Foreign Policy Blogs

Year in Review: Misconceptions and Understatements

In the second to last installment of our Central Asian Year in Review I want to discuss two things: Issues and events in the CA region that have lacked media coverage commensurate with their importance and common misconceptions about our subject area.

Afghanistan is at the heart of both.

The story that has received the least amount of publicity, while being worthy of it, is the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan by brave Afghan citizens, police, and military, UN/NATO troops, police units, NGOs, and humanitarian workers. Though the situation of the nation is unstable and the battle between the insurgents and Afghan's government and NATO has been fierce with innocent deaths occurring far to often, there has been progress and signs of society expressing freedoms before widely unknown.

Afghan girls are going to school and even when they are attacked, it is now not by government officials, but by ruthless insurgents, while a local governor condemns the act and attempts to arrest the perpetrators. Now this may seem like not much, but before 2001, it would have been the government, led by Omar and the Taliban, targeting the girls. Courageous NATO and Afghan soldiers risked their lives transporting a colossal turbine, paid for by the US, that when installed will bring electricity to thousands of Afghans and hopefully soon after jobs and opportunity. For every story like these I read in the media, there are a thousand more detailing the latest casualties and Taliban attack. It is unfortunate that the only time aid workers or Afghan police make their way onto the headlines is when they are killed.

Two other CA stories that should have received more coverage was the Turkmenistan government assault on unknown civilians during the summer. Who were the civilians, militants, ind. rights protesters, and where was the foreign governments demanding to know what happened? The story seemed to drop off the face of the earth. Secondly, though the Uighurs of China's Xinjiang received a decent amount of attention, even a spot on NBC's Olympic coverage, they were still widely overshadowed by the Tibetan situation. This happened even though there was a tremendous terrorist attack by suspected ETIM perpetrators on Chinese border guards and the Chinese government was accused of a major crackdown in response.

In regards to misconceptions, I have already discussed the lack of media coverage of the progress in Afghanistan, so that is one major misconception right there. I’m not trying to say the media have been portraying situation inaccurately, but they are missing some important changes and details. My second topic of misconception was articulated rather well by Tatyana Zhukova, a Kazakh citizen who just moved to the US, who began her presentation to the World Affairs Council by going through many flawed assumptions of her country and region. Many of these were centered around the movie Borat and the assumption that all of Central Asia was a backwater. Zhukova effectively stomped on these stereotypes by showing modern architecture, stores, housing, and citizens of her home country. She also showcased the rising GDP and though much slower, average citizen incomes in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, other CA states not blessed with energy reserves such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are not witnessing quite the growth. (Here is Tatyana's professional email address if you have any further questions, [email protected])

What stories do you think were underreported? How many more misconceptions of Central Asia are there? What is the final installment of Central Asia's Year in Review going to be? I’ll answer the last one: PREDICTIONS!!! Stay tuned or you’ll have no idea what I got wrong!

 

Author

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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