News / Europe

Ethnic Tensions Linger as Kyrgyzstan Prepares for Elections

People hold posters with pictures of their killed relatives during a rally near the office of former Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev's Ata-Zhurt party in Bishkek on 6, Oct. 2010.  Parliamentary elections are set for Sunday, the tenth.
People hold posters with pictures of their killed relatives during a rally near the office of former Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev's Ata-Zhurt party in Bishkek on 6, Oct. 2010. Parliamentary elections are set for Sunday, the tenth.

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

On Sunday, three months after ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan exploded into a conflict that left hundreds dead, voters are to select a new parliament to create Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy.

But in the southern city of Osh, where much of the killing unfolded, residents are still trying to put their lives back together.



For example, it took two months for the Kyrgyz-controlled City Hall to allow ethnic Uzbeks to clear debris from their burned out homes.  Rebuilding is slow and as winter approaches, people are living in tents. A new pane of glass or a freshly laid brick is a rate sight.  

Ethnic-Uzbek shopkeeper Khamid Badalov says his family has lived in Osh for generations.  He wants to rebuild for his wife and three children, but has nothing left. Everything burned down except his shirt and trousers, says Badalov.  Everything he owned and all the money is gone.

Uzbeks struggle or flee

With the army and police composed almost entirely of ethnic Kyrgyz, the Uzbeks were the losers in what people in Osh now call simply ''the war.''  Army and police units were seen supporting armed groups of Kyrgyz civilians.

The Kyrgyz must be disarmed, otherwise there will never be peace, says unemployed Uzbek construction worker Pazyklov Bokhodir. As he speaks, a neighbor approaches to show a foreign reporter photos of the bodies of her two adult sons.  Koraboeva Ehtibar says her sons were defending the neighborhood last June, when they were shot by Kyrgyz snipers posted on Suleiman Hill, normally a city tourist attraction.

Now there are reports that young Uzbek men are going to Tajikistan for weapons training.  Eager for revenge, they are easy recruits for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a religious fundamentalist group.

For young men, little holds them in southern Kyrgyzstan.  Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks, the wealthiest and best educated, left Osh this summer, largely for Russia, where they can work without visas.

One English-speaking ethnic Uzbek, who asked not to be identified, is applying for asylum in Canada, saying "Most of my friends have left Kyrgyzstan since July and August.  On Sunday my best friend left to Russia, to Moscow, where he went to start a new life."

With the ethnic Uzbek elite gone, working class Uzbeks find that Kyrgyz will not hire them.  Bokhodir, who has worked as a construction worker across the Soviet Union, says discrimination is now the rule in Osh.

Kyrgyz grieve losses

From the other side, ethnic Kyrgyz like Talas, a lawyer, say the Uzbeks historically profited at the expense of Kyrgyz.  Of 40 restaurants in Osh, says Talas, 35 were owned by Uzbeks, of 40 luxury cars, 35 were owned by Uzbeks, of three story houses, most were owned by Uzbeks.

Many Kyrgyz say the outside world overlooks their losses in "the war."

Kyrgyz activist Abdieva Turgunai showed VOA photos of 269 bodies she says are Kyrgyz victims of the June violence.

Pointing to one, she says "He was a good businessman. They knew that he lived in good conditions and so they killed him, their own neighbor.  And they burned down his three-story house.  And they wrote 'Kyrgyz are rags.'"

But Turgunai is confident of Kyrgyz control in Osh.

While she talks, a crowd gathers outside city hall to back Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov, a Kyrgyz nationalist politician who has closed Uzbek-language media outlets, blocked the arrival of European police observers, and slowed the rebuilding of Uzbek neighborhoods.

Dim hopes for reconciliation

Past bloodletting and today's polarization do not make for an easy political future for Kyrgyzstan.

Ethnic Uzbek journalist Alisher Khamidov is not optimistic.

"We will not have a legitimate parliament.  We do not have an effective judiciary that could resolve electoral disputes.  What we have is a sea of arms, weapons, guns  in the hands of ordinary people so my concern is that the electoral disputes that we might witness during the October election may spill over may provide an avenue for these various political forces to clash," Khamidov says.

After this interview, Khamidov left Osh for the United States and applied for political asylum.  Last week in Bishkek, an independent commission studying the violence said a new outbreak of ethnic fighting "is a highly probably scenario.''

Related video report

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid