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(L) Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway with (R) Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

Honorable Charge de Affair of Kazakhstan to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Editor in Chief and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues…

TOT: Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has remained one of the star economies of the CIS, and of Central Asian region. So, what has been the basic formula behind this success? Please elaborate…

Charge de Affair: First of all, I would like to thank Oslo Times and you personally for your interest towards our country.
Kazakhstan has been hidden from the eyes of those in Europe for quite a while.

It’s been only 20 years since we joined the international community as an independent nation and we still have a lot to do to educate the world about us.

Therefore, our Embassy appreciates very much this opportunity to tell to the readers of The Oslo Times about our young nation.

In 1991, when Soviet Union virtually ceased to exist, the situation in this former empire was very tense. Political elites in many parts of the former Soviet Union pursued policies based on emotions and lacked vision and wisdom much needed by their long suffering people.

People throughout Soviet Union wanted freedom, dignity and prosperity. What they had at that time was hunger, poverty, lack of security and unknown future.

As it happened many times in the history of humankind, irresponsible politicians turned to populism and the search for scapegoats. “Blame the “other” slogan used by them had led to bloody conflicts in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan. In many other places the situation was equally tense.

It was an environment of mutual distrust and anger that could lead to major military conflicts the types of which the world had witnessed in Yugoslavia.

This was not a scenario people and political leadership of Kazakhstan wanted. So, our President decided that something had to be done and invited the leaders of all the republics to come to Kazakhstan to discuss how to move further after the de-facto end of the Soviet Union.

In 1991 on a cold December day in Almaty these leaders gathered to adopt the document called “Almaty Declaration” which paved the way to peaceful and civilized break-up of the biggest empire on the face of the Earth and ushered in the new era of independence for these nations.

This document and this decision by our President laid the foundation of peaceful and stable development of the Kazakh nation. After centuries of colonialism the dream of our forefathers had been fulfilled – Kazakhstan became independent.

And it happened without a single shot or any loss of life. This, however, does not mean that we appreciate our independence any less because of that fact.

As soon as Kazakhstan became independent, we faced enormous challenges in all areas of a nation’s life – security, foreign relations, unsettled borders, poverty, crumbling industries, shortage of food, no money in the system. Western experts at that time had also mentioned multiethnic nature of our society as the biggest threat to the country’s future existence.

Bold reforms and steadfast policies were required to deal with all these challenges. Moreover, the country needed visionary leadership and sincere unity of people.

Thank God, we had both of these prerequisites.
Throughout the 1990’s we had been simultaneously implementing market reforms and privatization of the economy, securing our borders, establishing diplomatic service, creating armed forces, building national financial system, launching national currency, replacing Soviet laws with the new democratic, free market legislation.

Our people proved many outsiders who doubted the future of multiethnic Kazakhstan that they were wrong. We turned the diversity of our population into our strength providing a vivid example to the world that tolerance and multiculturalism work if they are based on sincere mutual respect, sincere love and sincere appreciation of each other’s culture.

In 10 years – by 2001 – Kazakhstan was a functional state with all the attributes of a sovereign nation with the growing economy and a rapidly developing middle class and civil society. The country has enjoyed an average 10% GDP growth in the following years.

Kazakhstan is the most successful economy in the post-Soviet space. In 2003 we were the first among them to receive the “free market economy” status and the first to repay all our debt to international financial institutions – ahead of the schedule.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a socially-oriented market economy. GDP per capita has grown almost ten times – from USD 1,200 to around USD 11,300.

Kazakhstan is blessed with natural resources. But, as you very well know, this can also be a curse. Having mineral resources is not enough for success. There are plenty of examples of the opposite in the world.

If a nation wants to ensure sustainable development and continued economic growth, if it wants to continue raising standards of living, it needs to work hard by developing its society and economy in all their aspects.

Kazakhstan continues with the reforms that are currently aimed at diversification of the economy and raising living standards – from healthcare to education.

So coming back to your question – What has been the basic formula behind Kazakhstan’s success? – I would say that it was the combination of three things – people’s unity, their hard work and responsible and visionary policies of the country’s leadership.

A few examples of that.

According to the most recent World Bank report, Kazakhstan is placed among the top 20 countries which are most attractive for foreign investment (FDI). In the post-Soviet space we are number one in attracting FDI.

In the last 15 years our country has attracted more than USD 150 billion of foreign direct investments. This is the highest FDI per capita rate in our part of the world.

Foreign investments are now received not only by the country’s traditional extractive industries. More and more of our foreign partners are looking to contribute to other sectors of the economy.

And we have examples of successful investors such as General Electric (production of railroad locomotives), Tele2 and Telia Sonera (mobile communications), Arcelor Mittal (steel production), Euro Chem (fertilizers) and many others.

Kazakhstan continues to do a lot in terms of creating most comfortable environment for business – both local and foreign. According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business report, Kazakhstan has moved 15 positions up in the rankings in just one year showing strong progress in protecting investors, paying taxes.

We have now entered the world’s best 50 economies for doing business. In 2011 the World Bank named Kazakhstan the world’s #1 business regulation reformer.

kazakh map

TOT: Having played a host and an active member of OSCE which has outshined the diplomatic achievements, and success of Kazakhstan at large and which is also a level of prestige to the country. What would you have to say on this and how this had become possible for a newly independent country which is still progressing, and needs to enhance its ties in other parts of the globe?

Charge de Affair: Kazakhstan has been one of the most active member-states of the OSCE since the creation of the Organization.
Many experts believe that OSCE had failed to turn itself into an effective organization able to solve many problems that exist in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

They point out to the fact that the OSCE had failed to convene its Summits since 1999 when Norway chaired the Organization. Indeed, there are significant differences in views, positions and approaches between its members.

And these differences can be attributed to the fact that OSCE members could not even gather their leaders during these 11 years. The OSCE members have also not been able to adopt its Charter – a founding document any international organization is supposed to have in order to function properly!

Kazakhstan, however, continues to believe that OSCE has a significant potential to contribute and promote security and cooperation. After all, the OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

That is why we decided to exercise our right as an OSCE member and assume the Presidency of the Organization.

In 2010 all members of OSCE unanimously decided to elect Kazakhstan as their next chair, making it the first Asian nation with predominantly Muslim population to chair this Euro-Atlantic organization.

It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan was also the first post-Soviet state to receive unanimous backing of all members of the OSCE.

Kazakh chairmanship aimed at helping the Organization to deal with its major shortcomings –dominance of the ideological rhetoric and distrust that exists between some of its members.

Within a short period of time we had tried to build bridges and raise confidence level between various members. Kazakhstan had tried to generate much needed political will to make the lives of people populating the OSCE area more secure and just.

We did manage to convene the Summit of the Organization – first in 11 years. It was an important and unique opportunity for the members to try to solve many existing problems.

At this Summit all leaders unanimously adopted Astana Declaration “Towards a Security Community” expressing their will to start addressing some of the pressing issues.

It is of course a very time-consuming effort to tackle numerous problems that have been piling up for decades in the OSCE area. These problems range from environmental and social challenges to “frozen” conflicts and transnational crime.

That’s why we have also put on tracks initiatives and plans that have been passed on to the Presidencies that followed us in 2011 and 2012. After all, this Organization unites 56 nations and it requires support of all of them to move forward any issue – small or big.

OSCE Presidency was an important milestone and a useful experience for Kazakhstan and its diplomatic service. We hope it also served OSCE in terms of making it more aware of the security, economic and environmental challenges that exist in our part of the world, such as Aral Sea catastrophe and lack of transit infrastructure that would effectively connect Europe with Asia.

And I would agree with you – the Presidency also helped us to enhance ties with other member-states. A good example: first ever official visit by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister to Norway happened in 2010 in his capacity as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.

kazakh flag

TOT: With Kazakhstan being a part of OSCE and in other various kinds of engagements with the European Union, how you will define the strategic role and the part which Kazakhstan has played till now to enhance its ties and strategic partnerships with Norway?

Charge de Affair: Indeed, Kazakhstan has been actively cooperating with individual countries in Europe, with the European Union, as well as within various regional groupings.

We are an active NATO partner and work together with its members in many areas such as maintaining our capabilities to participate in the UN-led peacekeeping missions and holding joint military exercises. Kazakhstan also provides support to NATO mission in Afghanistan.

We also have a solid dialog with the Council of Europe and last October this dialog was furthered as a result of the CE Secretary General Torbjørn Jagland’s visit to Astana. Following the visit Kazakhstan joined the European Commission for Democracy through Law (so-called Venice Commission).

Before that we joined the Bologna Process which opened for Kazakhstan the way to European educational standards. We have also expressed our interest in joining other mechanisms under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

When it comes to our cooperation with the European Union – there is really an extensive and deep partnership in virtually all areas.

Suffice to say that Kazakhstan and EU have concluded as early as in 1995 a very important document – Agreement on partnership and cooperation. Kazakhstan and EU hold annual meetings on various levels.

To reflect the growing and strengthening ties between us we are now discussing conclusion of the new Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation which will cover foreign affairs, security, justice, political development, trade, investments, energy, environment, and transport.

We are ready to expand and deepen our partnership with Europe in all these areas and hope that our European partners will act reciprocally.
European Union is the number one trade partner for Kazakhstan and the volume of trade keeps growing very fast: in 2010 – USD 38 bln., in 2011 – USD 50 bln.

Norway not being a member of the European Union is, nevertheless, a very special partner for Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan considers Norway as the best model in managing natural resources – whether it is environmental standards or social and macroeconomic aspects.

Our main priority is to learn from the Norwegian experience, like we did, for example, with our National Fund which is based on the Norwegian model – Pension Fund “Global”.

The two countries are indeed very similar in many ways. The similarities between us are not limited to energy or financial sector. There are many similar features in the character of our people, geography and demographics.

We also have similar outlooks on the pressing global issues – from energy security to environment. One of them is also our shared vision of the world free from nuclear weapons.

In all these areas we closely cooperate trying to make a positive difference for our two nations and the rest of the world. We have no doubt that our Norwegian friends and partners are committed to the partnership the same way we are.
We can witness this from growing cooperation and strengthening of bilateral mechanisms between our two nations, especially in the last 2-3 years.

Our Embassy in Oslo since its establishment in 2004 remained Kazakhstan’s only diplomatic mission in Scandinavia, while Norway’s only diplomatic representation in the vast Central Asia is its Embassy in Astana. This is also a practical testament to how our two nations see and regard each other.

We can see that investment cooperation is developing; we see that volumes of our traditional exports (Norwegian fish and Kazakh grain) are growing. We are registering record numbers of Norwegians travelling to Kazakhstan during last two years. We have more and more frequent bilateral contacts and visits on various levels – from Royal family members and Cabinet ministers to sportsmen, artists and just tourists.

We are quite satisfied with the dynamics and direction of our bilateral partnership and we are determined to maintain this good pace.

kazakhstannorwayud

TOT: Since both the countries are producers and suppliers of hydrocarbons so how you look the relations of Norway and Kazakhstan can be strengthen in terms of energy cooperation in the long run?

Charge de Affair: As I said before, Norway is a model for Kazakhstan in the way it had developed its energy industries, protects the environment and keeps expanding and strengthening its capacity in this area. We want to learn and Norway is ready to share this good knowledge.

To that end Kazakhstan and Norway established in 2007 the Bilateral Working Group on Energy Cooperation. We have successfully held four annual meetings since then, last of which happen recently – on October 2nd of this year. The dialogue within this bilateral mechanism covers issues spanning from technical education to environment and local content in addition to traditional cooperation in the oil/gas sector.

We are very interested in having more Norwegian companies in the oil/gas sector of Kazakhstan. We are confident they will bring along higher environmental, labor and technological standards, as well as useful Norwegian experience of increasing local content in the industry.

Norwegian service and engineering companies, such as Statoil, Aker Solutions, Kvaerner, Aibel, Kaefer and others know that opportunities in Kazakhstan are abundant.

In 2010, our two national companies «KazMunaiGaz» and «Statoil» decided to establish strategic partnership to work together on the shelf of the Caspian Sea.

Currently, the two sides are in the final stages of negotiations and hopefully their partnership will serve as a locomotive for other Kazakh and Norwegian companies to establish joint businesses in this or other sectors.

Kazakhstan is now bidding for the right to host professional exhibition EXPO-2017 in Astana which will be held under the topic “Energy of the Future”. Kazakhstan with this EXPO wants to contribute to the global discussion of our planet’s energy future.

This forum will also provide a wonderful opportunity for Norway to highlight and advance its role in this discussion, as well as showcase its prominent energy industry.

We are glad to see that both Kazakhstan and Norway work tirelessly to strengthen and expand our bilateral energy cooperation.

kazakh meeting

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Kazakhstan seeks cooperation with Norway to gain expertise and economic cooperation in near future?

Charge de Affair: Traditionally, energy sector, specifically – oil and gas, has been the primary area for our cooperation. But there are several areas where I believe we could have mutually beneficial cooperation as well.

Kazakhstan is a large agricultural producer playing significant role in providing global food security. We are in the Top 5 exporters of wheat and the world’s #1 exporter of wheat flour for 6 years in a row now –since 2006. Our farmers supply with grain all of Central Asia, Caucasus, countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Our wheat exports to Norway have risen from 3,000 tons in 2009 to 43,000 in 2011.

There is an enormous potential in production of milk, meat and poultry in Kazakhstan. These industries are now in the development stage which creates unique opportunities for Norwegian food producing companies to establish themselves in Kazakhstan and benefit from comfortable business environment while having direct access and close proximity to the enormous markets of China, Russia, Central and South Asia – with total population approaching 3 billion people.

This is just one example but we would welcome Norwegian businesses in all other industries – mining, electricity, telecommunications, machine-building, metallurgy, etc.

astana meeting

TOT: As per the foreign policy goals set by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov  for establishing a UN Secretariat in the country while making Astana a regional hub for diplomacy. So how far you see the progress in this direction has been made by Kazakhstan?

Charge de Affair: First, it is important to stress that there is no such foreign policy goal set by us as to establish a UN Secretariat in Astana.
Indeed, our President and later former Foreign Minister Mr. Kazykhanov have put forward an idea to establish in Almaty a regional center for UN regional activities.

There are already 16 sub-regional offices of various UN agencies which have been working successfully in Almaty for quite a while. These offices deal with the host of issues of regional and global significance. In our view we have come to a point when all these activities would benefit from coordinated approach and leadership.

Our region represents a significant part of the world by its sheer territory and size of its population. A number of nations in our part of the world require long-term assistance from the international community.

One of them is Afghanistan. Stability and progress in this country is a priority for the region and for the world. Having an effective regional office of the United Nations in the center of the region – Kazakhstan – will serve that goal.

The idea is there for discussion by the UN and its members. We look forward to participate in this discussion.

TOT: Being a Oil & Gas producer and exporter, is this justified to sell oil and gas artificially at lower price to Russia when Kazakhstan can provide the same at existing market prices? Will this not be the loss to the exchequer of Kazakhstan’s Federal Reserve’s and un-rewarding exploitation of its natural resources?

Charge de Affair: Let me first start by explaining the break-down of the oil production in Kazakhstan. Around 75% of all oil extracted in Kazakhstan is produced by foreign companies: British Gas, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, CNPC and others. The rest is produced by our national oil and gas company “KazMunaiGaz” and smaller local companies. All these companies, including KazMunaiGaz are responsible to their shareholders for generating as much profit as possible.

Our Government is too very much interested in having as much income from the oil/gas sector as possible, whether it comes in the form of taxes, royalties, direct profit, etc.

So, to answer your question directly: it is not justified for these companies to sell their products artificially at lower prices to Russia or anyone else. That is why these companies do not do it. Otherwise there is no reason for them to engage in this business.

As far as I know, most of the oil produced in Kazakhstan is sold to EU countries, and now increasingly to China. I have not heard of significant sales of oil to Russia, which, as you know, is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world.

TOT: The relations of your country with Russia has always remained volatile and on a mode of fluctuations where former oppose the unlimited use of Baikonur Cosmodrome whereas later objects the cooperation with the US over ‘War on Terror’ whose influence is also growing in the region?

Charge de Affair: To answer your question I would have to start with correcting its introductory clause.
Our relations with Russia have always been stable and are characterized by high level of trust and dynamic cooperation in all areas. Russia is our biggest neighbor, major trading and economic partner, and a close friend and ally. We have recently formed Customs Union to make it easier for local and foreign businesses to operate in our countries.

When we face a complex issue that requires more attention and effort to be resolved, we deal with it as good neighbors and friends do – in an amicable and mutually beneficial way. Baikonur Cosmodrome is no exception.

Our governments and respective agencies work closely together to make it effective and environmentally safe, so this unique space complex could continue to be beneficial for our two countries and for the whole world.

Never have we received any objections from our Russian friends regarding our cooperation with the United States, including on the joint efforts against international terrorism. Moreover, Russia and the US are themselves close partners and cooperate successfully on these issues.

To my knowledge, Russia provides various types of assistance to US and NATO forces including providing its territory and airspace for the completion of the mission in Afghanistan. Our countries do many things together in a multilateral framework, as well.

Kazakhstan, Russia and the USA are not the only nations cooperating in combating international terrorism. We are joined by virtually all of the international community and we believe this is the right approach when dealing with such global threat as international terrorism.

One good example is GINCT. In 2006 Russia and United States jointly created Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GINCT) and asked Kazakhstan to join it. During these past 6 years 82 more nations have joined GINCT to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.

We do not see relations between Russia, United States, China or European Union as competition, when it comes to their cooperation with Kazakhstan or other nations in the region.

As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, we welcome cooperation with all of them and the rest of the world. For our landlocked nation this is the only way to proceed – by interacting and cooperating with everyone around us. This is the basis of our foreign policy concept.

cooperation map

TOT: Being an active member of Shanghai CO-Operation how would you define the role and success of this organization have achieved in the establishing peace and security in the member countries as well as in the region which is still being one of the most volatile and unexplored regions of the world?

Charge de Affair: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was initially formed by newly independent states bordering China as a mechanism to resolve border issues that used to exist between USSR and People’s Republic of China. Success of that mechanism and its positive experience led to the decision by the involved parties to establish in 2001 the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Since then the SCO has become a functional multilateral institution recognized by the world community for its active assistance in maintaining peace and security, dealing with modern threats and challenges, as well as stimulating economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the SCO area.

The SCO is now a good example to the rest of the world of how nations of different economic, political, industrial and geographic “size” can still cooperate in a friendly, good-neighborly and equal partnership.

Currently, the agenda of the SCO includes security, economic and humanitarian “baskets”. Kazakhstan believes in parallel and balanced development of these three baskets.

There are also particular areas where we believe SCO can play an important role, such as energy and transit infrastructure. Dynamic cooperation between the SCO members in all these areas will have a positive effect on a broader region.

TOT: “The boundary disputes of almost all the nations of CIS has almost been resolved with their neighbours, however; the Caspian sea boundary is still governed by the international law and remained unsettled which now with growing international thirst for Caspian oil and its exploitation has becoming a frequently arising issue in day to day regional politics”. How will you elaborate the point of dispute where it lies and has now become a bone of serious contention among the Caspian nations which Kazakhstan too shares its waters?

Charge de Affair: Determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea is of very high importance for Kazakhstan. We believe that this unique water body should serve the best interests of the Caspian states and that it should be treated by them in a responsible manner.

Kazakhstan stands for demilitarization of the Caspian and for freedom of transit by all means of transport as well as for the access to other seas and the World Ocean, as stipulated in several universal international agreements.

All five Caspian states (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia) are currently discussing the draft Convention on legal status of the Caspian Sea. There is a Special Working Group that is working on the text of the Convention.
There have been three Summits of the Presidents.

At the last Summit in 2010 the Presidents signed the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
At Kazakhstan’s initiative, the five leaders have also agreed to start working on a mechanism to put in place a 5-year moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea. Currently, the parties are working out a text of the relative Agreement.

Kazakhstan was quite satisfied with the outcome of the Summit since our partners have also agreed there to adopt an approach that had been advocated by Kazakhstan from the very beginning of multilateral consultations on the legal status of the Caspian.

This approach is to follow provisions of the UN Convention on Sea Law by establishing for each state its territorial sea, fishing zone and designating the remaining as common waters.

As you can see, Kazakhstan and its Caspian partners have made some progress in this regard given the very different positions they had at the beginning.

Therefore, we are quite optimistic about the prospects of settling this issue. All five Caspian nations appreciate the fact that this process has been developing in a calm and constructive atmosphere, as it should be between partners and neighbors.

caspian sea

TOT: With its withdrawal by Uzbekistan from the member states of Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping forces second time, will this means that CIS operations and its existence is now becoming less important in the diplomatic and regional cooperation as well in the bilateral / regional relations of the member states, of which Kazakhstan too is a member?

Charge de Affair: I would have to start by explaining what Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS) is. I think it is important for Oslo Times readers to know how it works and it will make it easier for me to try to answer your question.

CIS is an organization where most of the former Soviet republics are members. Membership in CIS is voluntary, as is members’ participation in different areas of cooperation within the Commonwealth.

CIS members selectively participate in various areas of multilateral cooperation depending on the interests and wishes of each member-state. Therefore, decisions of CIS bodies apply only to those members that decide to participate in a particular issue. For example, there are 66 areas of cooperation, stemming from trade and social issues to transport and law enforcement. Not all members participate in each area.

CIS has proven to be the most optimal form of multilateral cooperation since its members differ from each other quite considerably.

There are, however, forms of cooperation where all members participate. These are so-called “charter bodies”, such as Council of Heads of State, Council of Heads of Government, Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Foreign Ministers’ Council, etc. There is also a permanent institution, called CIS Executive Committee that deals with day-to-day work.

In my answer to your first question I mentioned the historic meeting convened in our former capital Almaty in December of 1991 when the leaders of the republics of former USSR agreed to civilized and peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At that meeting the Almaty Declaration was adopted which effectively laid down the basis for establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The vitality of CIS can be explained by certain important principles upon which it is based. First and foremost, it is voluntary membership, respect of sovereignty and the right to choose the form, depth and degree of participation for each member-state.

CIS is now more than 20 years old and it continues to prove its important historic mission in many political and economic processes both regionally and globally. By the way, in 2008 Afghan officials approached CIS with the request to join the organization.

Today Afghanistan has an observer status at the CIS IPA.
Uzbekistan has been and remains to be a founding member of the CIS which, by the way, does not have peacekeeping forces in it. Hence, there have been no CIS operations in this regard.

Now, there is another international entity called Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO).
CSTO is not CIS but a completely different organization with different membership.

Kazakhstan views CSTO as a consultative body with a security and defense cooperation orientation and which is open to cooperation with other international organizations on security issues.

As in CIS, there are no peacekeeping forces within the CSTO, as well.
Currently, CSTO has several elements of cooperation. One of them is the development of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force. The force was established back in 2009 to repulse external military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.

CSTO has never participated in a combat mission.
When it comes to Uzbekistan’s cooperation with CSTO, it is important to know the history of CSTO.
The membership in the CSTO is voluntary and at different periods it varied between 6 and 9 nations.

Between 1992 and 2003 cooperation on security issues was conducted with in an agreement on collective security which was signed by 9 nations. Uzbekistan was among those nations that signed this document. In 1999 Uzbekistan withdrew from it because it joined another organization, called GUUAM.
In 2003 the CSTO was established as an organization. In 2005 Uzbekistan withdrew from GUUAM and joined CSTO in 2006.

In June of 2012 Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the CSTO. The Charter of the organization allows for that and clearly says that “Any state may become a member…” and “Any Member State may withdraw from the Organization…”
Uzbekistan is a sovereign nation that is free to choose forms and scope of its cooperation with other partners both bilaterally and multilaterally.

To my knowledge, Uzbekistan continues its cooperation with countries in the region, including on combating threats of terrorism and transnational crime. There are good mechanism for that within both CIS and SCO, which Uzbekistan is a member of.

TOT: How will you define the role being played by Kazakhstan in the cooperation with US and in Afghanistan over ‘War on Terror’? And how you see the bilateral relations of your country with Afghanistan at present and in years to come when International forces would leave Afghanistan?

Charge de Affair: This is a very good question which has three elements in it: global cooperation against international terrorism, our cooperation with the United States in this regard, as well as Kazakhstan’s bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan.

These issues are somewhat interconnected and sometimes overlap but they are nevertheless are very distinct.

I explained in my answer to one of your previous questions Kazakhstan’s anti-terrorism efforts both bilaterally and within different multilateral frameworks with other countries, including the United States.

But in fact, our relations with US are far wider in scope than one issue. We have a 20-year long history of dynamically developing cooperation with the United States in virtually all areas – trade, investments, global security, political dialogue, etc.
Similarly, our cooperation with Afghanistan is not limited to anti-terrorism efforts. Kazakh-Afghan cooperation includes many different areas and I would like to briefly go through some of them.

First of all, Kazakhstan supports and is very much interested in stable and sustainable development of Afghanistan. Economic and social development is the number one requirement for Afghanistan to deal with threats like terrorism, drug trafficking and religious radicalism.
These are threats that the region and the bigger international community suffer from.

Kazakhstan believes that the international community under the coordination of the UN, therefore, should contribute and assist Afghanistan working hand in hand with the Afghan Government.

Kazakhstan supports efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to unite the Afghan society and build a stable democratic nation. We believe the government has all essential institutions in place: legislature, executive, courts, military and law enforcement forces, etc.

However, external assistance is still needed. Kazakhstan participates in various international mechanisms which try to coordinate the efforts of the international community to lay the basis for sustainable economic development of Afghanistan.

We also support Afghanistan’s involvement in the regional processes which are aimed at better cooperation, integration and confidence-building.

On the bilateral level we continue to provide technical and humanitarian assistance supplying Afghanistan annually with thousands of tons of foodstuff, fuel and equipment. Kazakhstan has financed the construction of the Kundus-Talukan asphalt road, a hospital in Bamian province, and a school in Samangan province, along with other smaller projects.

This year Kazakh Government decided to finance an infrastructure project on the Aibak River in the Samangan province, as well as to support law enforcement in the country.

As you probably know, our President pays special attention to education which he believes is the necessary prerequisite for a prosperous and democratic society. Only a prosperous and educated society can build a sustainable democracy.

In 2010, at the instructions of the President, our government has launched an education program for Afghan students and allocated for that purpose USD 50 million. Up to 1 thousand Afghans will be provided with higher education in Kazakhstan.

They will receive medical, engineering, agricultural education, as well as training in law enforcement and border guard schools. First 152 Afghan students have begun their studies in 2010. Last year another 182 students have arrived to study in Kazakh universities. This program will last until 2020.

Kazakhstan also seeks to boost the activities of the Kazak-Afghan intergovernmental commission which should help expand and deepen ties between our countries and coordinate existing areas of cooperation such as the educational program I mentioned before.

We firmly believe that prosperous and stable Afghanistan will become a positive force in the region and Kazakhstan is determined to assist our brothers and neighbors in every way we can.

oic

TOT: Kazakhstan being an important member of Organization of Islamic Countries has remained vigilant and cooperative in terms for providing assistance to many Muslim countries and where community holds a strong ground but till now there is nothing which any media has heard from the leaderships of Kazakhstan for Rohingya Muslims who are being massacred in Myanmar?

Charge de Affair: As you mentioned in your question, Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since July 2011 we are chairing this organization. One of the stated goals of our Chairmanship is to increase the effectiveness of this Organization and move it from discussions to work.

I need to mention here that the first thing we did when we assumed Chairmanship last year was to change the name of the organization from “Organization of Islamic Conference” to “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”. By doing this we wanted to change the mentality around OIC and create a working and pragmatic environment.

It is perhaps unrealistic to see the effects immediately but we hope that our efforts during the Chairmanship will not be in vain. Our chairmanship in the OIC will end in November of this year in Djibouti, at the 39th OIC ministerial.
Now, regarding the issue of Rohingya minority, the lack of media coverage of this issue and Kazakhstan’s position on it.

I think you are directing your question to wrong people. Kazakhstan cannot be held responsible for international media’s editorial policies. Media or those who own them decide how and what issues and news to cover.

Kazakhstan’s representatives have called for appropriate international attention to the situation with the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

As recently as in August our foreign minister said to his colleagues in the OIC: “… the Organization has to assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the Member States…” and that “…Kazakhstan expresses grave concern over numerous reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim minorities in Arakan province and other parts of Myanmar…”

At this meeting chaired by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister the OIC adopted a document where this issue was addressed directly. Specifically, a fact-finding committee was established which already in September was dispatched in Myanmar for a 10-day investigation.

There, an OIC Humanitarian Affairs Office was established. Two weeks later in New York the OIC members met again and established a Joint contact group which will work directly with all relevant parties, including the Myanmar Government, international and regional organizations and bodies.

Kazakhstan believes and supports the involvement of the whole international community in this issue. This is not just a Muslim problem.
We are all human beings and it is very painful to see when human suffering in one case is treated by the media differently than similar suffering in another case.

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TOT: Being a Turkic nation and an important member of SCO, what are the steps the Kazak government has taken so far in raising the issue of Uyghur in China with whom your country shares its borders and has good ties on a regional level?

Charge de Affair: We do not see that there is an issue in China that requires and would benefit from Kazakhstan’s involvement.
As far as the issue of territorial integrity is concerned, Kazakhstan believes that this sacred principle of international law should be upheld everywhere not just in China.

At the same time Kazakhstan supports and encourages the development of the vibrant cultural life and preservation of traditions and languages of many different ethnic groups in China, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs. We believe that China only benefits from providing its multiethnic society with opportunities and conditions to thrive and celebrate its diversity.

TOT: “Kazakhstan being an example of efficient leadership and economic progress that too got independent along with other 14 republics from USSR”. So, according to you what are reasons behind the turmoil and collapse in the system of the other neighboring republics like Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan where these nations in this present world are being regarded as some of the major violators of human rights and citizens’ freedom and liberty within their own borders?

Charge de Affair: First of all, thank you very much for your kind evaluation of Kazakhstan’s progress during its independence.
As you correctly pointed out, there were 15 republics in the USSR.

During the years of independence each country pursued its own path of development. So, I think it is wrong to lump them all together and brush them in negative colors. I would certainly disagree with your general assessment of the situation in the countries you mentioned as experiencing “turmoil and collapse”.

All of them are very distinct in terms of culture, history, level of economic or political development. It had been so even during Soviet period. Some republics were more industrially and scientifically oriented, others specialized on agriculture, etc.

Some had democratic traditions even before they were incorporated in the Soviet Union, namely Baltic States, while most others had remained colonies of the Russian Empire and then parts of the Soviet Union for centuries – without any exposure to democracy.

Despite many problems these countries might have (and most of these problems require generations to overcome!), their overall development throughout the last years has been stable and peaceful.

Kazakhstan certainly hopes that peace and stability will remain there, as they provide essential conditions for further growth and development, including democratic development and advancement of human rights.

TOT: How can you define the role and the progress of Kazakhstan in the areas of promoting human rights and freedom of speech on regional and global level?

Charge de Affair: As I have mentioned before, Kazakhstan believes in the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. One of the most important principles of international law is sovereignty. There are also obligations which each nation takes upon itself and is obliged to adhere to.

So in this dilemma of how to promote human rights and not end up violating other cultures and sovereignty, Kazakhstan follows this golden rule – “lead by example”.

Parents have success raising their kids not when they yell at them or criticize them constantly but when they show good example, when they are engaged in certain activities together with their kids.

The same way more advanced societies can help promote human rights in less established societies by cooperating not by isolating. Certainly, promotion of human right stands no chance if a society’s economic development is constrained by limiting its trade potential or preventing private investments from going in it.

Democracy has no chance in a poor society. Only a strong middle class can ensure human rights –economic, political and social –all of them, including freedom of speech.

Kazakhstan is a developing nation, so we are still in the learning mode rather than teaching. In areas where we are successful, for example, interethnic harmony and religious tolerance, we try to share this positive experience with the world.

But we will never impose it on others, recognizing that our experience is unique and it can be applied not everywhere.

A good example of our external activities in this regard might be the Congress of World’s Religions which was initiated by our President and takes place triennially in Astana. This is the only place and mechanism for leaders of the world’s religions to gather in their efforts to promote peace and mutual respect globally.

Sincere mutual respect is what the world needs these days. This is the number one prerequisite for ensuring human rights domestically and globally.

TOT: What kind of role Kazakhstan have played so far on national, regional and international for the promotion of democracy?

Charge de Affair: We do not consider that true democracy can exist or be promoted without ensuring human rights. We believe that human rights can be protected only through dialogue and genuine cooperation.

As I said in my answer to your previous question, the best promotion of democracy is leading by example. As Kazakhstan progresses in the development of its own civil society and rule of law, it will be in a better position to further promote democracy in the region and elsewhere simply by projecting its positive experience and success.

TOT: How would you define the role and existence of Media and the kind of press freedom it enjoys in your country?

Charge de Affair: We in Kazakhstan believe that media is an important part of our life, an important element of the civil society and should serve in its entirety the interests of the whole society.

It should be recognized that quite often media advances interests of certain groups or individuals within the society, usually because of the financial support or ownership.

Sometimes this benefits the whole society but many times it happens at the expense of the majority of people. It is therefore important for any society to ensure plurality of opinion – to let opposing view or alternative position to be heard.

It is very dangerous when public discussion is hijacked by one group, which is simply more active, has a louder voice, better financed and uses more innovative approach.

The only way to ensure plurality and sense of objectiveness without infringing on press freedom is to have public media, which is tasked with reporting facts, and will not engage in opinionated agenda-driven journalism.

While overwhelming majority of media In Kazakhstan is privately owned and their number is growing every year, there are still public TV and newspapers outlets supported from the national budget. Currently people have access to all kinds of information and have an access to a variety of opinion, even quite unscrupulous ones.

We believe that only in severe cases, such as when media actions led to loss of human life, the government has to step in and act.

Media in Kazakhstan, as any other institution or a group of organizations, is still young and in the development stage. It is a long process, sometimes very painful.

But at the end of the day, it would be up to the society and the media itself to develop a set of principles and values to adhere to. Not everything can be regulated by laws and regulations. Honesty, responsibility and good conscience cannot be legislated.

But people nowadays are increasingly expecting exactly these things from their journalists.

Thank you respected Charge de Affair. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

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“Life is a journey and every man must bear the burden of conflict between his own free will and the vicissitudes of destiny. The heart endures the trials and tribulations that accompany us through life and stores the sorrows and joys that make us who we are.”

Asif, a young boy lives in Afghanistan with his two siblings and parents from a highly respected family. As a teenager Asif falls in love with Latifa, a girl he is not able to marry because of cultural beliefs and traditions.  

When his father, who is a inspirational leader and opposed to Communism, is arrested by the Russians and found murdered, the family flee to a refugee camp in Pakistan where unspeakable tragedy befalls the family.

After stuggling to survive and support his family Asif return, years later, to a very
different Afghanistan that is now ruled by the dictatorial Taliban.  

Again faced with appalling hardship Asif strives to escape. This is a journey between two destinies, of love, sorrow and prosperity and the value of life.  

Born in Afghanistan, author Hatef Mokhtar grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan and is now working as the Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times in Oslo, Norway.  
He says, “The pain of separation from my homeland, the cries and sorrow of my people inspired me to write this book.”  

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The Red Wrath
By Hatef Mokhtar

Available on

THE RED WRATH: A JOURNEY BETWEEN TWO DESTINIES (ISBN: 978-1-61897-459-4) is now available for $24.50 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website:

http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar or at www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com.

WHOLESALERS: This book is distributed by Ingram Books and other wholesale distributors. Contact your representative with the ISBN for purchase. Wholesale purchase for retailers, universities, libraries, and other organizations is also available through the publisher; please email bookorder@aeg-online-store.com.

This book is also available on:

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The Red Wrath The Red Wrath The Red Wrath

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In the image above: (L) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar & in (R) Speaker, Artist & Author Ms. Rebecca Rifai of Canada.

REBECCA RIFAI

Speaker, artiste, author:

She has been chiseling her path in the arts for most of her life. Working as a celebrity speaker, actor and recently becoming an author. More importantly, as a humble woman, Rebecca Rifai speaks about the boundaries and opportunities of her industry and world at large. These are her thoughts on public speaking, the arts and everything else.

Rebecca Rifai is not only a very good, humble, honest and refined human being with a lot of sincere good feelings for one and all, she is also a person who has a great understanding and insight as well as respect for freedom, democracy and human rights, for every individual in the globe.

The versatile Rebecca Rifai is also a delightful and charming woman with keen wisdom emanating from her being and added to this is her  gracious personality which radiates like a beam of enlightenment for each and everyone who meets and talks to her.

Madam Rebecca Rifai: “The Oslo Times” feels honoured and privileged to be interviewing you. We are sure that your views will be a boon for our worldwide readers.

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TOT: Well madam, today, you are an authority in the realm of speech making and presentation.  But this hasn’t always been the case for there was a time when you were terrified of public speaking.  Could you share with us the details of a certain blunder or a crippling moment emanating from a sense of stage or crowd fright that occurred early in your life or career?
Rebecca: I always knew that on the inside I was a very confident woman, but having to let this expression surface was difficult for me. Giving a speech at an assembly, conducting class orals, school camps, at Rotary and workshops, these were all opportunities that presented a major challenge. Time and time again I felt embarrassed after speaking to an audience. I knew I was a better person than what was in front of my peers; I just lacked the knowledge to conquer my crippling fear and knew it would take a lot of perseverance to get through this.

“I knew I was a better person than what was in front of my peers; I just lacked the knowledge to conquer my crippling fear and knew it would take a lot of perseverance to get through this.”

As a child, and even now as an adult, surprisingly I am quite shy. It is however the opportunities that I have been blessed with that have allowed my personality to shine. I have been given a voice to inform, inspire and excite. And so as I embrace my career I find myself opening up many opportunities for those that want to build their confidence, to find their voice, to communicate effectively and to become champion speaker.

As the author of Presenting 101, I can relate to those that get nervous. And so what I aim to do with this book is to demonstrate how these nerves can be turned into a positive experience on screen, the microphone, and on the stage. Public speaking is a fearful experience for many, but I will show readers how to run with this and to turn their energy into an empowering experience.

My passion for effective communication transcends through the words on the pages. I want nothing more than to see people succeed at public speaking.

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TOT: In the face of true or imagined fear, people resort to their ‘flight or fight’ mechanism.  What made you choose to fight this specific fear instead of simply avoiding it altogether?
Rebecca: I was a bright student and did extremely well in my areas of interest, which were drama, art, sport and English. The acknowledgement from my teachers helped to feed my desire to do well at what I would commit myself to. Along with this I developed an interest in motivational books. As I read I found other authors who had similar struggles in life and had turned their challenges into something great.

“I learnt at a very young age that I was capable of achieving a lot more that I ever would have thought.”

The authors, my mentors, taught me that it was okay to stand out, that life would reward me with dividends if I took opportunities when they presented themselves to me. They told me to embrace fear; that we never achieve anything great when we live within our comfort zone. And so, I knew that some day, somehow, I would be able to speak up to those that I couldn’t before and create a fruitful life.

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TOT: Well madam, in your opinion, what made you succeed in this domain?  What are the defining qualities that helped you evolve as a presenter?
Rebecca: I believe what it comes down to is the willingness to get the most out of life. Walking with a fear that we believe we cannot overcome is detrimental. Pushing through these fears is empowering. Life is to be embraced. We all have an interesting story to share and we all have the ability to achieve amazing things. A positive mind, trust in yourself and taking the leap of faith is what will build the strength in one’s character and makes one stand out as a leader.
Procrastination is one of human’s biggest flaws. Complimentary to that is a lack of belief in one’s own self. Sometimes the best part of life is about trusting our instincts and challenging others when they say that we can’t do something. If you believe you can’t then at least give it a shot and surprise yourself instead of giving in. If I listened to all of the gremlins in my life that told me to quit I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“Life is a journey. We live and we learn but we must make the most out of it.”

I trusted in myself that through all of my flaws and mistakes I would succeed in public speaking and I am proud of myself for doing so.
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TOT: Well that is nice to hear. Now madam, what was the tipping point in your career?
Rebecca: I had learnt very early on that a career in the entertainment industry meant not worrying about being embarrassed. And so I always took a chance at putting myself forward for interesting roles. Did I feel embarrassed at the time? Sometimes, yes. But I kept taking chances in the hopes that something exciting would eventuate. I had heard that the Commonwealth Games were approaching and that this could possibly be the opportunity that I was searching for, to speak at the event.

At the time I was working for a radio station as a field correspondent. I was young and ambitious and had been recording myself on camera while I would go to the stations events. What I recorded were little pieces to camera about random exciting topics out on the road.

I was never asked to do this; it was just something I liked to do for fun. I never knew, at the time, that this video I recorded would come in use for submitting me for the Commonwealth Games.
So I edited this video together and sent it off. Little did I know that soon I would get a call back to say that I would speak in front of millions of people for the gymnastics at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

I would be running the show, interviewing the athletes, completing voice over’s and speaking on behalf of the network stations. That was a moment in my life that I will never forget and a moment that is one of the greatest memories I have to be grateful for.

TOT: Your new book, “Presenting 101”, has been launched recently.  In it, you describe the means to develop and hone one’s presenting skills – be it for TV, radio or at events and functions.

However, the book could also help in many ways all those who aren’t necessarily pursuing a career as presenters.  Could you explain in which ways your book might help non-professionals?
Rebecca: This book is about harnessing readers’ confidence to speak to an audience and giving them the tools to ‘think outside the box’. Public speaking is part and parcel of everyday life, be it at a seminar, a wedding or in an office meeting and so why not make it fun? Right? I want readers to develop a passion and excitement for their next public speaking engagement.

It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to get up in front of an audience and to feed off their energy. Readers will develop an enthusiasm for improving their public speaking skills and walk away from the experience with a new open mind.

Periodically I conduct “Presenting 101” workshops. In these, there have been a whole array of people attend. Health care professionals, construction managers, CEOs, teachers, dentists and the likes have celebrated these workshops as being something that has changed their life in a positive way.

I am so proud to say that I have enriched their lives with an experience that they will never forget. I am rewarded by their successes and that is the greatest gift I could ever hope to receive.

TOT: Well madam, some people are naturally eloquent and quick on their feet while others are not.  Do you believe that such qualities could be developed?  If yes, how much could one improve such skills?
Rebecca: Absolutely. As an eternal student of the arts, improvisational skills are an asset. To be able to think quickly on our feet can be developed by tapping into our imagination, developing good listening skills and overcoming the notion of being embarrassed.

The improvisational skills taught in “Presenting 101” will help one muster their inner confidence so as to avoid and overcome being caught out. Readers will learn how to not get stuck on a script, work in synergy with an audience and harness the unexpected.

One of the greatest gifts I can offer in the book is how to overcome mistakes. People often ask me what to do if they fall over on stage, if they forget their lines, or make fools of themselves. What I teach is largely improvisational based, meaning that now people can embrace these moments and turn them into something truly magical, while speaking to a public gathering.

And so it is with learning improvisational skills that someone can overcome being nervous, because all of their greatest fears are addressed and solutions are provided, for each of these. But not only this; it’s also about making speaking memorable words. Some people also fear being boring but now they’ll be anything but this.

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TOT: How long does it take one to start noticing results or improvements – assuming that he/she avidly practices your methods and exercises?
Rebecca: For every person, it is different. But I know that changes can be immediate. Through teaching people in the book and in the workshops I have seen instantaneous improvements.

It’s important to have a mentor who knows the craft you want to learn and so as that mentor I am able to give students the confidence to practice the techniques I teach through example. Sometimes we know the answer to a challenge but lack the guidance to implement these skills.

I give readers lots of options to choose from and with this array of delicious choices come the excitement to surprise themselves. Reading is one thing, if they apply these skills miraculous things will happen. I know … I’ve seen it.

I pride myself as a positive mentor who only wants my students to excel in the art of public speaking. If readers of the book keep an open mind, which I know they can, step by step, they will become brilliant at public speaking.

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TOT: Alright madam. Now please tell us what are you currently working on?  And what is the next step for you?
Rebecca: The book and speaking are my main priority. However my other love is acting; this is something I took up at the age of six. The first half of this year has been very exciting. I’ve recently signed a contract with a leading talent agency and management company in North America and have found a great acting coach named Daniel Bacon.

They’ve been keeping me very busy sending me out on all sorts of wonderful auditions, booking several TVCs and so forth.
My latest role was on a feature for Tides Canada and a shoot for“Jugo Juice”. Canada feels like the right place to be at the moment and so I am taking each day as it comes.

So fingers crossed, I hope the momentum keeps rolling. Other than that I look forward to learning how “Presenting 101” has positively impacted people’s lives. I am truly excited to hear of the results and something tells me that there’s going to be many moments to celebrate.
TOT: Since being attached to the theatre from a long time, do you have any future plans for the promotion of this side of entertainment in your country and the world at large?

Rebecca: The more I think about my craft, the more I keep reflecting on my childhood studying theatre. That part of my life was there for a reason and propelled me into the career I have now.

So, despite my focus for the film and TV industry, I feel that at some stage the theatre will call me back. The stage is a unique platform that captures moments in time that can never be replicated. And because each performance is unique, stepping inside a theatre has always been a magical playground for me.

It’s the experimentation of emotions, serendipity, and subtle changes that an actor is encouraged to bring to the stage that breathes life into each performance. I do have a strong bond with the theatre and while nothing is planned at this stage, I feel that it won’t be long before these changes.

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TOT: In the world, as you know, there are lots of struggles & campaigns going on, so as an artist what is your message to the world audience?

Rebecca: While I am very focused on acting, one of my passions is supporting projects that contribute to the greater good of humanity. Although the film industry can be quite fickle, it is a very powerful medium for providing influential messages. And because of this, I am motivated to establish my own production company and create work that has strong content and humanitarian value. I’m not there yet; it’s only the beginning of my film and TV career.

I know it will be a long and tough road ahead but I am very passionate about the industry, as passionate as I am about public speaking. In the future I see the two of these merging to form a solid alliance of projects that have a positive impact on the world. But to answer your question, my message to the world is an old one but a good one; treat others how you’d like to be treated. If we all lived by this, the world would be a much happier and peaceful place.

TOT: What are the qualities, which are necessary for being a good artist?

Rebecca: Show business is tough. A lot of people enter the business seeking fame and fortune and are greatly disappointed. After all, it is easy to watch an actor in a movie and fantasize about replacing them on the screen, doing what they do but better. Show business is just that, a business.

We are all born a star in our own right, but to make a career out of it takes a lot of courage, discipline and skill. As artists we put ourselves in situations that truly test us. We have to face fears, endure and share pain, overcome continual rejection, sacrifice financial stability and through all of that, we need to keep believing in ourselves when it feels like no one else will.

I believe there are three groups of people in the industry. Those that quit, those that persevere and succeed, and those that are just born lucky. The vast majority of us sit in either of the first two. Those that quit are not without talent, however it is likely that the pressures put upon them pushed them toward quitting.

Those that succeed are not necessarily the most talented; however have the discipline and business acumen to navigate their way through the industry. And those born lucky, well they were born lucky!

Above all, being an artist requires an awareness and understanding of two fundamental things; our social environment (human relationships), and our physical environment. It’s through understanding these complex human elements that we are able to interpret our medium, whether it is a story, music or painting, and present it to our audience.

TOT: Who is your inspiration in the world of art and drama?

Rebecca: As an artist I feel that it necessary to stay true to my journey. While actors like Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis inspire me, it is important to carve my own future rather than becoming an idealized reflection of those who are admired.

Instead, it’s the people on the streets, the lady at the grocery store, the fighting neighbors, and the person running for the bus, the homeless man sleeping in the alley, the lost child, the sadness behind a smile, the romantic couple and the unspoken words that intrigue me.

I derive my inspiration from human interaction and from observing what goes on in the world around me. I want to know what’s on the minds of others, why people do what they do, how did they get to where they are, why do they hold themselves in a certain way, what are their obstacles and motivations.

There is a lot to be learned from observing and asking these questions and because of this, I see a strong correlation between being a journalist and an actor. Both fields satisfy my desire to learn about people and how we as humans fit into the broader spectrum of life.

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TOT: What other traits do you think are essential to become a successful artist? I mean the standards, conduct and ethics?

Rebecca: I think the three most essential traits for a successful long-term career as an artist are honesty, quality and trust. Do you like how I specifically threw in long term there? We’ve all seem what some people have done to get their fifteen minutes of fame. I think that an honest approach, a focus on quality work and an ability to gain peoples trust will get you very far in this business, as well as any other business.

By way of example, people buying my book [Presenting 101] are putting their trust in me to ensure that the book is top quality and that I have their best interest at heart. The same applies to everything I do, whether it’s filming, speaking or presenting.  Without honesty and quality, it’s hard to build trust. And without trust, it’s hard to do anything.

TOT: What are your goals, which you want to accomplish in the near future?
Rebecca: This is a tough question to answer! I have so many things that I’d like to achieve. Ok, here goes.

Firstly, I’d like knowing that my book, Presenting 101, is out there helping people overcome their fear of public speaking or making them an even better speaker than they are today.

Secondly, I’d like to firmly establish myself as an actress in film and TV within the North American market.

Finally, I have been writing two feature film screenplays. One is a comedy set in world of unusual circumstance and the other is a conspiracy thriller. So, I’d really love to see these films made within the next couple of years.

Finally, finally, I’d also like to focus on film and TV projects that empower women. It is far too often that we see women portrayed in demeaning or submissive roles. I think we need to see some more kick-ass girls in film and TV.

Rebecca Rifai – Some of her projects include: The Concours d’Elegance, The Commonwealth Games, CNBC, The World Travel Awards, Virgin Radio, Property TV, B105 and Triple M and has launched various media events for such groups as: Maserati, Ferrari, Bvlgari, Asprey, Crate & Barrel, Bloomingdales and Panasonic.

To find out more about the book Presenting 101: for Television, Radio & Events please head to the website – http://www.presenting101.com

TOT: Thank you madam. We are delighted to have been provided this opportunity. We very much appreciate the fact that despite being involved in several fields you have an independent and open mind with candid and unbiased perception of freedom, democracy and human rights, on the vast vista of the global scenario. We are very much sure that our worldwide readers will benefit a lot from this exclusive interview. Thanks yet again!
Interviewed by Hatef Mokhtar, Editor-in-Chief, The Oslo Times
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©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Jamil Karzai – Politician and Parliamentarian of Afghanistan


“A growing voice of Afghan’s Youth and Democracy, who has set his mark in the young & religiously cultural rooted society of Afghanistan in this new era of politics and progress.”

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Honorable Mr. Jamil Karzai, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important national & regional issues…

TOT: After 2014 the Coalition Army will leave Afghanistan. This means that the Afghan Army will have to take charge of national security. Do you think that Afghan security forces are capable and efficient enough to handle the growing threats and challenges within the country and outside its borders that make Afghanistan more vulnerable?

Jamil Karzai: First of all thanks for having me here and it’s my pleasure. Coming back to your key question, Afghanistan has been at war for more than three decades, during which, we suffered a lot and all of our institutions and infrastructures were destroyed. One of the key institutions was our “Army”.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Afghanistan had one of the strongest army personnel in the region. This was deemed to be a sort of threat against our neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan with whom we have a border dispute for more than 100 years.

Thus, one of our neigbouring country’s policy was, by any means, to reduce the overwhelmingly strength of our Army, This, together with the arrival of Mujahidin (Western and Pakistani backed groups) and the first Islamic state during 1990s, resulted in the substitution of a well-trained and disciplined army with guerrilla militias, who were mainly trained by the intelligence services of Pakistan.

After 9/11 and during the interim and transitional administrations, we had to start everything from scratch. For me, this was the source of problem. During this period, only a handful of former Soviet-trained army personnel were recruited to the Afghan National Army, the rest were told to go home. Now, after spending billions of Donors’ dollars, still we have not been capable of forming a strong army that could respond to any threats posed by the insurgents or neighboring countries. The Afghan government, along with its international partners, has put huge efforts in forming the new army, rather than re-forming the cadres that we already had.

During the past 11 years, though billions of dollars are spent, the outcome is not acceptable to our people. The process of training is very slow, the equipment is not satisfactory, we still lack the air force which is the back-bone of an army. More than that, the penetration of Anti-Governmental Elements in the army is high.

Therefore, considering all these challenges, one can simply conclude that after the withdrawal of the coalition forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan Army will undoubtedly, face so many challenges, particularly when the insurgents have sanctuaries on the other side of border with Pakistan, and they enjoy the full support and facilitation of the Pakistani army and related intelligence services.

I do not underestimate the high moral of our brave army personnel. Through history, they have shown their bravery to the Afghans, but practically, there still is a long way to go. Parallel to that, the Afghan National Police has suffered the most during the fight against terrorism, and now needs to be more focused on maintaining law and order, rather than fighting against the insurgents which is unprecedented in other countries with a similar situation to Afghanistan.

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TOT: How will you define the role played by the media in Afghanistan? Is the role negative or positive? Give reasons…

Jamil Karzai: One can claim that of the biggest achievement of the Afghan Government since 9/11 is the freedom of speech and freedom of the media.

During the past decade, Afghan media played an important role of awareness and access to information and there has been a significant development in this field. Changing of analog to digital technology is a good example of these developments.

Now coming to your question that whether the media plays a positive or negative role in Afghanistan; there is no doubt that media played a positive role in Afghanistan, though there are several radios/TVs and publications that are run by some people who either represent a particular ethnicity or belong to some of the past war factions and, who in the eyes of many Afghans, are notorious and unpopular.

In particular, these people receive funds from foreign countries which in several cases are not transparent. That‘s one of the concerns Afghans have.

Cultural wise, there is also a dominance and monopoly of foreign media products in Afghanistan, specially the neighboring countries. I feel relying too much on foreign countries’ products will not only kill the sense of creativity among the Afghan media owners, but also avails an indirect, but massive opportunity for interference in our culture.

We need to be more aware of that, and we need to reduce the importing of foreign media products to Afghanistan, and instead, use this opportunity for our own initiatives.

On the other hand, the government needs to draft some clear policies towards the Media, particularly those which are funded from abroad and to make them more transparent.
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TOT: Since the start of the American War on Terror in Afghanistan, the nation suffers from serious violations of human rights, which undermine its position and progress on the international platform. How do you look into such a situation?

Jamil Karzai: Well, I think it’s a very important question. Since the Start of the coalition war in Afghanistan, the Anti Governmental Elements, the international military forces,particulary the coalition forces, the Warlords within the Afghan government structures ( in different capacity) were all responsible and accused of serious violations of human rights in Afghanistan. The night raids and bombardments, arbitrary house arrests and searchers that were carried out by the international military forces in Afghanistan are unforgettable and unforgivable by the people of Afghanistan.

There have been some serious violation of human rights and a breach of international humanitarian law (IHL). When the major violators are the international forces, how can one say that this will undermine Afghanistan’s position and progress on the international platform?

Yes, I also believe that the Afghan government is equally responsible for the current dire human rights situation in the country. The warlords enjoy full power and impunity in the Afghan government. Most of the human rights violators are among the top officials of the current government. So in Afghan public eyes, both the Afghan government and the international community are accountable.

The most recent and up to date examples of human right violation is being committed through the Afghan Local Police (ALP)  that consists of former war lords and criminal commanders who are unpopular in their areas. This was initiated by and is being funded by the US forces in the Afghanistan, which has now become a big threat to the local communities in Afghanistan.

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TOT: There has been talk of making peace through the peace commission in Afghanistan, to allow the dialogue process between the opposing parties /groups, , and by encouraging mutual partnerships of cooperation between the various factions of the Afghan politics and society to bring stability to our country.

How will you define the peace commission’s role in Afghan society in terms of promoting real peace and how will you rate its success so far in this regard?

Jamil Karzai: It’s always good to see talks and diplomacy going on parallel to military action.
But the important question would be how honest the Afghan leadership is to bring peace and stability to the area.
Since the establishment of APRP commission, there has been little done on the ground.

In my view there should have been several approaches in the process of peace and reintegration:

1.    Top-down approach: The Afghan government needs to open talks and dialogue with the leadership of all insurgent groups.  Once they agreed, the middle and low level of insurgents’ commanders will, undoubtedly, put down their weapons and join the process.

2.  Talks on the regional bases: The Afghan government needs to talk with its allies and international partners to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting and funding the insurgents and make them to talk with the Afghan government.

3.    Public should not be kept in dark: The people of Afghanistan are interested to see the transparency in this process. I think we do have the right to know who is talking with whom? Where? And on what conditions and bases? The Secret talks will lead us to nowhere.

The current APRT commission has failed to deliver its promises and has been unsuccessful. Maybe it’s time to revise all components of this commission and bring on board those who have a ‘WILL’ for peace. As the former late president of Afghanistan, Shahid Dr. Najibullah once said: “Love and support for peace are not enough, one must struggle for achieving it.” So, as long as there is no struggle for achieving it, forming the commissions will not be a remedy for the pain.

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TOT: How will you define the level of progress made by the civil society in Afghanistan?

Jamil Karzai: The civil societies in Afghanistan are on the right track. They have been very useful to pressure the Afghan government or to bring many matters to the attention of the government.

Meanwhile, the civil societies were given good representation role in many international conferences on Afghanistan to discuss the current affairs in Afghanistan, particularly the status of civil societies.

That is a green light, but there is more that needs to be done. First for the civil societies to be more harmonized and coordinated among themselves and for the government, to fully support them in their activities.

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TOT: What is your stand on the strategic cooperation agreement signed with USA? Many people view this strategic agreement as a negative development which, as they say, seeks to keep the people away from the control of the national government.

Jamil Karzai: Well honestly, let’s look into this matter from two different angles. First pre and than post 9/11: this country was the hub of all national and international terrorists. We were disconnected from the rest of the world. All the national infrastructures were destroyed.

Our neighboring country, Pakistan was deeming Afghanistan as their fifth province. The Durand line and other borders were out of control. Afghanistan was going through many economic and unemployment crisis. And we were the FORGOTTEN NATION.

After the 9/11 everything changed. We regained our lost identity. Now during the past decade there have been some significant developments in various walks of life in Afghanistan which cannot be ignored. Yes I do agree that we could have done a lot, but still a tremendous change in comparison to the 1990s. From my current view, we do need to support our long strategic agreement not only with the United States, but also other regional powers. We are still suffering from terrorism.

There are still threats for the territorial integrity of Afghanistan. Thus, we do support such agreements only if it’s based on the mutual interests of two states. We want a long term support for our security institutions. We need especially to back up them with providing training and equipments.

On the other hand, our borders need to be fortified from any neighboring ill-intentions against the sovereignty our country.
Additionally, the Afghan government needs to consider the balance within its relations with regional powers. In other words, getting close to US shall not end with distancing ourselves from Russia, China and others…

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TOT: The relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have always remained thawed and with recent shelling reportedly being done by the Pakistan Army against extremist groups in response to the growing cross border threats, it has now become a new bone of contention between the two states. So how do you look into the future of the relations between the two countries and what would be the consequences if these proxy challenges continued between the two?

Jamil Karzai: Afghanistan and Pakistan have never enjoyed good relations ships throughout the history. Since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, when Afghanistan cast its vote against the creation of Pakistan at UN assembly, none of the Afghan regimes (with the exception of the Taliban Regime) enjoyed good ties with Pakistan. Our animosity even goes beyond that. Afghans never recognizes the Durand Line which separates two States.

Because it’s based on the policy of “Divide and Rule” inherited from the British emperors. Pakistan has always wanted to have a puppet regime in Afghanistan. The current issue of border shelling is not a new phenomenon. There were several failed attempts of forwarding the border lines in our southern and south eastern regions. By doing so, Pakistan has two ill-intensions:

1.    By shelling toward the Afghan soil, the Pakistani Army and ISI want to clear the area for their backed-up terrorist groups in Afghan soil, as there is a huge pressure on Pakistan by the international community to take action against the insurgents in Pakistan, including the Haqqani Network.

2.    They want to put pressure on the Afghan government to give them an upper hand in talks with the Taliban who already enjoy immunity in Pakistan. The Afghan government won’t do that.

3.    The consequences of this breach will have dire results. Afghan nation is united in defence of their land with the cost of their blood. We have shown a unique patience regarding this matter so far. We still believe in diplomacy and trust our diplomatic machinery to engage Pakistan into a dialogue about this, or else the people will stand and take the matters in their own hands.

We believe in peaceful neighborhood and always want to have good ties with our neighboring countries. If not so, then we also ask for a reciprocal act. If they continue their interference, we will do the same. We have a proud nation and we know how give the intruders a historical lesson.

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TOT: Recently; there have been reports on the mistreatment of US soldiers in Daud Hospital and of human rights abuse incidents which took place in several hospitals, due to the corruption which exists in Afghanistan, which even now the foreign signatories to Afghanistan are worried about.

What do you have to say on this?  Has the government taken significant steps to control this mess which has made the Afghan nation more vulnerable and unstable?

Jamil Karzai: There is no doubt that the corruption in different Afghan institutions is at  its peak and the international community, particularly the PRT, military contractors, are equally responsible.

The Shahid Sardar Daud Military hospital is one of the best hospitals Afghanistan has.
For the first time, I did hear about this scandal from media. Honestly I don’t know about the details of  this “Million Dollars” allegation, but one thing I can confirm is that the patients have always been treated properly and based on the resources the hospital has.

I may not agree with the allegation that some of the patients were starving to death and there was no food for them. Or they have to buy the food and other stuff needed. But I am happy that there is a commission looking at this allegation, particularly if the previous management of the hospital was involved in corruption or money embezzlement.

Meanwhile, the US congress is also interested in this issue and willing to investigate further. So let’s wait for the   outputs and findings of these commissions.

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TOT: How will you define the role played by Iran in Afghanistan as the former is an important and one of the most active countries at large in Afghanistan?

Jamil Karzai: I would not see a much different approach of Iran in comparison to Pakistan. We see both states in one eye. But with a little difference that Iran is naturally not happy with the presence of US in Afghanistan and see it a big threat. The Afghan government raised its concern several times that Iran is fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan by supporting and equipping the insurgents.

In many occasions, the weapons confiscated from the insurgents in Afghanistan, had the Iranian Mark. On the other hand, Iran wants to support some of the Shia-belonged political parties and make a disturbance for the Afghan government whenever needed. On the other hand, the forceful expulsion of Afghan refugees from Iran, the ban on their children’s education, and mistreatment, are all the bitter truth that will definitely affect the relations between the two nations.

TOT: There were recent intelligence reports that claimed Iran is supporting and financing extremism in the country specifically the Taliban and its leaders. Even the local media is reportedly being brought under a greater influence of Iran. Please, your comments on this, and explain your own point of view?

Jamil Karzai: I have no doubt about it and have tried to explain it in the earlier question.

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TOT: How you will rate the progress of the current ruling by the Government of Afghanistan in terms of welfare and development of the country and society? What are the steps that have been taken so far for the development of the judicial and civilian administrative systems in the country?

Jamil Karzai: It will not be fair if we say there hasn’t been any progress in term of welfare and development in the country. We have hundreds of schools, clinics, and other welfare institutions build. Thousand Kms of road has been asphalted.

Free access to health and education has been promoted throughout the country. The foreign investments have been increased and thousand of employment opportunities have been created. But despite that, we could do a lot and achieve a lot.

The volatility of security situation in different parts of the county affected the local communities to have full access to the basic facilities of life. On the other hand, the deterioration of security situation limited the Afghan administration to deliver its services to the remote parts of the country.

In the civil administration section, there have been lots of challenges. No doubt that there have been lots of positives changes and developments seen. The civil service and reform commission has tried to make all the civil administrative recruitments more transparent, based on merit and open competition, but still the nepotism and recommendations of well connected powers, have a significant role in recruitment process.

On the other hand, corruption within the civilian body of the government hampers all the efforts made to reform the administration. So gradually, people’s hope for a transparent administration was fading away.

The judicial section is one of the most corrupted pillars of the Afghan state. To the extent that most of the people have no tendency to take their case to the Afghan courts, rather they prefer to settle any dispute through local mechanism and Elders’ Shura. In some parts of the country, the Taliban courts are functional and much speedier than the official courts.

People living under the Taliban governed areas believe that in Afghan courts, justice delayed is justice denied, while in Taliban courts not only justice is not denied , but also not delayed.

Despite all these challenges, the afghan government has struggled to fight with the corruption first and trial some of the judges who took bribes during their duty. On other hand, there were many training activities for the judges to upgrade their capacity. I think there is a strong need for a massive reform in our judicial system.

Read more on: http://www.theoslotimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6540:qaa-qwe-still-lack-the-air-force-which-is-the-back-bone-of-an-armyq-says-afghanistans-politician-jamil-karzai&catid=168:ex-interviews&Itemid=714

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvKzGBbhKp0&feature=g-user-u%5DBook also available on Barnes & Noble

Image

Life and Death Struggle Touches on the Meaning

of Separation Novel Tells of War and Peace

The Red Wrath: A Journey between Two Destinies is the story of young boy who lives in Afghanistan in the 1970s. But this intense novel goes much deeper than that.

The author ponders the nature of separation and why it can sometimes feel so cruel. But is separation really cruel or can it teach us something? Is separation the true test of feelings? Perhaps separation is a true friend, and through it we can hold on to our memories by filling different corners of our heart with those we have loved and lost. After all, what is it that we take with us when we die except for memories?

When we die and go where our beliefs have promised to take us, we go on A Journey between Two Destinies, where those who have died before have already gone. Then we can only wait for those who follow us.

THE RED WRATH: A JOURNEY BETWEEN TWO DESTINIES (ISBN: 978-1-61897-459-4) is now available for $24.50 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website:

http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar or at http://www.amazon.com or http://www.barnesandnoble.com.

 

WHOLESALERS: This book is distributed by Ingram Books and other wholesale distributors. Contact your representative with the ISBN for purchase. Wholesale purchase for retailers, universities, libraries, and other organizations is also available through the publisher; please email bookorder@aeg-online-store.com.

 

This book is also available on:

Official Site:  http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar/

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Red-Wrath-Journey-between-Destinies/dp/1618974599/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344990362&sr=1-1&keywords=the+red+wrath%3A+a+journey+between+two+destinies

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Red-Wrath-Journey-Between/dp/1618974599

http://www.amazon.co.jp/The-Red-Wrath-Journey-Between/dp/1618974599

Adlibris: http://www.adlibris.com/se/product.aspx?isbn=1618974599

About the Author: Born in Afghanistan, Hatef Mokhtar grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan. He is now working as the Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times in Oslo, Norway. “The cries and sorrow of my homeland inspired me to write this book.”

Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co, LLC 

 

Bibliography

  • ISBN-10: 1618974599 & ISBN-13: 9781618974594
  • Publisher: Strategic Book Group, LLC
  • Publication date: 7/31/2012
  • Pages: 474
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.06 (d)
  • Title
    The Red Wrath
    Subtitle
    A Journey Between Two Destinies
    Authors and contributors
    By (author) Hatef Mokhtar
    Physical properties
    Format: Paperback
    Number of pages: 474
    Width: 152 mm
    Height: 229 mm
    Thickness: 26 mm
    Weight: 691 g

Image

Life and Death Struggle Touches on the Meaning

of Separation Novel Tells of War and Peace

The Red Wrath: A Journey between Two Destinies is the story of young boy who lives in Afghanistan in the 1970s. But this intense novel goes much deeper than that.

The author ponders the nature of separation and why it can sometimes feel so cruel. But is separation really cruel or can it teach us something? Is separation the true test of feelings? Perhaps separation is a true friend, and through it we can hold on to our memories by filling different corners of our heart with those we have loved and lost. After all, what is it that we take with us when we die except for memories?

When we die and go where our beliefs have promised to take us, we go on A Journey between Two Destinies, where those who have died before have already gone. Then we can only wait for those who follow us.

THE RED WRATH: A JOURNEY BETWEEN TWO DESTINIES (ISBN: 978-1-61897-459-4) is now available for $24.50 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website:

http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar or at http://www.amazon.com or http://www.barnesandnoble.com.

 

WHOLESALERS: This book is distributed by Ingram Books and other wholesale distributors. Contact your representative with the ISBN for purchase. Wholesale purchase for retailers, universities, libraries, and other organizations is also available through the publisher; please email bookorder@aeg-online-store.com.

 

This book is also available on:

Official Site:  http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar/

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Red-Wrath-Journey-between-Destinies/dp/1618974599/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344990362&sr=1-1&keywords=the+red+wrath%3A+a+journey+between+two+destinies

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Red-Wrath-Journey-Between/dp/1618974599

http://www.amazon.co.jp/The-Red-Wrath-Journey-Between/dp/1618974599

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-red-wrath-hatef-mokhtar/1112442872?ean=9781618974594

Adlibris: http://www.adlibris.com/se/product.aspx?isbn=1618974599

About the Author: Born in Afghanistan, Hatef Mokhtar grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan. He is now working as the Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times in Oslo, Norway. “The cries and sorrow of my homeland inspired me to write this book.”

Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co, LLC 

 

Bibliography

  • ISBN-10: 1618974599 & ISBN-13: 9781618974594
  • Publisher: Strategic Book Group, LLC
  • Publication date: 7/31/2012
  • Pages: 474
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.06 (d)
  • Title
    The Red Wrath
    Subtitle
    A Journey Between Two Destinies
    Authors and contributors
    By (author) Hatef Mokhtar
    Physical properties
    Format: Paperback
    Number of pages: 474
    Width: 152 mm
    Height: 229 mm
    Thickness: 26 mm
    Weight: 691 g
Title
The Red Wrath
Subtitle
A Journey Between Two Destinies
Authors and contributors
By (author) Hatef Mokhtar
Physical properties
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 474
Width: 152 mm
Height: 229 mm
Thickness: 26 mm
Weight: 691 g

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