For the purposes of my research, I have chosen to concentrate on the exchange of household goods and clothing on the transnational routes of Central Asia instead of the (at first blush) more sexy markets of arms and narcotics. Although Central Asia serves as an important route for the export of poppy and cannabis based drugs out of Afghanistan, I have two important reasons for shying away from these topics: a) the trade of clothes and household products accounts for a massive amount of revenue and its effects touch the lives of every resident in the region; b) I don’t want to end up jailed/maimed/rich-but-morally-bankrupt.
That said, it is important to understand the dynamics of the drug trade and its subsequent influence on local culture and politics. While I was in Osh, many people I spoke to lauded the local mayor’s power and generosity and sometime off handedly mentioning that he has become such a force to be reckoned with due to his substantial role in the narcotics business. I recently came across a well written article on the BBC website that explained these connections, and their effects on national Kyrgyz politics. Click over and enjoy while I catch a UN flight inland from the Ivorian coast.