VIDEO: Interview with Tolekan Isamilova, Director of the Citizens Against Corruption in Kyrgyzstan

World Movement for Democracy
Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 19:00
Central Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Initiative Type: 

The following video of an interview with Tolekan Ismailova (Kyrgyzstan), Director of the Citizens Against Corruption, has been edited for time and content. A transcript of the interview conducted by Cate Urban, assistant project manager of the World Movement, is included.

Cate: So, I am here with Tolekan Ismailova from the center – the Citizens Against Corruption – in Kyrgyzstan. We're here in Kazakhstan for the Parallel OSCE Conference. I'm going to ask her a couple questions. So, first question: how do you think the conference has been going? What do you think has been the best sort of outcome so far on the first day?

Yevgeniy ZhovtisTolekan: Of course, we had, before the conference, a lot of problems with Kazakhstan authority. Kazakhstan has the chairmanship of the OSCE. When we had this initiative, and after when we tried to organize this Parallel Conference, we had a lot of feedback from the Embassy of Kazakhstan and the OSCE. And it was a really difficult time for us, but now, we have this success. Now, we're here in Astana, initiated by 22 very nice, very best organizations with focus on human rights, elections, and democracy. And now we have a chance to talk about our problems and the OSCE, because we want the OSCE in our region to have human dimension. That's why it's very important how human dimension works in our region. For example, if we talk about human rights defenders, we have a lot of problems. As you know, Yevgeniy Zhovtis (above), Turkmen dissidents, Azimzhan Askarov, all really have injustice, but with OSCE and human dimension we don't have good answers or participation.

As you know we have a lot of problems in Kyrgyzstan, starting from April 2010. And of course we demanded from OSCE to answer our questions, because when we had political change, we tried to have some spot so OSCE could resolve some conflicts, but OSCE kept silent. And after the political crisis, we had a lot of tragedy, when 87 people died and 2000 people were in the hospital. We tried to talk about an answer to the humanitarian crisis, but again the chairmanship of Kazakhstan kept silent and they closed themselves off.

We have economical crisis also. That's why it's very important to talk about OSCE format in our region and talk about human dimension with a focus on Helsinki values, because the Helsinki values have been forgotten by the OSCE. They focus only on economical relationships with some authorities – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and others – and talk about economic setbacks and forget about what people demand - human value, human rights, and democracy.

Cate: Okay. Thank you very much. My second question is: you mentioned the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, what do you think is the biggest challenge right now facing Kyrgyzstan since then?

Tolekan: It's the only country who changed in the last five years its authoritarian regime and clan-based politics. The reality in our country is that we have 18 nationalities, and it's very import to have a real justice system and talk about real democracy, and elections. It's a real challenge. We are trying to fully participate in politics and demand justice and a new very good and very responsible leadership.

But, in general, there are some weaknesses in my country, because it's not Lithuania, not Latvia, not Poland, not Czech Republic. But, in general, we are trying to make a difference in our society. Clan-based politics do not work anymore in our country, and we have new leadership, but they also, and we also have a lot of problems in our country, because as you know, we have new problems – ethnic clash. As you know, some Kyrgyz politicians and Kyrgyz citizens talk about this country being only for Kyrgyz. And it's not true, because human rights means equality, justice, and good governance for everyone. It's important to focus on our problems and also have a very good strategy, because when we had this tragedy, I remember the US Embassy talked about an International Commission for Justice, for an investigation, because it's time to evaluate and bridge the old with new steps in Kyrgyzstan. It's time to make a real difference.

That's why we talk about fair elections. We talk about democracy. We talk about equal rights for participation in decision-making processes in Parliament. We're trying to work in a new program, “Parliamentarian Watch,” because we want to demand from our Parliamentarians democratic law. Anytime Parliament is closed, we lose value.

We talk about national minority rights, because as citizens, they need to have the right for equal participation in the decision-making process.

Cate: Ok, my final question is: you partner with the Women's Learning Partnership, which runs our International Women's Democracy Network, how have you benefited from partnering with the Women's Learning Partnership.

Tolekan: I want to say, it is one of the best partners in our network against corruption. We have a lot of very good instruments and have learned about best experiences in different countries, including experiences with domestic violence. When we talk about law regarding domestic violence, we found through the Women's Learning Partnership, that in other countries there are very good laws and we could attempt that in our country. Through laws, it is sustainable, and through laws, people have success.

When we talk about Women's Learning Partnership, it's really one of the best partners, because we translated a handbook, “A Time for Choice.” This handbook was translated into the Kyrgyz language and our new leaders adopted this in national TV trainings for leadership. A lot of young students and young women participated in this program. It's one of the most successful programs in Kyrgyzstan. This handbook talks about real democracy and the good experiences from different leadership in other countries.

Of course, we also talk about the universality of human rights and equality and justice. So we continue our partnership with Women's Learning Partnership, because when had a lot of problems during the crisis, it was a very good voice representing different countries offering us moral support and sending us letters trying to help us. And it was successful partnership that helped us resolve a lot of problems through a peaceful instrument.

Cate: Thank you so much!
Tolekan: Thank you!

To watch the video of the interview, click here