News / Asia

    Refugees Returning Home in Kyrgyzstan Face Difficult Conditions

    James Brooke

    In Central Asia, most refugees and internally displaced people from last month's interethnic fighting in southern Kyrgyzstan have returned to what is left of their homes. But the root causes of the unrest remain unaddressed, and experts say violence could soon erupt again.

    A swelling population is fighting over scarce farmland and irrigation water.  Migration to Russia for work, a key escape valve, has closed off.  And now there is June's legacy of 2,000 people dead and thousands of houses burned in riots.

    That is the picture painted by experts studying Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley.  Kathleen Kuenast, an American anthropologist with the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, says that half of the region's population there is less than 30 years of age.

    "It is truly the most fertile region, where anything and everything grows very well.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that it is the most populated part of Central Asia for the same reasons.  There is a lot of contestation over resources, primarily land," she said.

    In recent years, unemployed young men journeyed more than 1,600 kilometers north to Russia, where work was plentiful in the oil boom economy.  But with the world economic crisis, Russia's economy shrank, construction froze and tens of thousands of Central Asia workers were sent home.

    Thomas Wood, a Eurasia specialist at the University of South Carolina, has studied the impact of the economic downturn on Central Asia.  "In combination with this, as in the rest of Eurasia, Kyrgyzstan has been plunged into a major economic crisis that has been worsening in roughly the past 10 years.  The Kyrgyz migrant laborers for a long time were a very important component of the Russian economy as well as the south Kazakh economy.  With the global financial crisis, what you see is fewer job opportunities for them in Russia and Kazakhstan.  So you've got a lot of people from all ethnic groups who were working abroad, returning to the Fergana," he said.

    Twenty years ago, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia lost an outside arbiter to decide land and water use issues in an area that now includes four independent nations.  Since then, public services have eroded, pushing down levels of education and nutrition.

    Kuenast says that during Soviet times, many people in the southern Kyrgyzstan ate better and received better schooling. "We have truly a huge number of youth that are disaffected, that have half of the education their parents did, very little economic viability or hope," she said.

    Without jobs, young men cannot afford to get married, increasing levels of frustration.

    The U.S. government is giving $42 million in emergency aid to Kyrgyzstan, much of it directed at creating summer public works jobs for young men in the riot torn areas of the south.

    The interim government in Kyrgyzstan took power after riots in April in Bishkek, the nation's capital.  After three months, its control of the country is shaky.  In Southern Kyrgyzstan, ethnic Uzbeks say Krygyz government soldiers and vehicles participated in attacks on their communities.  Today, ethnic mistrust is high.  There are calls by Uzbek leaders for autonomy.  There are reports that both groups are arming.

    Zamira Sydykova, a former Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States, told conference participants that she worries that talk of Uzbek autonomy is increasing. "Autonomy -- it's one of the requests could come from Uzbek diasporas, Uzbek cultural centers and leaders who will try to play the game, who will try to involve in some of the political affairs of the country," she said.

    But Eric McGlinchey, a Central Asia specialist at George Mason University, told the conference that some form of local autonomy might be the only way to quell ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz tensions in southern Kyrgyzstan. "There already are de facto Uzbek autonomous regions in the south.  And it is not simply entire regional territories, but there are sections within cities that are mixed cities that are in essence autonomous.  So the immediate question is:  Do we give these de facto autonomous regions legitimacy or the does the government continue to fight to wrest control back from these regions?  A productive outcome would be to recognize this autonomy and try to create some kind of cooperative framework where there is local rule within the framework of the greater Kyrgyz state,'' he said.

    Kyrgyzstan is the world's only nation to host an American and a Russian military base.  Russia has had a military presence in Kyrgystan since the 1876, when Czar Alexander II absorbed the area into his empire.  In 2001, the United States opened a military transit center, a staging area for NATO's northern supply route to Afghanistan.

    Both bases are in the north of Kyrgyzstan.  A mountain chain separates them from the turbulent south.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora