Central Asian Bread

Naan is a flatbread that is a staple food in Southeast and Central Asia. It is especially common in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and surrounding regions. Because it is popular in so many countries, it has a number of different spellings and pronunciations. In Turkic languages such as Uzbek and Uyghur, for example, this bread is known as nan. In Burma, the bread is callednan bya. The Burmese variation is slightly softer and resembles pita bread more than other types.

Naan

Naan

 

This flatbread is made of wheat flour and is almost always round. The dough is usually leavened with yeast before it is cooked. Once it has been cooked, it is typically brushed with ghee, a kind of butter, and then served hot. Some chefs add yogurt or milk to their naan dough to add softness and volume to the bread. Roti is bread similar to naan, which is unleavened and is cooked flat on atawa, a kind of iron griddle.

 

Naan, like many staple foods, has a long history. The first record noting the existence of it dates back to 1300 AD. It is also known that naan was served at the imperial court in Delhi for many centuries. The bread has nearly as many different recipes and culinary uses as it has years of existence. It can, for example, be used as a side dish for stew. It can also be used as a wrapping for meats and other fillings. Alternatively, it can be used as the base of an open-faced sandwich. Common toppings for such dishes are meats, vegetables, and cheeses, Stews such as mutton stew and pea stew may be used to top naan as well.

Chicken naan

Chicken naan

 

There are also different kinds. Naan-e-tanuk is a very light version of the bread. Naan-e-tanuri is a form made in a tandoori oven. Furthermore, by kneading ingredients into the dough, naan can be made sweet, savory, or spicy. Garlic naan is especially delicious.

Images from arbuz.com and stonefire.com 

 

Academics Critical on ICG Report on Central Asia

The International Crisis Group’s latest report, “Syria Calling: Radicalization in Central Asia,” has generated a lot of media buzz. But two prominent experts on the region are less than convinced. In a critique published February 17, John Heathershaw and David Montgomery slam the report’s fundamental assumptions, calling the research “suggestive impressions masquerading as solid insights.”

John Heathershaw

John Heathershaw

Heathershaw, of the University of Exeter (full disclosure: he is my PhD supervisor), and Montgomery, of the University of Pittsburgh, argue that there is little evidence to support the ICG’s assumptions on post-Soviet Muslim radicalization. Drawing on a limited number of interviews with “Islamic State sympathizers,” the ICG infers a causal relationship between what sympathizers say and what militants do, where none can be proven. By concluding that Islamization drives radicalization, the ICG helps legitimate Central Asian regimes’ repression of religious practices, the two contend.

Many of the ICG’s conclusions are based on guesswork, the authors say. The exclusive use of anonymous sources makes it difficult to judge whether the interviewees are serious academics or attention-grabbing, self-styled “experts”—of which Central Asia has so many. Yet these “experts” are uncritically cited and provide the sole evidence for the report’s conclusions.

For instance, Heathershaw and Montgomery take issue with the number of Central Asians that the report states have gone to Syria and Iraq:

The assertion that between two and four thousand Central Asians have joined IS—the headline finding reported in media coverage of the report—is no more than guesswork. Although it leads the online summary, its provenance is found in footnote 6 on page 3: “Western officials estimate that about 400 fighters from each of the five Central Asian countries have travelled to join Islamic state. A Russian official put the total regional figure at 4,000. Crisis group interviews, Bishkek, October 2014.” We are simply required to trust these figures despite their obvious arbitrariness.

ISIS militants

ISIS militants

According to the authors, this reliance on local expertise leads the ICG to make false assumptions about the relationship between Islamization and radicalization.

Images from en.wikipedia.org

IS Threat Lurking in Central Asia

A report published last month by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group claimed that up to 4,000 recruits from Central Asia had joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Many of these new recruits are inhabitants of the Fergana Valley, an ethnically diverse region spanning Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and eastern Uzbekistan. The ICG report also claimed that the region’s enduring problems of poor governance and repression could create the conditions for a resurgence of radical groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organisation that claimed allegiance to ISIL last October.

ISIS

ISIS

According to some Central Asian governments, there is a growing danger that returning ISIL fighters will stir internal disaffection against local secular governments. Such an assumption is questionable given evidence that extremist religious movements are most likely to emerge as a result of conflicts that stem from other causes. ISIL emerged from the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq and the civil war in Syria. Similarly, Libya is now seeing the emergence of radicals given the lack of a strong central government. On this evidence, unless there is a case of “state failure” in Central Asia, there is little likelihood of a radical movement emerging.

Of the Central Asian countries that emerged from the rubble of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been most subject to instability. Tens of thousands were killed in Tajikistan in the 1990s as the result of a civil war stemming from ethnic and regional rivalries.

In Kyrgyzstan, popular protests in 2005 and 2010 led to changes of government but did little to remedy corruption. Inter-communal violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks during the latter uprising left more than 400 dead.

Last year, Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambaev’s government faced mass demonstrations in the capital Bishkek from protesters seeking reform.

Almazbek Atambaev

Almazbek Atambaev

With many of the hundreds of ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens now fighting for ISIL having originated from the Fergana Valley, Kyrgyz and Tajik authorities are concerned that these radicals will seek to spread the ISIL message by exploiting local ethnic and social fissures when they return.

Images from enews.fergananews.com and images.google.com

Living in the 21st Century Central Asia

Ah, the 21st century. So many developments since then. Wars have been fought. Plagues have occurred. Wrongfully accused women as witches either hanged, drowned, or burned. And superstitions have been religiously followed. The world is older than us. It has seen many births, deaths, sadness, joy, and even miracles. Of course, going through these changes by aspect, by period, or even by continent would take forever. So now, the focus would only be in Central Asia.

Central Asia

Central Asia

Asia is the largest continent among the seven. But this continent is subdivided into further sections like North Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. Focusing on the developments would only be scoped into Central Asia. Now that parts of Asia has been discussed. Geographically, what part of Asia is Central Asia?

Central Asia, a core region of the continent itself, stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west all the way to China in the East. Then there is Afghanistan in the south. And Russia in the north. All the countries within those mentioned limits are included in Central Asia. To be specific, the countries included are: Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In varying concepts, Afghanistan is also included.

image

Now that the countries have been enumerated, there is now a tangible image created in your mind as to how does Central Asia look like.  Due to being it in the center of the continent, one might expect a lot of identity confusion, and a mass amalgam of varying cultures. Historically, Central Asia has been tied to its nomadic people as well as the Silk Road, as this country is another large occupation of space in overall Asia. As a result, it has acted as crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas among the neighboring parts of continents such as Europe, Western Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.

More information and a brief overview concerning Central Asia would be included in the later articles.

Images both from en.wikipedia.org

Overview of Central Asian Nations

Central Asia Flags

Central Asia Flags

Uzbekistan is located in the very heart of Central Asia: once crossed by caravan routes, including the famous Great Silk Road. Uzbekistan is, first of all, the country of historical and cultural tourism. It is the place of concentration of the precious Eastern Gems such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva,Tashkent and Shakhrisabz with splendid and out and outer monuments of Central Asian medieval architecture.

Kazakhstan is the largest and economically developed country in Central Asia. National traditions and culture of the Kazaks can be attributed to the nomadic past of their ancestors, who were roaming by whole tribes from one place to another in horizonless Kazak steppes. An interesting image of modern Kazakhstan is the result of interaction of Russian and Islamic influence, oriental mentality and modern trends of globalization.

Perhaps none of the countries from the Central Asian region can boast with such abundance of picturesque natural places as Kyrgyzstan. Over three-quarter of its territory is occupied by majestic mountains of Tien-Shan and Pamir Alay. Eye-pleasing succulent green plains, which, for centuries, have been serving as live-stock pastures to local nomads, and offering a tired traveler rest, lakes and crystal clear torrents, charming mysterious gorges and caves, quaintly cut by time and foul weather.

Tajikistan is the only Iranian-speaking state in Central Asia with its unique culture and traditions. This beautiful country with severe climate, situated in picturesque foothills of Pamir is located far from Eurasian transport routes. Modern Tajikistan has been formed under the influence of ancient customs of the Iranians, Persians, Islam, neighboring Uzbekistan and Soviet Russia. The major part of the population occupies the northern even lands of Tajikistan.

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Central Asia dwarfed by Russia

 

Turkmenistan is the one of the forbidden countries of the Central Asian region. This country is usually associated with the personality cult of Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president of independent Turkmenistan, which cult was perhaps equal to that of the Soviet leaders such as Lenin and Stalin. However Turkmenistan is also the country which inherited unique world-wide famous monuments of great dynasties of the past years.

Images from gazprom.com