Norouz, the Kurdish New Year, has long been associated with friction, political demonstrations and even violent rallies in support of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist movement that is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Turkish government.
Dozens of government critics in Kyrgyzstan were taken into custody on March 23 amid the opening of a meeting to promote national consensus. During the gathering's first day, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev questioned the viability of a "Western system of human rights" in the Central Asian nation.
The US State Department noted some modest improvements in human rights conditions in Central Asia in its annual Human Rights Report, although, overall, the region remained one of the worst in the world in terms of respecting basic freedoms.
Since January, temperatures have hovered around minus 30 degrees Celsius and snow has covered 90 percent of the landlocked nation. Known locally as a "dzud," the harsh winter weather has killed over 3.3 million head of livestock and has threatened food and fuel supplies in rural communities, aid agency representatives say.
The jailing of an Uzbek public health activist, along with the muted response by international organizations to the case, is having a chilling effect on public health advocacy in the Central Asian state, some experts say.
Five years after his slaying, the murder of prominent Azerbaijani journalist Elmar Huseynov remains unsolved, as well as shrouded in controversy. An ongoing criminal case involving a journalist who was investigating Huseynov's death is providing new fuel for debate about the unsolved murder.