Suzani Textile

Suzani is a form of traditional embroidery which is native to Central Asia. Iran, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are all famous for their suzani, and suzanis are in high demand all over the world, thanks to an increasing interest in this traditional textile. Like many tribal crafts, suzani is often copied, with copies tending to be of a lesser quality than the real thing, and this is something for consumers to watch out for.

 

Suzani

Suzani

One of the key defining characteristics of traditional suzani is the way in which is done. It starts with panels of handwoven cotton/silk blend fabric which are basted together while a pattern is drawn on the panels, and then pulled apart. Each panel is worked separately, and then the piece is sewn back together, with connecting stitches if necessary to cover up small gaps in the embroidery. A traditional suzani, therefore, includes several panels of material, rather than being made from a solid sheet of material.

A variety of different stitches are used, with many pieces including an array of chain and couch stitching for visual and textural variations. Traditionally, the thread for the embroidery is made from silk, and dyed with native materials in vivid reds, blacks, and golds. Synthetic dyes may be used as well, with synthetics becoming more and more popular because they are colorfast and very bold, in contrast with more muted natural dyes.

Another suzani sample

Another suzani sample

Suzanis can be used as hangings, tablecloths, prayer mats, and bedspreads, among many other things. They are designed to provide decoration while also adding a layer of insulation. Because many of the crafters are Muslim, suzanis rarely have depictions of people or animals, instead featuring ornate floral and geometric themes. This craft is practiced almost exclusively by women, and for some women, it can be a source of economic independence, which makes embroidery a valued skill in Central Asia.

Images from www.bukhara-carpets.com and 30meeting.com

A Timeline of History

In order to understand something in the present, it takes to look at its past first. So now, in order to understand the evolution of the whole of Central Asia. The background of Central Asia, as a whole, is something to be explored on.

First, the history of Central Asia mostly revolves around its climate and geography. Due to the physical setting of the whole area, which involves large areas of desert and sand, and characteristically a severe lack of available water. Due to the lack of water, it hinders the growth and development of plants and animal life. Agriculture is hard to cultivate in Central Asia. Plus, being literally in the center of Asia, and being far from the sea, cuts off its trade industry as well. Only few major cities developed in the area, only nomadic people migrated to the steppe area and struggled to live there.

 

 

Due to different cultures mixing in this area, there was much conflict and warfare in occurrence. Tribal coalitions such as the Huns’ invasion of Europe, various Turkic migrations into Transoxiana, the Wu Hu attacks on China and most notably, the Mongol conquests of Eurasia are just a few yet notable examples.

The dominance of nomads ended in the 16th century. Development of firearms allowed settled people to finally dominate the region. The Russian Empire, the Qing Dynasty of China, and other powers expanded to the area and seized Central Asia by the end of 19th century. After which, came in the Russian Revolution of 1917. This led to the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and finally, the five countries: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, all gained independence.

 

 

And by independence, it really means that there are no similarities among the five countries, any sign of union, rather than the physical characteristics the five countries has as well as the fact that these countries live near each other comprising of one large central area.

Images from news.bbc.co.uk and brittanica.com

 

 

 

Why Visit Central Asia?

As we enter a year unencumbered by Olympic Games or World Cups we can focus our attention—without distraction—on truly trending destinations across the globe. One of these is Turkmenistan, poised to be the location of your next holiday—it is an emerging favorite,  and undoubtedly earn you serious bragging rights.

Uzbek bazaar

Uzbek bazaar

Ever imagined yourself riding horseback across the Eurasian steppe or haggling for carpets in an Uzbek bazaar? Silk Road romantics with a penchant for kebabs should make a beeline to these unmissable Central Asian highlights. Central Asia is the world’s largest swath of land that’s largely ignored by travelers. However, this collection of mega-countries colloquially known as the “Stans” is a veritable trove of geological and historical wonders. The last vestiges of the Silk Road curl through fallen kingdoms like Samarkand, in present-day Uzbekistan, with its tiled minarets.

Kazakhstan, which is itself larger than the entirety of Western Europe, is vast realm of thirsty Mongolian steppe, while Kyrgyzstan soars to the heavens with evergreen forests and skulking snow leopards. Turkmenistan and Tajikistan round out this massive cultural cauldron that sits at the crossroad of China, India and the Middle East.

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Snow Leopard are native to Central Asia

 

If you’re looking for something off-path in all ways literal and figurative, Central Asia makes a good travel candidate. Filled with incredible mountain landscapes, friendly people and quirky experiences of the Soviet hangover variety, Central Asia is hard to beat when it comes to raw, discover-the-world potential. To this day, it remains one of our favorite and most fulfilling travel experiences.

Because tourism is still relatively new across Central Asia (for us, this was one of its appeals), there isn’t the same fully fleshed out tourism infrastructure that you’ll find throughout the rest of Asia. So you’ll have to make an effort. The flip side is that you’ll find friendly locals to shepherd you to your next — and often unexpected — adventure.

Images from uzbek-travel.com and bitrebels.com

 

 

 

 

Kyrgyzstan on ISIL

Kyrgyz authorities say they are going after home-grown terrorists, domestic supporters of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL), and citizens planning to fight outright for the Middle Eastern terrorist group.

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The State Committee for National Security (GKNB) October 22 announced that it had arrested 36 suspected members of terrorist organisations during the past two years and charged them as extremists.

“Many of those detained had been in Syria,” GKNB spokesman Rakhat Sulaimanov said in announcing the arrests. “We cannot state at present that members of ISIL are operating in Kyrgyzstan. However, the influence of this organisation is felt, because our young men are going to Syria.”

About 175 Kyrgyz are fighting in Syria, the government estimates.

“Recruiting can happen via the internet,” Sulaimanov said. “This is a very dangerous trend. I can state with certainty that the GKNB has stepped up the struggle to oppose terrorism, particularly against the spread of ISIL’s ideas in the country.”

Kyrgyzstan has banned 17 extremist groups. The GKNB is working with the Ministry of Education and the Spiritual Administration for Muslims to blanket every village and town with a campaign to inform the public of the dangers of fighting for ISIL, Sulaimanov said.

The government is aware of the challenge, Emil Jeenbekov, chief of the Interior Ministry (MVD) counter-extremism department, said.

“The threat from ISIL to Kyrgyzstan is already grave, and we have already come up against it,” he told Central Asia Online.

“Our young men and women … are being recruited by ISIL supporters,” Jeenbekov said. “Authorities have begun active operations to find and detain ISIL supporters. Several members of the terrorist movement have already been arrested, and we are continuing this work.”

However, other observers suggest that the ISIL threat to Kyrgyzstan is not so entrenched.

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“Extremist groups are operating in Kyrgyzstan,” Taalai Japarov, deputy director of the GKNB Anti-Terrorism Centre (ATC), said. “They’re recruiting and inciting people to go abroad. However, because of strict monitoring by the authorities, they can’t dig in here and create their own bases.”

Images from rferl.org

Women’s Rights in Asia

Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are unique and face individual challenges in advancing human rights, principally women’s rights. However, there are things that are common and shared experiences which links the Central Asia. The conversion to market based economies and towards parliamentary democracies has impacted a great deal on the lives of all in the Central Asia and especially women in particular. In each country, the situation of women inside is difficult. The changes to social services provisions especially concerning health and education impact upon gender relations and women’s economic positioning and their social contributions which will carry on into the next generations. Most women face negative social stereotyping and widespread discrimination, though such difficulties are not confined to Central Asia, they are found across the globe.

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The historical backdrop of Soviet rule and the moves each nation has since made from the communist era have provided both opportunities and hindrances for women as they try to assert their rights and partake in society as equals. The governments of Central Asia have taken positive steps to enhance the legal status of women and provide for the prospect of gender equality. However, the momentum gained through legislative reform can be juxtaposed with a revival in each nation of ‘traditional’ values which degrade women. Implementation of social policies and regulatory transformations aimed at securing gender parity has been difficult in all national settings.

But efforts in other parts of Asia have been more successful; for example, in 1995, the Japanese government formed the Asian Women’s Fund, a foundation formed specifically in atonement for the comfort women issue of World War II. Through the AWF, the government provided monetary compensation, health benefits, and additional welfare benefits, to hundreds of women around the world. At the same time, which marked the 50th year anniversary of the end of the war, Japan also made an official apology for the mistreatment of these women.

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Women in the region are poorly informed or not educated about their rights. Further when women do strive to assert their rights, their access to legal and social assistance is often very limited and sometimes restricted. In trying to understand the situation of women in Central Asia one the most glaring gaps is the lack of empirical data or evidence based research. Sustainable and substantive progress towards gender equality cannot be made without such information.

This note is by no means an exhaustive list of the obstacles which have been overcome or the ones which lie ahead but rather presents an overview of the situation of women in Central Asia directing focus to particular areas of concern such as violence against women and family relation difficulties.

Images from unwomen.org and eurasia.undp.org