The European Parliament has issued the latest appeal for Bishkek to allow an independent, international investigation into the June 10-14 violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.
The legislative body urged the Kyrgyz authorities “to immediately conduct independent investigation into the reasons of recent interethnic unrest in the country,” read a statement from Strasbourg, ITAR-TASS reported on July 8. “Perpetrators of crimes must receive just punishment.”
For weeks, foreign observers and governments have called on the Kyrgyz government to support an independent investigation. The idea has received widespread backing from academics and activists in Bishkek. Salavat Usmanov, head of International Relations faculty of Kyrgyz-Slavonic University in Bishkek, for one, says the inquiry must be led by outsiders “due to a sharp political struggle between different factions [in Kyrgyzstan].”
“All of us are somehow related to someone or to something here. Therefore, we need a totally objective and fair assessment of the events in the South,” he added.
On July 7, Human Rights Watch said Bishkek had requested help preparing an investigation, though no government officials have thus far publicly backed an internationally led investigation.
Mending fences and digging trenches: Tashkent isn't waiting for more instability in southern Kyrgyzstan to help control population movements in the Ferghana Valley. Here a hydraulic excavator digs a trench on the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border in Aravan District of Osh Province. July 2, 2010.
A song by an Uzbek pop diva about recent ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has created a fresh furor as Uzbeks and Kyrgyz continue to trade recriminations about who was responsible for the bloodletting that left hundreds if not thousands dead.
Pop star Yulduz Usmanova – whose music is wildly popular across Central Asia and in Russia and Turkey – has released a song in Uzbek about the violence in Osh, in which both ethnic Uzbek and ethnic Kyrgyz died but the Uzbek community appears to have suffered the most.
In her song "To the Kyrgyz," Usmanova asks emotionally: “What was this bloodshed for? Don’t you have a conscience? Ah, my Kyrgyz, how cheaply you’ve sold yourselves and destroyed your wellbeing.”
She also hinted at reports that the violence was instigated by provocateurs who paid locals to take part in attacks on Uzbek neighborhoods:
“Don’t trust every hand that gives you bread; don’t rejoice in victory for nothing. You’ve inflicted pain on the souls of my Uzbek people; don’t regret it tomorrow.”
“If you kill and strangle each ethnic group, who will stay in the land of the Kyrgyz?” Usmanova asks in the song, to accompanying images of people fleeing, people in burnt-out houses, APCs driving through city streets and houses belonging to ethnic Uzbeks painted with SOS signs in a desperate plea for help.
Unsurprisingly, the song has drawn criticism from cultural figures in Kyrgyzstan, who accuse Usmanova of stoking tension. Kyrgyz composer Gulshair Sadybakasova said singers had a responsibility “to promote peace and accord in society.”
Kazakhstan's leader had some surprise greetings as he celebrated his 70th birthday on July 6 – Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev not only sent his wishes via Twitter, he also wrote them in Kazakh.
“Today Nursultan Nazarbayev, a great friend of Russia, is 70 years old. Happy Birthday!” Medvedev – who’s known as an avid user of new media – tweeted in Russian, before continuing in Kazakh: “I congratulate you on your celebration!”
The shrewdly-designed tweet from the Kremlin will be well-received by Nazarbayev, both as testimony to his close relationship with the Russian president and as a boost to efforts to get Kazakhstan – where Russian dominates public life – speaking Kazakh.
Twitter has yet to take off in a big way as a social and media tool in Kazakhstan. Government officials are, however, eager to keep up with the times – Prime Minister Karim Masimov runs an active blog and the rest of the government is following his orders to do likewise, with mixed results.
Though officials in Kazakhstan’s corridors of power have yet to fully harness the power of new media, social networking sites such as Facebook and Russia’s Odnoklassniki are very popular among ordinary people in Kazakhstan, so much so that a Kazakh version, On, has recently sprung up. Kazakh pop stars are running blogs there, and ordinary people are busy taking part in the online exchange of views and looking up their old school friends.
Nazarbayev doesn’t yet have an On presence, but you never know – he may be lured into trying out the latest online trends by responding to media savvy Medvedev’s birthday tweet.
Cow-owners in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, must be breathing a sigh of relief now that they will be able to keep their livestock within city limits after all.
In the face of apparent disgruntlement, the authorities have had to step back from changes to the “Capital City” law made last year stipulating that residents of Dushanbe would no longer be able to keep livestock, donkeys, rabbits and fowl, Ferghana.ru reports.
As deputy parliamentary speaker Mahkam Makhmudov helpfully explained at the time, however, some animals were excluded from the ban (Interfax via BBC Monitoring, May 20, 2009):
"This ban will not apply to dogs, cats and domestic birds such as canaries, parrots and others, which are kept in cages.”
And what exactly is wrong with keeping farm animals in an urban environment, one might ask?
Makhmudov offered more insights:
“It is not unusual on the streets of Dushanbe to see a small herd of sheep or goats on municipal lawn. Often, in such a herd, there will also be one or two cows, accompanied by a shepherd riding a donkey.
There is nothing exotic about being woken up by a cock crowing in a city of one million people. The capital is not a place for livestock.”
The World Cup champion remains to be determined, but among referees, the tournament has produced a clear winner -- Ravshan Irmatov.
This World Cup tournament may be most remembered for its horrendous officiating, highlighted by the notorious non-goal call in England's elimination game against Germany. Irmatov, an Uzbek citizen, has so far steered clear of controversy, however, and has emerged as one of FIFA's darlings. He worked his fifth match of this World Cup on July 6 - the Netherlands' 3-2 win over Uruguay in the semifinals. He also called Germany's 4-0 dismantling of Argentina in the quarterfinals.
At just 32, Irmatov is the youngest referee at the World Cup. For all his matches, he has worked with two Central Asian linesmen, Rafael Ilyasov, a fellow Uzbek, and Bakhadyr Kochkarov, from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, a city that recently was enveloped in interethnic violence.
Prior to the Netherlands-Uruguay match, speculation mounted that Irmatov might be called upon to referee the final, to be played July 11 at Soccer City, Johannesburg. "Irmatov opened the Word Cup 2010 by refereeing the tournament's inaugural match between South Africa and Mexico. I hope he gets to be the man in the middle for the final game this Sunday," Malaysian referee, Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh, said in an interview with the Asian Football confederation (AFC).
Anybody who has spent any time in Osh recently knew that this was going to happen sooner or later.
As CA-News reports, shooting was heard in the Cheremushki district Monday night, creating alarm among the rattled inhabitants of one of the city’s most ravaged areas.
But as the Osh region emergency authorities’ press office explained, this was no repeat of the cycle of ethnic violence that first threw the city into chaos:
“In the course of search operations, a Defense Ministry offer was detained. At the time of detention, the officer was drunk and weapons were confiscated from him.”
Police Major-General Bakytbek Alymbekov, in charge of Osh during the state of emergency currently scheduled to last until Aug. 10, says he has demanded that heads of law enforcement agencies tighten control over their officers. Any breach of military discipline will be punished to the full extent of the law, he said.
This is an admirable attempt to instill some sense of order among the ranks in Osh, but it seems to woefully overlook the strained conditions under which many, frankly poorly trained, soldiers and police have had to operate.
Often lacking food, drink and rest, the very people expected to maintain order are themselves the cause of much enduring tension. In many cases, ethnic Uzbeks have borne the immediate brunt of this, with some having food confiscated by weary police.
Police sealed off a gravel road in Osh’s central Cheremushki district on Friday. Word spread quickly through the Uzbek neighborhood. Since ethnic Kyrgyz make up most of the security forces, the residents’ first response was fear: “We will be attacked.”
The details of how the recent violence in southern Kyrgyzstan started – leaving perhaps thousands dead – may never be clear. Yet for most Osh residents, the culpability is obvious. Uzbeks blame Kyrgyz and Kyrgyz blame Uzbeks. The two groups each nurse their own irreconcilable versions of how the region became deformed with fear and resentment. They generally go something like this:
Among many Uzbeks: “It was the Osh mayor. He wanted to clear out the Uzbek neighborhoods and build apartment blocks for Kyrgyz. Snipers attacked our neighborhoods. He wanted to move the bazaar out of the city, onto his own land. He had outside help from a third force, perhaps Russia, which may explain why Moscow didn’t send peacekeepers.”
Among many Kyrgyz: “The Uzbeks started a fight for autonomy by raping our women. Their leader Kadyrjan Batyrov in Jalal-Abad was using the weakness ofthe interim government to call for political representation. They don’t know how good they had it. They were arming themselves and we had to defend Kyrgyzstan.”
Of course Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh still talk to one another.Many have been neighbors for generations. But blame has settled into a set of isolated, stagnant mythologies; the narratives divide neighborhoods and offer little room for political reconciliation.
The recent ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has left children distressed and traumatized. Nearly a month after clashes broke out between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities, many children are still living in uncomfortable conditions, missing the homes they fled in fear for their lives and worrying about their futures.
I recently visited some displaced ethnic Uzbek children at a school in Osh where half of the 60 people living in the corridors are children.
Eleven-year-old Saidmurat Abbos-ogli fled with his parents and two brothers as armed gangs attacked their neighborhood of Cheremushki. “I was frightened that all the Uzbeks would be killed,” he said.
“I want to go home but there’s no chance,” said another boy, 17-year-old Doston Zakirov. Some families have no homes left to go to; others are afraid they’ll be targeted by fresh violence.
One 17-year-old said he’d received threats over the telephone from a former friend who’s ethnic Kyrgyz. He said the boy threatened to kill him if he returned home and told him ethnic Uzbeks should go and live in Uzbekistan.
Some of the children face dealing with the trauma without their parents’ support. Sixteen-year-old Rakhmatullo Madaminov is one – his father was hospitalized after being beaten up during the violence and his mother is a migrant worker in Russia.
“We estimate that around 150,000 children have been affected,” Anna Ford, Media Manager of the UK-based charity Save the Children, said. “Many of them are still suffering from emotional distress.”
After several years of trying (fruitlessly) to convince Moscow to cough up rent for the Russian bases in his country, Russia has offered Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon even more troops. Might this be an offer he cannot refuse?
Viktor Ivanov, the Kremlin's anti-drug tsar, says Moscow could again help protect Tajikistan's long and porous border with Afghanistan, RFE/RL reports. International anti-narcotics officials say the Tajiks could use the help.
Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's antidrug agency, met with Rahmon on July 1 and stated that Tajikistan needs help dealing with the increase in narco-trafficking from Afghanistan.
Ivanov said it is possible that Russian border guards who patrolled the Tajik-Afghan border until July 2005 could return to Tajikistan if "both sides had such an interest."
The Kremlin is eager to blame narcotics traffickers for the June bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan. Almost all Afghan heroin passing through southern Kyrgyzstan first transits Tajikistan. And Rakhmon, like other regional leaders, likely saw a Russian hand in Bishkek when Kurmanbek Bakiyev was unseated this April. It will be interesting to see if he has the "interest."