Foreign Policy Blogs

Kyrgyzstan: Freedom House Ranking


Freedom House (FH) recently came out with their 2007 Freedom in the World Rankings and I will individually go through their analysis of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, with Kyrgyzstan the focus today. Freedom House does a difficult and controversial job very well, and their work provides a great amount of insight into individual state's measures of freedom and the level of freedom in the world as a whole. Freedom House concluded that the world is experiencing a period of "freedom stagnation' at the moment, as the percentage of countries they label as "Free' has remained flat for nearly a decade.

Before we get to the individual Central Asia state rankings, a quick note about how Freedom House scores levels of freedom. They have two main criteria, Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Each get a score based on specific questions about said subjects, 10 questions concerning Political Rights and 15 concerning Civil Liberties. Finally, after totaling up the Political Rights and Civil Liberties scores, they assign a final score from 1 to 7, with 1 being the most free and 7 being the least, Freedom House labels a nation as either "Free', "Partly Free,' or "Not Free.' For quick reference, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were categorized as "Not Free' and Kyrgyzstan was labeled as "Partly Free.'

Political Rights , 5/7

Civil Rights , 4/7

Status – Partly Free
Although Kyrgyzstan was the only Central Asian state to receive a "Partly Free' ranking, Freedom House saddled it with a downward trending arrow, largely concerning setbacks in religious freedom. FH complemented the opening of Kyrgyzstan society and government in the aftermath of Akayev's toppled government, but laments that much of this has started to slip away under President Bakiyev. The report notes that the latest constitution puts more power in the executive branch and they argue that this has "crushed hopes for constructive constitutional reform.' The reports summary also acknowledges a retreat in media and civil society freedoms and the greater "interpenetration' between government and organized crime. Kyrgyzstan is seen to "generally respect' freedom of religion and association, but has had its share of problems in this regard as well. All religious organizations still must register with the Ministry of Justice and the government has used this to restrict and control Islamic groups that it regards as radical. Concerning freedom of assembly, the Kyrgyz government expelled two US diplomats in July 2006 for allegedly having "improper contact' with NGOs. In addition, the report calls corruption and bribes "frequent' occurrences in the state, and asserts that domestic violence and the trafficking of women are not crimes actively pursued by law enforcement.

Do you agree with Freedom House's assessment of Kyrgyzstan's level of freedom? What about their scoring system overall? Does it accurately portray if a nation is truly democratic or liberal? What purposes does this type of ‘freedom survey’ have anyway? Does it affect US foreign policy, or individual nation's views of themselves and government?

Up next is Kazakhstan!



Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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