Islamists, revanchists, and now NGOs: With days to go until the one-year anniversary of devastating interethnic bloodshed in southern Kyrgyzstan, the country’s officials have stepped up their blame game, scoring big points for bogeymen and zero for justice.
The latest burst of finger-pointing comes from President Roza Otunbayeva’s official representative to parliament, veteran politician Azimbek Beknazarov, who said on June 3 that NGOs and human rights groups bear responsibility for the violence, which left more than 400 people dead last June. As quoted by AKIpress, Beknazarov said:
Why did the bloody events occur? The report by the chair of the national commission tasked with studying the causes of the events in the republic’s south, Abdygany Erkebayev, speaks of third forces, but does not say who those are. But I will tell you, as a lawyer, that the third forces are NGOs, rights organizations and rights defenders, which continue to pursue their own agendas.
How exactly Beknazarov thinks NGOs were complicit isn’t clear, but he did single out foreign groups: “It’s as if international organizations researching the events have struck a deal; they write the same conclusions, criticizing the government’s policies on the Uzbek population.” He also disagreed with the outsiders about his influential southern ally, Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov. Beknazarov called him a “hero,” while Western investigators have identified him as a “standard bearer of hardline nationalism” who “froze the central government out of the southern capital.”
It’s no secret that studies of June’s violence conducted by high-profile foreign groups -- Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission, or KIC -- have not been well received in Kyrgyzstan. All of them have ascribed some blame to local officials, particularly from the military and law-enforcement agencies, and are often seen in-country as pro-Uzbek.
This turns the reports and their authors into handy political targets ahead of presidential elections slated for this fall. (The KIC report, which concluded that systemic anti-Uzbek violence may have amounted to crimes against humanity, ruffled so many feathers that Kyrgyzstan’s parliament unanimously banned the commission’s leader, Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen, from entering the country.)
On June 2, President Otunbayeva acknowledged that Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan suffer from police abuse and other miscarriages of justice, a problem detailed in the KIC report and by rights groups. But few politicians raise the issue, continuing, instead, to pin last year’s violence on their favorite culprits: Islamic fundamentalists; Uzbek “separatists” and the kleptocratic clan of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. An amorphous blob of blame is customarily also laid at the feet of the interim government in power at the time, which included Beknazarov, who said that all of its members bear moral responsibility for June’s bloodshed.
Meanwhile, lawmakers of all stripes are jumping on the foreigner-bashing bandwagon. Deputy Kanybek Imanaliyev from the opposition Ar-Namys party said on June 3 that NGOs and international organizations are trying to divvy up Kyrgyzstan in a “Kosovo scenario,” while Altynbek Sulaimanov of the ruling Respublika party said the authors of the KIC report should never have been invited to present their findings. Sulaimanov pointed out that Kyrgyzstan is a sovereign state and should free itself from foreign influence. He didn’t clarify whether that also meant ridding the country of the tens of millions of dollars it receives each year in foreign aid.