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Around the Bloc - 15 May

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: capital punishment in Belarus; parks or churches in Yekaterinburg; madrasas for women in Uzbekistan; Albanian passports for honorary Kosovars; and big-time Azeri investments in Montenegro. 

15 May 2019

Belarusian to Pay for Murders With Own Life


Disregarding calls from the European Union to forgo capital punishment, the Belarusian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence in a murder case, according to RFE/RL. The verdict came despite allegations from human rights activist Andrey Paluda that culprit Alyaksandr Asipovich’s right to a fair trial was violated on a number of grounds, given that the latter couldn’t request clemency, and couldn’t appeal the court's decision at the United Nations' Human Rights Committee. A former convict who had served 12 years in prison in the past, Asipovich brutally killed two girls last summer, according to Belsat. Lacking official statistics, human rights organizations estimate the number of executions since Belarus won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 at around 400. 



‘We Want a Square’


Since Monday, Yekaterinburg has become the scene of ongoing protests against the construction of a church in a park square, the BBC reports. Residents argue that Russia’s fourth-largest city is already in dire need of green spaces, and that the church could be built in a different location, whereas representatives of the Orthodox Church say that protesters are “anti-religious.” Vakhtang Kipshidze, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said, as quoted by the BBC: "There are a multitude of lawful ways of expressing disagreement … but to create conflict on religious grounds is especially sad on the soil of Yekaterinburg, where not so long ago by historical standards mass religious persecution took place and Tsar Nicholas II and his young children were murdered."   



Not-So-Honorable Albanians


An investigation by BIRN into the system granting Kosovars “honorary” Albanian citizenships showed that, while many of the successful applicants met the “special interest” criteria through their work and contributions to Albania, others merely used their connections to abuse the system. The list allegedly includes the “wife of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj; two children of his predecessor, Isa Mustafa; the son of President Hashim Thaci; many former and current Kosovo MPs [members of parliament]; and more than a dozen relatives of Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli.” The main benefit of an Albanian passport is that it enables its holder to travel freely to Schengen-area countries in Europe, or to other countries in the world that don’t recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence from Serbia.  



Montenegro Becomes Hot Property for Azeri Investors


Following in the footsteps of investors from China and Dubai, an Azeri company has big plans for Montenegro, which include a 1 billion-euro superyacht marina set to open this month, Reuters writes. With two more planned resorts, Azmont Investments might become the biggest investor in the former Yugoslav country, whose growing tourism sector currently accounts for one-fifth of its GDP. And rightfully so: a readers’ poll from an EU-affiliated tourism booster group ranked one of Montenegro’s beaches third in a list of European seaside destinations. 



Back to Religious School


As religiosity and traditionalism grow in Uzbekistan, so does the number of women interested in acquiring a faith-based education, Eurasianet reports. This is reflected in the competitive admission process at one of the only two madrasas for women in the country, where six or seven pupils compete for one of the 100 spots, deputy director Rohat Mamatshoyeva told Eurasianet. “Existing educational institutions cannot meet the growing demand for religious education among the female population,” Mamatshoyeva said, adding that it would be “advisable” to have one madrasa in each Uzbek regional center. The demand is high because graduates can then take on the role of otin, a female religious teacher, or a religious advisor at mahalla (neighborhood) committees, which are sought-after professions. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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