News / Asia

Ethnic Unrest Grips Southern Kyrgyzstan


Hundreds are dead and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes following a week of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan.  The victims have been ordinary people, including women and children.

Rape, pillage and plunder.  The phrase is associated with pirates and barbarians of old.  But such madness is widespread today in southern Kyrgyzstan, where an ethnic Kyrgyz majority has perpetrated a furious attack on the local Uzbek minority.

The official death toll after eight days of violence is around 200, but interim Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva says the actual figure may be higher; an exact count lost in the chaos.  Businesses have been looted and burned.  Homes have also been set ablaze. The United Nations estimates as many as 400,000 people have been driven from the area.  There are also numerous reports of young girls being raped.

In the city of Osh, Matlyuba Akramova says her 16-year-old relative was raped when she came out of hiding to bandage her father's head following an attack.

Akramova says a crowd saw the girl and immediately assaulted her in front of her father. She says what was done to the girl is not even done by animals.

An Uzbek doctor in Osh told reporters many victims are reluctant to speak about their experience.  And a researcher with Human Rights Watch, Anna Neistat, says the number of victims is difficult to determine.

"I just documented at least one case where I spoke to the woman who was raped and it is clear that this is not the only case. There are several other women here in the very same location, so I think by now I can say with confidence that cases like this did happen. The question is the scale," said Neistat.

Alisher Khamidov, a Central Asian researcher with Johns Hopkins University, says that kidnapping by criminal gangs is another crime being committed.

"They're taking hostages of rich ethnic citizens, and they're demanding ransom for their release.  So the state government structures are unable to restore order, totally," said Khamidov.

The United Nations, the United States, Russia and others are providing humanitarian assistance to refugees.  As many as 100,000 refugees may have crossed into Uzbekistan.  Others are huddled on the Kyrgyz side of the border.  

Already traumatized by the recent violence, many refugees face more difficulties ahead.  Calvin White is a mental health specialist with Doctors without Borders in one of the refugee camps.

"As each day passes they are going to be more and more wondering about their futures. And there's going to have to be some answers. And that's when the real stress is going to begin. It's when they get to that position when they are going to say, 'Now what? What's going to happen to us?'" said White.

Another question is what will happen to the perpetrators.  Alisher Khamidov suggests, perhaps, nothing.

"Several thousand young men have participated in the clashes that have taken place in the past few days.  And the problem is that it is very hard to identify those young men, because as soon as the conflict subsided, most of those young men quickly changed their hats.  Now they are civilian population," said Khamidov.

In a sign the violence is subsiding, interim Kyrgyzstan leader Roza Otunbayeva finally arrived in Osh.  Security concerns prevented an earlier visit.  She promised to rebuild the city and allow refugees to return.  And U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake visited refugee camps in Uzbekistan ahead of meetings with interim officials in Kyrgyzstan.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs