Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan presents an interesting opportunity for us to expand to a new region that is very different than the ones we currently work in. Kazakhstan, like other Central Asian countries, has an oppressive regime headed by an authoritarian president who has been in power for the last 19 years. It is the richest of the Central Asian countries due to its petroleum resources, and it is of high importance to United States strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan because much of the army¶s resources are shipped by la nd over Kazakhstan. Although there has been clear documentation of human rights violations and limitations of basic democratic rights (like freedom of the press), Kazakhstan has not gotten the reputation for brutality that its neighbors Uzbekistan and Turk menistan have. Analysts are concerned that continued government oppression may lead to future instability as was seen in Kyrgyzstan last April. In regards to violent extremism and terrorism, there has been more concern about terrorist cells in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, although there are certainly Islamist cells (like Hizb ut Tahrir and Jamaat Mojahedin) in Kazakhstan. Currently, Kazakhstan¶s government is inconsistently tolerant towards religious practices. It has hosted the Congress of World Religions three times (2003, 2006, 2009), has created a government -sponsored spiritual committee for the Muslims of Kazakhstan, and has allowed the growth of Islamic universities and mosques (funded mostly by Arab foundations, but also by the state). However, some claim that discrimination against Muslims is widespread, and accusations that Muslims are terrorists are common. Other religions have seen more formal governmental discrimination, as a law was recently debated but not passed to limit the activities of Baptis ts, Jehovah¶s Witnesses, and Hare Krishnas. Muslims constitute the largest religious group in the country, with 47% of the population, although members of the Russian Orthodox are almost equal, at 40% of the population. Muslim identity is seen as an issue of nationalism by many who are eager to cast off their former identity as a Soviet Republic and redefine a distinctive Kazakh identity. According to the Kazakh constitution, women have equal legal rights as men ²including the right to own, inherit, and ma nage property ²but in practice, women face considerable discrimination. Domestic violence is common, and Kazakh still lacks legal guidelines for what constitutes rape. However, there seems to be an active community of female -driven NGOs and organizations to deliver social services, especially around the issues of domestic violence. I have included a list of female organizations and community activists under the ³Kazakhstan and Women¶s Rights´ section.

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Basic information
Capital: Astana Size: 2,724,900 km 2 (9th largest in the world, largest landlocked) Population: 15,399,437 according to CIA Factbook (62nd in the world), 21.8% younger than 15. Other estimates of the population put it between 14 and 16 million. Ethnic background: about 50% Kazakh, 30% Russian, small percentages of Ukrainian, Uzbek, German, Tatar, Uyghur, and others (in that order) Religion: 47% Muslim, 44% Russian Orthodox, 2% Protestant Language: the official state language is Kazakh (Qazaq), but Russian is used in everyday business and is the official ³language of interethnic communication´

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High literacy rates for men and women Was a Soviet Republic from 1936 -1991 President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has been in power since 1 Dec. 1999 The ³spiritual committee for the Muslims of Kazakhstan´ (DUMK) is the national umbrella organization for the country¶s Muslims Currently, Kazakhstan has the chai rmanship of the OSCE in Europe

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According to the CIA World Factbook, current issues include:
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developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets; achieving a sustainable economic growth; diversifying the economy outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors; enhancing Kazakhstan's competitiveness; strengthening relations with neighboring states and other foreign powers.

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Kazakhstan and Violent Extremism
An article by Robert Templer, Asia Programme Director of the Intl. Crisis Group, on Qantara.de says that ³ Militant Islamism is flourishing in the fo rgotten prisons of the former Soviet Republics.´ He claims that ³ Radical Islamists shrewdly exploit the weaknesses of the prison system, which is undermined by corruption, a lack of personnel and inadequate governmental support. ´ http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c -476/_nr-1321/i.html

In ³How Not To Run An Empire´ (published in Foreign Policy magazine), Tom Malinowski claims that the recent uprising in Kyrgyzstan is indicative of tensions throughout the region, where ³people have felt betrayed by a government that came to power promising democracy and reform, but« delivered repression and nepotism instead.´ Regarding Islamism in the region, he says ³the government¶s heavy -handed police methods have, according to some analysts, helped radicalize a growing part of the Muslim population in southern Kyrgyzstan.´ Regarding Kazakhstan in particular, Milanowski describes the rule of Nazarbayev as one that ³maintains an atmosphere of quiet repression, stifling opposition media and manipulating the political process.´ He also notes that the country¶s leading human rights defender, Yevgeny (also spelled Evgeniy and Evgenii) Zhovtis, is currently in jail. He does not refer to any specific concerns regarding violent extremism in Kazakhstan. However, he says more generally that continued human rights abuses and poverty in Central Asia have the potential to undermine the stability of the area . http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/09/how_not_to_run_an_empire A report by Human Rights Watch lists Kazakhstan¶s primary human rights violations as ³maintaining restri ctive legislation on freedom of assembly, the media, and the internet, and at times blocking a number of websites and weblogs« refusing to register the main opposition party Alga!, and« turning down appeals to reopen a case against the country's leading human rights defender, Evgenii Zhovtis, who is in prison following an unfair trial. ´ However, their report clearly shows that there have been international cries for reform, which although Kazakhstan does not seem interested in, perhaps would give us a platf orm from which we could deliver SAVE ²not threatening to the regime, a good token project for them, and for us a real opportunity to take Mothers for Change! to Central Asia. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/10/kazakhstan -us-should-press-rights-reform In 2009, Kazakhstan hosted the Congress of World Religions for the third time (previously in 2003 and 2006). In his opening address, President Nazarbayev said the global financial crisis offered the potential of restructuring the world order. Despite the Congress, which was
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meant to highlight Kazakhstan¶s commitment to interreligious harmony, Edda Schlager reports that ³the Kazakh parliament has plans to t ighten the country's law on religion. In February of this year [2009] a proposed amendment was only stopped by the Kazakh constitutional council, which deemed it unconstitutional. ´ The proposed law would mandate that children receive permission from both p arents to participate in religious events and that ³introducing, publishing, or disseminating religious literature´ would be punished. Schlager says that Baptists, Jehova's Witnesses, and members of Hare Krishna would be the primary targets of the amendmen t. http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c -478/_nr-923/i.html Saltanat Berdikeeva¶s article, ³Myth and Reality of Islamist Extremism in Central Asia´ argues while ³Islam is gaining a strong foothold in the region« political and extremist forms of Islam have not received popular support, making the appeal of subversive Islamist groups limited.´ The article further claims that there is ³a direct correlation between repr essive policies of the region¶s governments and the growth of radical Islam in Central Asia.´ Some of the major groups in Central Asia are Hizb ut -Tahrir, Akramiyya (a splinter group of HT), Hizb an -Nasra (another splinter group of HT), and Jamaat Mojahedi n (related to al Qaeda). Berdikeeva says that the appeal of HT is partially related to the poverty of the region, as HT membership comes with financial awards, but that psychological factors are more important. Berdikeeva says, ³seeing the future fraught w ith uncertainty, failures, and endemic corruption, young people with no jobs find ideological guidance, a sense of belonging, and something to do by becoming a member of HT or other Islamist groups.´ (This sounds right up our alley). Berdikeeva does not consider HT as a serious threat because it has ³a decentralized and loose cell-like structure,´ but I don¶t agree that this is a reason to discredit HT ²in fact, the loose cell-like structure has been an asset to many terrorist groups in the past. This may be the only way for HT to survive in repressive regimes typical of Central Asia. The Jamaat Mojahedin are linked to Kazakhstan in particularly. A cell was dismantled in Nov. 2004. Berdikeeva reports that ³the Kazakh security forces stressed that the group did not plan terrorist actions inside the country but planned a series of attacks in neighboring countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. It also sought to establish training bases in southern Kazakhstan.´ Kazakhstan has banned Usbat al -Ansar, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Boz Gurd, Lakshar -i-Toiba, the Social Reform Soceity, Hizb ut Tahrir, the People¶s Congress of Kurdistan (PKK), the IMU , and the Islamic Party of Eas t Turkestan. Something of interest in Kyrgyzstan is that Berdikeeva cites ³Interfax -Kazakhstan News Agency, June 21´ (a source that I could not verify) as saying the more women are being actively involved in Islamist activities.
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Berdikeeva writes that ³ge neral intolerance of religion in [Central Asia] is common´ and that ³the terms µterrorist¶ and µextremist¶ have long been used cavalierly and deliberately to denigrate moderate Muslims, political opponents, and even journalists.´ Berdikeeva¶s recommendations for Central Asian countries are: ³First, the states must allow freedom of expression for moderate Muslims to teach Islam« Second, Central Asian states should avoid naming HT a terrorist organization« Third, the states must change repressive measures and abide by the international commitments to respect human rights« Fourth, comprehensive socio-economic reforms, including education, employment, and governance, must be intensified« Finally, the Central Asian states need to improve information sharing on extremist groups.´ http://www.eurasia21.com/cgi -data/document/files/Islamist_extremism_1.pdf Edda Schlager¶s article ³A Pragmatic Islam´ discusses the growth of Islam in Kazakhstan. She quotes Yershat Ongarov, head of the education department of the spiritual committee for the Muslims of Kazakhstan (DUMK) as saying ³Kazakhstan is a Muslim state, but not Islamic« Religion and state are strictly separate in this country.´ I n 2001, the Nur -Mubarak University of Islamic Culture was founded with financial assistance from the Egyptian government. Imams may be trained there or at another university run by the DUMK. Arab foundations have helped to fund two universities (Kazakh -Arab and Kazakh-Kuwait) in strongly-Muslim Shymkent, in the South. The largest mosque in the country is in Astana, the capital, and was a present from the Emir of Qatar. (I am excerpting Schlager¶s article word for-word« none of this should be considered my o wn writing). Schlager reports that in the 1990s, there was talk of establishing an independent Islamic state on territory occupied by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, although it is no longer being seriously discussed. There is a Kazakh anti-terrorist center in Almaty (ZAP), and in 2007, 167 members of Hizb ut -Tahrir were imprisoned and charged. One interesting point that Schlager makes is that Islam is becoming caught up in the desire for a Kazakh identity separate from Russia ²as Kazakhs are trying to figure out who they are and what their culture is like without the oppressive influence of Russia, Islam is becoming a characteristic that distinguishes the present from their Communist/atheist past. http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c -478/_nr-838/_p-2/i.html

Kazakhstan and Women¶s Rights
The Social Institutions and Gender Index reports that the Kazakh constitution includes legal equality for women. There are no specific provisions, and violence against women is widespread. The Kazakh Civil Code guarantees equal ownership rights for women and men,
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making provisions for them to possess, use, and inherit p roperty, but women still face widespread discrimination and limited access to resources. There are no reported restrictions on their freedom of movement or freedom of dress. Domestic violence is common. SIGI writes that ³Police tend to consider such violence as a family matter and intervene only if the victim¶s life is in danger; thus, one -third of domestic violence complaints are never investigated. In addition, economic uncertainty often prompts victims to drop their charges.´ Also, SIGI reports tha t ³female genital mutilation does not appear to be practiced in Kazakhstan.´ http://genderindex.org/country/kazakhstan The Alliance for International Women¶s Rights writes that ³ Kazakhstan leads the way in women's rights in Central Asia. The 1995 constitution defends women's rights by guaranteeing citizens the right to work and forbidding discrimination on the basis of geographic origin, gender, race, nationality, religion, political belief or language . The Alliance also reports that ³although many Kazkhs are Muslim, at least by tradition (the Soviet Union restricted religious practices for many years), Muslims in Kazakhstan are less conservative and women do not traditionally wear a yashmak (the face v eil worn by women in other Islamic countries) and have much more independence than women in other Islamic countries.´ Finally, the Alliance reiterates previous reports on domestic violence, saying that as much as 30% of the female population may experience violence within the home, and also claims that sex trafficking is a growing problem in Kazakhstan. http://www.aiwr.org/kazakhstan/overview EU delegation to Kazakhstan working with women¶s NGOs, lists the four leading NGOs as the Feminist League of Kokchetav, Taraz Initiative Center, Chimkent Women Resource Center and the International Ecological Association of Women of the Orient of Enbekshi Kazakh region. The goal is to teach the women to create a long -term strategy, identify and approach potential donors and media, formulate convincing messages and construct successful partnerships. In particular, the participants will learn how to make a pr oject proposal with justified budget, optimize it to the needs of their communities and fill dossier of potential donors. It will help to increase the quality of partnerships between women NGOs and various state and non -state institutions, funding agencies and private donors. The overall project "Boosting a culture of women's right s in Kazakhstan" is implemented by FORMAPER (Agency of the Milan chamber of Commerce, Industry, Craft, & Agriculture) in consortium with Differenza Donna (Women¶s Association Against Violence based in Rome) and the Feminist League of Kazakhstan. The European Union allocates about 190,000 EUR to this project from its Institution Building and Partnership Programme (IBPP). The project's main target is to reduc e social marginality and empower vulnerable women groups in various
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regions of Kazakhstan. http://ec.europa.eu/delegations/kazakhstan/press_corner/a ll_news/news/2010/20100205_02 _en.htm BBC article ³Kazakh women see familiar limits´ reports that ³ For a country in a region where feminism is at best a Western oddity, Kazakhstan is positively teeming with successful, independent and enterprising women. The biggest city, Almaty, is awash with fashionable clothes shops. Beauty salons are on virtually every corner, and many bars and clubs have a predominantly female clientele. Those in power are also anxious to promote the role of women, as part of what the y see as an enlightened society in Kazakhstan.´ However, at the time of the article¶s publication (2005), the leading candidates for gubernatorial positions are all men, and all espouse masculinist views. Author Robert Greenall claims that ³ women are more in evidence in business than politics.´ The article also discusses the problem of domestic violence and says that there are not enough crisis centers or shelters to adequately administer to the number of victims. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia -pacific/4485204.stm A comprehensive discussion of women in Kazakhstan can be found as a PDF at http://www.onlinewomeninpolitics.org/ kz/kazakhstan.pdf. This report seems to be about 10 years old. Topics covered include gender equality, women¶s social and economic rights, women¶s political rights and participation in public life, violence against women, women¶s status within distinctive groups (sexual orientation and prison inmates), and women and armed conflict/refugees. Some highlights of the report include:
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As a rule, women are more likely to be dismissed from jobs than men, and are less likely to be hired.

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37% of women officially registered as unemployed live in rural areas. However, the real number of unemployed is much higher than official figures show, especially in rural areas where registration is more difficult.

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minimum age for marriage as 18 years for both men and women Property acquired by spouses during marriage has the legal status of c ommon property, including the incomes of each spouse, incomes from common and separately-owned properties, together with movable and immovable belongings, securities, shares, deposits, shares in capital investments made in loan institutions or any other commercial organisation, and any other property acquired by spouses regardless of who has legal title and who paid to acquire the property. The spouse

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who, during the marriage, maintains the household, raises the children and for valid reasons has no income, is also entitled to common property. Possession, use and distribution of common property are decided by the mutual consent of spouses.
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The social status of unmarried couples in Kazakhstan depends on the community to which the couple belongs.

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Illegal abortions, abortions performed outside medical institutions, are widespread because the cost of legal abortion is very high (between USD 50 and 300, depending on the clinic) and results in a public record.

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The Government has repeatedly called for the represent ation of women at all levels of decision-making, but both the Government and the President have expressed their opposition to introducing a quota system« The electoral system contains no incentives for political parties to involve women in politics or assi gn them to public positions.

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Women work in the mass media and although a large number of journalists (50%) are women, few hold important positions. The President of the largest Kazakhstan television and radio company ´Khabar´ is a woman and according to th e Ministry of Information and Public Accord, women make up 18% of the management in state and independent Kazakh mass media.

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In general, the representation of women in public life has gradually declined, mainly due to the general economic problems, the dep endence of the economy upon raw industries, which employ mainly men, increased poverty and the increased Islamic influence in the southern rayons.

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There are no special programmes for victims of rape, although programmes for victims of domestic violence also assist rape victims. One women¶s NGO in Almaty, the Women¶s League of Creative Initiatives, opened a gynaecological examination room at the Women¶s Pedagogical Institute of Kazakhstan.

A list of

women¶s organizations and contact information

can be found at

http://www.onlinewomeninpolitics.org/kz/kzorgs.htm , but in brief, they are:
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Almaty Women's Information Center: AWIC addresses issues of gender discrimination in Kazakstan and works to promote equal rights through education and leadership training. It sponsors conferences and talks, works with the media, and publishes its own journal to disseminate information about violations of women's

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rights and the activities of women's orga nizations in countries around the world. AWIC is also lobbies for legislation in protection of women's rights.
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Center for Women's Support Crisis Center "Girlfriends" Feminist League "Green Women" Ecological News Agency : Founded in June 1995 by journalists from different newspapers and news agencies, this Ecological News Agency (ENA) is an independent non -governmental, non -profit organization that promotes public awareness of environmental issues, disseminates ecology -related information and environmental education in Kazakstan. Kokshetau Feminist League International Association of Women of the East Kazakstan Women Information Network League of Feminists Najada Women's Network Almaty : Its main aim is to inform women in Kazakhstan about the existence of women's projects, women's initiatives and women's NGOs to get more information about what they need. Society for the Promotion of Women's Initiatives The Fund "Women's Election Bloc" : founded by five women organizations of Kazakhstan, involved in women's p articipation in elections and electoral policy. The Coalition of NGOs "Women's Election Initiatives": comprised of twenty non governmental organizations engaged into women rights protection activities The Center for Gender Issues Research: involved in research and education on gender issues. The Women's Union of the Kazak State National University The Union of Women of the Ural region The Association of Women UN Gender in Development Bureau Women's League of Creative Initiative

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You can also find another list of women¶s organizations on Association of Independent Women¶s Organizations¶ homepage, here: http://www.owl.ru/eng/women/aiwo/index.htm .

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Female Organizers in Kazakhstan
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Margarita Zobnina , social worker, works with self -help groups. Helped organize female postal workers to confront discrimination. The grouping to which Zobnina's self-help group belongs is called Moldir. The women's groups that make up Moldir are supported by Christian agen cies such as the Netherlands -based InterChurch Cooperation Organization (lCCO), DanChurchAid from Denmark, Norwegian Church Aid, and Britain's Christian Aid. http://www.danchurchaid.org/where_we_work/central_asia_eastern_europe/kyrgyzsta n_kazakhstan/read_more/kazakhstan_women_met_to_combat_loneliness_then_tackl ed_government

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Ms Yevgenia Kozyreva, President of Kazakhstan's Feminist League at +7(727)2610241, kazfemline@gmail.com ; or Ms Madina Bakieva, EU Delegation Press officer at + 7(7172) 971148, madina.bakieva@ec.europa.eu

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Gulnara Kusherbaeva has been a volunteer for the women's group Nayada Women's Network of Almaty since December 1998. Previously she was part of a large project called "Women's Rights are Human Rights", carried out by the Almaty Women's Information Centre. One of the initiators of this project was Meral Akkent, a sociologist from Germany, who Gulnara believes played an important role in establishing and developing the women's movement in Kazakhstan. She inspired Gulnara to volunteer in other projects, wrote many articles about the voluntary work of women's groups in Germany, Turkey, and the US, and told people about her work in various women's projects. She taught p eople how to design interesting flyers and notices and where to post them to catch women's attention, and organized meetings and exhibitions to support talented women. In December 1998 Gulnara and three other women registered the women's NGO Nayada, using their own money, without seeking foreign or other sponsors. http://www.unv.org/en/perspectives/doc/womens -rights-are-human.html

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Raushan Sarsembayeva, head of the Association of Kazakh Businesswomen. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia -pacific/4485204.stm

More information about Kazakhstan
New York Times article by William Courtney http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/opinion/21iht -edcourtney.html

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Kazakhstan excelled in interethnic relations. Unlike other former Soviet republics that suffered separatist conflicts, Kazakhstan reassured the seven million Russians and Ukrainians living there. Slavs who ran industry kept their jobs or were replaced gradually. Ethnic Kazakh political leaders touted inclusion and tolerance and embraced a moderate Islam. Unlike Russia, Kazakhstan nurtured good relation s with all its neighbors, mutually dependent because of supply routes, and it treated energy investors ² a key enabler of Kazakhstan¶s economic success and improved living standards ² better than Russia. Corruption in Kazakhstan is debilitating. I recall h ow several U.S. companies were scared away when told to partner with local firms linked to organized crime. Over time, corruption has worsened. A U.S. court has named Nazarbayev an unindicted co-conspirator in a vast money laundering and bribery case. His children and their spouses have influence in many parts of the economy.

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According to BBC country reports http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia -pacific/country_profiles /1298071.stm#media
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Poverty is« widespread and Kazakhstan continues to face major economic challenges, particularly with unemployment and inflation. At the same time, a small minority of Kazakhs grew very rich after independence through privatization and other business deals which opposition politician alleged to have been corrupt. The people of Kazakhstan also have to live with the aftermath of Soviet -era nuclear testing and toxic waste dumping, as well as with increasing drug addiction and a growing incidence of HIV/Aids. Inefficient Soviet ion projects led to severe shrinkage of the heavily polluted Aral Sea.

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Human Rights Problems reported by US State Department http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78820.htm
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severe limits on citizens' rights to change their government; an incident of unlawful deprivation of life; military hazing that led to deaths; detainee and prisoner abuse; unhealthy prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of government opponents; lack of an independent judiciary; increased restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association; pervasive corruption, especially in law enforcement and the judici al system; restrictions on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination and violence against women; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination.

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