sound familiar?

So please spare me your indignation and deal with the substance (or lack thereof, if that’s your point) of what I wrote. Dodging the issue does not make it go away.

E.K July 18, 2007 at 9:12 am

Just one more comment:

Unlike Thomas Jefferson, at least the political leaders in Central Asia have the basic decency to know that slavery is immoral.(For those of you who don’t know, Thomas Jefferson not only had slaves but had sex with his slave: hence, Sally Jennings.)

If one objectively compares the beginnings of Central Asian countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union to the American Founding, nothing compares to the crimes against humanity of slavery as an institution in America(millions of Africans who were bought and sold like tomatoes and potatoes just because they happened to be born with darker skin pigmentation). Human beings legally treated as 3/5ths of a people and as “property” under the law? The fact that there was a civil war because millions of Americans refused to accept people of darker skin as humans? Good Morning, human rights!!!

After Lincoln freed the slaves in 1862 under the Emancipation Proclamation, then the US government institutes separate but equal system. Segregated schools, separate bus seatings, separate water fountains based on the color of the skin? Wow, pure barbarism. Talking about human rights in Central Asia and Freedom House and what not. Please. At least people in Central Asia have the common sense to know that lynching and publicly hanging your fellow citizens is inappropriate and wrong, not to mention the physical pain it inflicts on their bodies and souls. And, someone is lecturing others about trust in other country’s political leaders?

To step it up a notch, before Freedom House and American government sanctioned organizations waste their time writing about about human rights in other countries and their government invading other countries based on demagoguery and pure lies, why don’t they focus on the ever-increasing number of Americans in prison. (What proportion of them are people who have darker skin? Irony?) What about all the ghettos and segregation which today shape the American landscape. Shame. Pure Shame.

At least in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan they do not treat people differently based on their skin colors. I am sure Condoleeza Rice(just being born with a darker skin color than Bush or Cheney) can share stories about growing up in the segregated South as a second-class citizen in Alabama. Tell millions of Black citizens about the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Apparently, Americans still haven’t learned after 200 years that it is unacceptable to treat your own fellow citizens as second-class based on the color of their skin. And you are telling me about Human Rights in Central Asia? Please clean up your own house before you open you badmouth other people’s homes! All the talk about Central Asian human rights sounds more like bona fide hypocrisy at the heart of the whole system. Perhaps those who talk about human rights are in truth trying to deflect their own guilt and injustice that is embedded in the bloods of their own history onto others. Sound familiar, anyone?

Joshua Foust July 18, 2007 at 9:33 am

EK, you’re trolling at this point. Consider yourself warned.

Despite the horrors of slavery in the 19th century, Americans did not summarily execute and torture foreigners of a different religion – something that cannot be said of the Khanates of Central Asia. Comparing 19th century moralities is a loser for the region, as despite inconsistencies, the U.S. (and the West in general) actually had concepts like human rights and inherent dignity. It was the process of ending slavery, and learning to treat blacks with equanimity, that led to our modern horror at the practice of slavery, and the huge push by both the American government and American charities to end human trafficking.

You’re right that in the Stans they don’t treat people very differently… because they don’t have to deal with real difference. Quibble however you want over the distinctions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, they are racially indistinguishable and of similar cultures… in stark contrast to the wide range of races, skin colors, and origin cultures of Americans. Look at how difficult Europe is finding it to absorb a large number of Arab immigrants (for varying reasons), or the debate in the states about Latinos. There are real cultural differences in play, and while I think they’re overblown in the public discussion, they do vastly outweigh what Central Asia deals with.

That being said: STOP DEFLECTING THE ARGUMENT. This is your last warning. No one here has said the U.S. is perfect (and at least with regard to its policies in Central Asia, both Nathan, Ehsan, and I have been highly critical), so stop waving around that red herring like it is a meaningful contribution. Either what I said in my actual post is true or not; that’s fair game, and I welcome disagreement. But this is not about America’s human rights record, George W. Bush, 19th century American race relations, the Declaration of Independence, or Sally Jennings. They are totally irrelevant to this discussion. If you mention them again, you will be banned from commenting.

Bonnie Boyd July 18, 2007 at 9:54 am

Josh, I didn’t mean a comment on malfeasance at all–just that I think this would be normal part of the Aliev fallout, and that we shouldn’t count her out or assume she doesn’t have a plan. Ms. Nazarbaeva is a dynamic person and I doubt very seriously she’s out for the long term–although I do not predict anything specific. If she wants to stay in politics, she is probably consolidating some alliances and laying low for the interim. Which would be a good plan, if that’s what she wants.
Bonnie
And, trolling is?? another vocabulary lesson for me. . .

Joshua Foust July 18, 2007 at 10:00 am

Bonnie – That’s fair. I honestly don’t know what her intentions are, but I nevertheless thought it significant that she’s been excluded from the elections (you know, travails).

From Wikipedia: “In Internet terminology, a troll is someone who intentionally posts derogatory or otherwise inflammatory messages about sensitive topics in an established online community such as an online discussion forum to bait users into responding.” There’s more to it, though, and I think the Wiki is a good summary of the concept.

Brian July 18, 2007 at 12:42 pm

You know the thing is that many people, including people on this blog, might agree with many of the things that E.K. says… at least in principle. But he’s totally missing the point. He’s basically saying that because there have been and are problems with the American system we should not discuss the problems of Central Asia…. on a Central Asian blog.

Is that what you want E.K.? No one should discuss Central Asian problems, not us, not Central Asians (since openly discussing politics inside Central Asia is rare at best), and people should only focus on the problems of American politics?

To me that means that E.K. must be completely satisfied with the politics, economy and social well-being of Central Asia. But I know that’s not true, he generally sounds smart and aware enough to realize that Central Asian society has serious problems.

If you’re interested in discussing the (huge) problems with American politics, great! More power to you! But shouldn’t that be done on an American politics blog (there are TONS out there), instead of coming here and oppressing us and trying to convince us that Central Asian issues aren’t worth discussing?

Joshua Foust July 18, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Brian, that’s the point – EK doesn’t raise necessarily invalid or wrong-headed points, but he is doing it specifically to distract from the topic at hand. He is deflecting attention, and I just don’t care for it.

Partial Observer July 19, 2007 at 12:04 am

Joshua – sorry to wander off-topic. Some people say that a state is truly democratic when the head of state (or government) loses a contested election. Bakiev has the potential to become the first democratic president in Central Asia. I can’t say the same about Nazarbaev. And the level of corruption in Kazakhstan is astounding – why in such a rich country are people in the real villages around Atyrau or in Naryn Kol raion allegedly worse off materially and in terms of infrastructure than in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan?

P.S. I never miss an opportunity to criticise the US, but unfortunately no obvious and relevant criticisms come to mind at the moment.

Michael Hancock July 19, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Trolling is a pain to me especially because it really kills the flow of actual discussion.

Has anyone given any wait to Rakhat Aliyev’s opinion that the whole divorce proceeding is just as much a sham as everything else? Like in other CIS countries, all the people in power [read:men] generally did terrible things to get there at one time or another, and will continue to do whatever is necessary to stay there. Thus, when a lackey is no longer in his superior’s good graces, there’s a convenient shopping list of indiscretions, crimes, and/or murders to point to as the reason for censure or arrest. The fact that everyone is likewise guilty is never raised, because it’s merely the old “Might Makes Right” ideal, except all dolled up as ‘democracy’ and ‘liberty,’ so there are court proceedings, journalistic exercises and planned interviews…

I guess what I’m saying is, what do you think the chances that Aliyev is actually taking the fall for something that was planned with the President’s knowledge, and now his wife is being dragged down with him? I suppose the best we can do is speculation, of course, but wouldn’t that explain some of the news we’re hearing out of Astana and Almaty lately?

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