Kyrgyzstan’s security officials are not the most convincing bunch. So when they go on a media blitz warning of impending terrorist attacks, we naturally start asking for evidence and bracing for some sort of blast. This time, they are worrying Osh, scene of fierce ethnic fighting that left over 400 dead in June.
Speaking on state television on December 20, Keneshbek Dushebayev -- director of Kyrgyzstan’s KGB-successor, the recently renamed State National Security Committee -- reiterated a familiar refrain: Terrorists wish “to turn the Central Asian region into a blazing torch of destabilization for the entire world.” He did not produce any evidence.
This would not seem unusual coming from a Central Asian security boss seeking international sympathy, but a week earlier Osh Mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov, who prompts panic merely by opening his mouth, suggested the city is swarming with terrorists who are ready to blow up a bridge, a government building, or a kindergarten.
Myrzakmatov has repeatedly tried to link Islamic militants to the summer’s ethnic violence. As ethnic Uzbeks tend to be more religious than their Kyrgyz neighbors, between the lines Myrzakmatov is again pushing the idea -- widely held in nationalist circles -- that Uzbeks are responsible for the violence.
Surprisingly, he also said the Islamic terrorists lurking in the hills are the same radicals responsible for the 2005 Andijan massacre in neighboring Uzbekistan, when security services murdered hundreds of their own citizens, according to human rights groups.
He hasn’t presented any proof yet, but Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun says his office’s investigation has concluded that local Uzbeks began ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan this summer to carve off a piece of the country and join neighboring Uzbekistan. They then intended to overthrow strongman Islam Karimov, he said in comments carried by AKIpress.
Akun added that the Uzbeks started the fight but Kyrgyz then “finished it very harshly and more roughly.”
“The aim of the provocateurs was to create an autonomous region and make Uzbek its official language. They wanted to make Osh and Jalal-Abad regions an autonomous region of Uzbekistan. They had links with Uzbek citizens, rich Uzbek people who speak out against Karimov. And they wanted to overthrow Karimov and elect their person instead of him and rule all of Uzbekistan with Osh and Jalal-Abad regions."
Uzbek nationalist aspirations were one of the earliest explanations for June’s violence cited by official sources. However, convincing publicly available evidence has been scant.
As we reported yesterday, Kyrgyz authorities have said that two violent incidents this week were the work of Islamic militants. But authorities quickly arrived at this conclusion, without providing evidence, after presenting some odd accounts of the November 29 shootout in Osh and the November 30 bomb explosion in Bishkek. For the record:
At a November 29 press conference, Interior Minister Zarylbek Rysaliyev said nine people had been arrested late last week for attempting to destabilize the government with over 10 kilos of TNT. The group of ethnic Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and one Russian were reportedly arrested in Bishkek and Osh.
Authorities may not have nabbed them all, however. Within hours of Rysaliyev’s press conference, special forces got into a shootout with members of a criminal gang and/or terrorist group in Osh, with authorities killing at least four and detaining three. One apparently blew himself up. Some reports linked the group to the arrested nine. Reuters cited a police spokesman connecting the violence to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned Islamist group.
After much delay, bad press and political protest, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has decided to water down a planned police advisory mission to Kyrgyzstan, announcing that it will embark instead on a one-year project described as part of “a longer-term approach to police reform.”
It’s been less than a week since Kyrgyzstan’s most controversial mayor, Melis Myrzakmatov of Osh, resumed his duties after a poorly explained two-month hiatus, and already the city and its environs have been shaken by worries of land grabs and expropriation.
A group of ethnic Kyrgyz today occupied land belonging to ethnic Uzbeks in the villages of Kyzyl-Kyshtak and Ishkevan, just outside Osh. […] The group of some 500 Kyrgyz -- mainly from the city of Osh and the Nookat, Aravan, and Alai districts -- showed up in the villages in the morning with plans to divide the land into parcels.
By the next day, RFE/RL reported that police had arrested “at least 20 people,” but the number of demonstrators had grown to about a thousand, many of them activists from a group called Osh Sheiytteri (Martyrs of Osh): “They say they will not leave until the land is legally distributed among ethnic Kyrgyz.”
Southern Kyrgyzstan still simmers with tensions after June’s deadly clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. And the demands for reallocation of land along ethnic lines are eerily reminiscent of those that sparked modern Kyrgyzstan’s first round of bloodletting between the two communities 20 years ago. (That violence also began in Osh and spread to other parts of the country’s south.)
Ata-Jurt supporters, mostly angry young men, rallied in front of parliament October 25 with huge posters of mutilated corpses, which they insisted were ethnic Kyrgyz killed during June’s violence in Osh. According to recent polling data, most southerners blame the interim government for the deadly clashes.
Members of the winning, opposition Ata-Jurt party say forces within the interim government, who feel they lost the election, are deliberately stalling, provoking instability so as to cancel the results and hold a new poll, party insiders tell EurasiaNet.org.
Provisional President Roza Otunbayeva has called for patience while problems with a small number of ballots are resolved. Yet her circle, which was reportedly shocked by Ata-Jurt’s win, may not be keen on a final result being released until the interim government can ensure a leg up in the future governing coalition, the Ata-Jurt skeptics say.
Suspicious events at the house of Ata-Jurt leader Kamchybek Tashiev are further muddying the situation. Tashiev says the head of the State Security Service (SNB) organized an attack on his home on October 23. Hundreds of his supporters have rallied over the past two days, demanding SNB Chief Keneshbek Dushebayev’s dismissal.
The head of the controversial party that won the most votes in Kyrgyzstan’s recent parliamentary elections has accused the country’s intelligence chief of organizing an attempt to assassinate him on October 23.
Ata-Jurt party leaders said Kamchybek Tashiev’s security guards had fought off an attack by four or five armed men against his suburban Bishkek home earlier that evening. No one was reported killed.
At a hastily arranged press conference, Tashiev said the head of the State Security Service (SNB), Keneshbek Dushebayev, was behind the attack and called for his dismissal, in a move likely to further inflame tensions between the party and the security services.
“They broke in like bandits. They had weapons, Makarov pistols, and personal identification numbers of secret service employees,” Tashiev said, according to 24.kg. “This is why I can confidently state that these were employees of the State Security Service.”
Ata-Jurt, typically considered a nationalist party, has strong support in the South but little in Bishkek.
Japarov noted that Tashiev’s security detail was unarmed. Ultimately, according to Japarov, the attackers fled. However, the security detail managed to confiscate four Makarov pistols. Moreover, one of the attackers dropped an SNB employee ID.
o Yakin Ertürk of Turkey, a professor of sociology of the Middle East Technical University, formerly the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women from 2003-2006, also elected to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in November 2009.
Another former UN official Kiljunen invited to the commission:
o Ralph Zacklin of the UK, former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, member of the Special Commission for Inquiry in Timor-Leste.
Three other members are former government officials:
o Brigitte Orbett of France, judge of the Paris Appellate Court, Secretary General of the French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons.
o Rein Mullerson of Estonia, former First Deputy Foreign Minister, President of the Law Academy of Tallinn University, former UN Regional Adviser for Central Asia.