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Discussion – Spotlight on civic activism in Central Asia
03/03/2022

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How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected civil societies in Central Asia? Our fellows presented their research findings on gender-based violence in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, as well as civic activism in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Civil society engagement in Kazakhstan faced particular difficulties in the first year of the Covid19 pandemic: the digitalisation of civil society work posed challenges and the pandemic-related restriction of political processes prevented the participation of the population. These were the findings of the research team Viktoriya Nem, Anna Klimchenko and Kamila Smagulova. During the online event "Spotlight on civic activism in Central Asia", the Fellows of the Eurasia Lab & Fellowship Programme presented their preliminary research results and discussed them with international experts. Commentator Dr Vera Axyonova recommended a closer look at the limitation of the watchdog function of civil society organisations. Another point of departure could also be to examine the potentially greater accessibility of political actors that has taken place with the digitisation of work.

In Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, the state response to rising gender-based violence during the pandemic was inadequate. This is one of the main findings of the work of the fellows Svetlana Dzardanova and Niginakhon Uralova. They analysed that in addition to a lack of resources and protection services, conservative cultural norms made it difficult to adequately protect those affected. Commentator Nozima Davletova suggested that research should be complemented by a dedicated affected persons' perspective and a comparative perspective to shed light on developments over time.

Online activism in Turkmenistan was the focus of the third research project. Rustam Muhamedov analysed how civil society activism has developed in and outside Turkmenistan and traced this through selected political and social events that led to protests both in Turkmenistan and among the diaspora community. Commentator Prof. Dr. Charles Sullivan classified the results regionally. In particular, increased lobbying from Turkmen people living abroad could increase reform pressure on the government.

Team & authors

About the Eurasia Lab and Fellowship Programme project: Young researchers from Eastern Europe and Eurasia receive support through fellowships to realise their research projects. The Eurasia Lab & Fellowship Programme also helps them network with other researchers and activists working on the region.

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