Justin Vela

Archive for the ‘Eurasia’ Category

Visiting a Gülen School in Batumi

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Georgian middle school students in class at the Gulen-affiliated R. Sahin school in Batumi, Georgia on April 30, 2013.

Georgian middle school students in class at the Gulen-affiliated R. Sahin school in Batumi, Georgia on April 30, 2013.

I visited a Gülen school in Batumi, Georgia last week for EurasiaNet.org. The R. Şahin Friendship School is attended mainly by Georgian students, along with some Turks.

That reputation was not built easily. Once under Turkish control, both following World War I and during the Ottoman era, Batumi welcomes swarms of Turkish visitors, most of whom come to gamble in casinos, while a few seek investment opportunities. Some Georgians in the region feel vulnerable about the potential spread of Turkish influence. Those concerns erupted last summer, when angry protests broke out in the city against the influx of Turks and government plans to rebuild an Ottoman-era mosque.But the Batumi Refaiddin Şahin Friendship School-High School did not become embroiled in the xenophobic outburst.

Read the entire article 

Much controversy follows the Gülen Movement in Turkey and the United States. But in Georgia the R. Şahin Friendship School is not widely known to be attached to the movement. It is a much appreciated private school that offers high-level education to students regardless of their religion or nationality.

It was interesting to see the Gülen movement’s work outside of the Turkish context. Gülen himself and his followers continue to make headlines in Turkey. Most recently, a high-ranking member of the movement stated that Gülen might return to Turkey after a democratic constitution is put in place. It appears he was giving his personal opinion on the subject. Gülen has not made new statements about the possibility of returning to Turkey, which seems unlikely given his poor health and general tense situation in the country.

 

Written by Justin Vela

May 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

Kyrgyzstan’s election…

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Istanbul- Kyrgyzstan held its presidential election today (Oct. 30). The event is being described as Central Asia’s first relatively democratic election. 

I ventured to Kyrgyzstan earlier this year and published a series of articles from a region I hope to continue covering.

Following June 2010 violence in the southern city of Osh, there is hope that the election will usher in a period of greater peace and freedom for the country. This will be difficult to achieve. Nationalism is on the rise in the country and the tensions remain high between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

Here is one of articles I wrote from Kyrgyzstan:

Kyrgyzstan: Where the Restaurants in Osh Have New Names

Kyrgyz and Uzbeks offer starkly different versions of how the “events,” or the “war” – as last year’s violence is known locally – unfolded. While they differ on many points about the causes and the effects of the violence, the two groups tend to agree on one point: the Kyrgyz “won.” In an atmosphere of rising Kyrgyz nationalism, Kyrgyz-language newspapers have printed racist attacks on minorities, offering justifications for harsh measures aimed at defending their “ancestral lands.” Kyrgyz politicians, meanwhile, have demanded “respect” from minorities. Azamat Temirkulov, a professor of political science at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, confirmed that nationalist sentiment has intensified over the past year, especially in Osh. “After the events last year, Kyrgyz have this trend to dominate culturally, and, maybe, also dominate economically,” he told EurasiaNet.org. “There is nationalism, there are some nationalist groups. They are present not only in the street, but also in official institutions.”

With only best wishes for the country, here is a random assortment of photos taken during the weeks I was in Kyrgyzstan.

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Written by Justin Vela

October 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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The curious case of Ali Osman Zor…who Kyrgyzstan finally extradited to Turkey…

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Istanbul- Kyrgyzstan finally extradited Ali Osman Zor, a Turkish citizen with alleged links to al-Qaeda, to Turkey early this month.

Kyrgyzstan has handed over to Turkey a journalist suspected of belonging to an extremist organization with alleged links to Al-Qaeda, the Kyrgyz prosecutor general’s office said on Thursday.

“A Turkish national, Ali Osman Zor, was handed over to Turkey on August 4,” Talant Konokbayev, the press secretary for the prosecutor general’s office, told AFP.

Bishkek detained Zor on May 2 in response to a request from Turkey, where he is suspected of abetting militants. To protest against his arrest, he declared a hunger strike on July 8.

Full AFP article here

Virtually unknown in Turkey, why did the country ask Kyrgyz authorities to detain and then extradite Zor, a seemingly low-priority figure? Right groups in Kyrgyzstan have spoken out against the extradition, claiming Zor’s advocates were not notified beforehand.

I wrote about this curious case previously: here and here  

Turkey's political and economic influence is growing in Central Asia, with Turkish business spreading throughout the region and a government that prioritizes engagement.

Written by Justin Vela

August 12, 2011 at 6:36 am

Apricot orchard. Batken, Kyrgyzstan. May 2011…

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Apricot orchard. Batken, Kyrgyzstan. May 2011.

Written by Justin Vela

June 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Posted in Eurasia

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Uzbek border. May 2011…

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Uzbek border. May 2011.

Written by Justin Vela

May 30, 2011 at 6:09 am

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Photo: On the road in Batken Oblast, Kyrgyzstan. May 2011

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On the road in Batken Oblast, Kyrgyzstan. May 2011

Written by Justin Vela

May 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Eurasia

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Data journalism…back in Istanbul Friday…

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Bishkek- The Guardian of London has published a new interactive datablog that breaks down Nato operations in Libya by country. I contributed the Turkey data. Turkey was hesitant about becoming involved in Libyan operations, but eventually agreed to a noncombat role.

While I was in Urumqi, China for a week, the past month has been largely spent in Kyrgyzstan- out along the country’s undefined border with Tajikistan and in the city of Osh, which saw ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in June 2010. Right now I am finishing writing the articles from this reporting trip.

Two articles that give a description of Kyrgyz-Turkish relations have already been published by EurasiaNet.org:

Kyrgyzstan: Banking on Turkish Trade 

Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek Detains Asylum-Seeking Turkish Terror Suspect

I am back in Istanbul Friday morning.

Aksai. Batken Oblast. Southern Kyrgyzstan. May 2011.

Written by Justin Vela

May 23, 2011 at 2:23 am