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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora