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.
Less than a week after Kyrgyzstan’s much lauded democratic elections, new waves of violence are destroying any semblance of due process in the country’s tortured south.
More than 150 lawyers defending ethnic Uzbeks in cases linked to June’s deadly interethnic clashes said Friday that they can no longer represent their clients due to numerous physical attacks against them and threats against their loved ones, according to Ferghana.ru. One of them, Kubanychbek Zhoroyev, said that over the past three days alone, six lawyers have been beaten at trials in Osh, while judges and prosecutors did not intervene.
The unruly mobs responsible for the attacks have typically been identified as relatives of ethnic Kyrgyz victims of the crimes being prosecuted, but some observers are skeptical:
Trial lawyer Dinara Turdumatova, who was also beaten in court, expressed some doubt that the assailants really were relatives of the dead and aggrieved. According to her, the same group of aggressively inclined women (40-50 people) appears at various trials and attacks lawyers.
The same week, three brutal attacks against ethnic Uzbek defendants and their relatives left several people in need of medical attention, with bloodied faces and broken bones.
As Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected parliament prepares to do battle over government posts, some of the country’s big men in uniform – namely, the recently appointed prosecutor general and his former colleagues from the National Security Service (SNB) – have fired nasty verbal shots across each other’s bows, raising yet more thorny questions about post-election stability.
The first salvo came on Friday, October 8, when Prosecutor General Kubatbek Baibolov spoke at the unveiling of a monument to opposition journalist Gennady Pavlyuk, who died last year after falling – with his arms and legs tied – from a sixth-story window. Less than two weeks earlier, authorities in neighboring Kazakhstan, where the murder took place, had arrested two suspects in the case and Kazakh media circulated rumors that Kyrgyzstan’s secret services had had a hand in the killing. Speaking at the ceremony, Baibolov promised he would do everything possible to bring the killers to justice and made some unflattering references to the SNB, noting it had long “persecuted freedom of speech and human rights and liberties.” According to some local press reports, Baibolov – himself a former KGB colonel-turned-businessman before entering politics – went as far as to liken the intelligence service to a criminal group and said its members would be punished for any involvement they may have had in the murder.
Three days later, the SNB issued a scathing response.
The contentious redevelopment plan for the city of Osh has once again reared its head.
Yesterday, Kadanbay Baktygulov, second-in-command of the national agency in charge of rebuilding the southern regions of Kyrgyzstan after June’s deadly clashes, said that Osh’s so-called Master Plan has already been “approved by the city authorities and discussed by the public, [and] now it will be considered by the government.”
Rights advocates have been worried about the plan -- which envisions building high-rises in downtown Osh -- since summer, saying it could lead to forced evictions from a few of the neighborhoods burned down in June. The now-homeless people in these areas, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, have begun rebuilding on the sites of their old homes with the help of international aid groups, but city authorities haven’t always been supportive. The mayor’s office, for example, didn’t give full permission for construction until August 28, contributing to delays in the shelter project. The city also balked at its obligation to clear away rubble, so building supplies had trouble reaching construction sites.
In mid-September, First Deputy Mayor Taalai Sabirov told EurasiaNet that the plan “exists” and would eventually become reality.
“If we don’t do it, maybe our children will,” he said. “The plan will go ahead anyway, though maybe not on the exact same blocks that were hurt.”
A court in southern Kyrgyzstan has sentenced two ethnic Uzbeks to three years in prison for writing “SOS” on the gate of a private home during June’s deadly clashes between the region’s Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, AKIpress reported Friday. The Kara-Suu District Court ruled that Uktomjan Ahmatjanov and Islamjan Husanov had incited interethnic conflict by spreading rumors that troops from neighboring Uzbekistan would come to the aid of local Uzbeks and by painting the SOS sign to help these forces – actions the court deemed to have turned Uzbeks against Kyrgyz. The men were accused of committing their crime on June 12, when many Uzbek neighborhoods had already barricaded themselves against armed mobs.
The conviction adds to a growing list of guilty verdicts against ethnic Uzbeks, who, rights advocates fear, may be getting a disproportionate share of the punishment for June’s clashes, which killed hundreds and displaced thousands. While both ethnic groups unquestionably took part in and suffered from the violence, a recent report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted that all 24 defendants in three major June-related trials (not including the SOS case) were ethnic Uzbeks, and many of them received exceptionally harsh sentences.
This, from a leader who stubbornly resisted any investigation into the massacre in his own country by Uzbek troops of hundreds of people in Andijan in 2005, and who in fact was still persecuting the relatives of the victims five years later. Various bodies of the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as Western governments and international human rights groups have repeatedly called for an impartial and credible international investigation of the Andijan events, and have been repeatedly rebuffed and told the matter was an internal affair and the police response appropriate to the security threat.
Calls for the independent investigation of Andijan was a staple of U.S. foreign policy in Uzbekistan, but in the last year, as relations have warmed due to strategic energy and security interests, the explicit call has been retired, replaced with occasional expressions of concern.