Kimmo Kiljunen, the Special Representative for Central Asia of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) told reporters in Bishkek July 22 that an international commission will begin work in August to investigate the recent conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan, finchannel.com reported, citing RIA Novosti.
"The purpose of our commission is impartial investigation of all facts connected with violence eruption in Osh city, Osh and Jalal-Abad oblasts of Kyrgyzstan,"24.kg quoted him as saying.
Kiljunen said representatives of the OSCE, the European Union, and the United Nations would be involved in the commission, and that the Commonwealth of Independent States has also agreed to participate. In response to a reporter's question about the possibility of including experts from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kiljunen said, "This concerns other organizations. We will look into the methods of such cooperation," RIA Novosti reported.
Kiljunen said that Interim President Roza Otunbayeva had agreed to coordinate work forming the commission, which would make recommendations to the government on how to avoid a recurrence of such clashes.
Nationalist press interpretations of the recent violence in southern Kyrgyzstan are adding to tensions throughout the country. Coupled with the refusal of both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks to assess their hate, these reports make peace seem increasingly elusive.
Kyrgyzstan's legislation prohibits the incitement of ethnic hatred, but the weak central government has not stopped the distribution of the chauvinistic editorials and reporting in the Kyrgyz-language press. Certainly, Uzbek Internet portals are distributing hateful messages, too, but most Uzbek media outlets have closed following the June violence.
In the Kyrgyz media, the xenophobic opinions generally follow three inter-related themes:
1. The violent events in April and June 2010 endangered Kyrgyz statehood. Bigger and more powerful states (read: Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) will “swallow up” Kyrgyz land. The Kyrgyz must fight for their state.
2. Preserving Kyrgyz statehood requires the titular ethnicity - the Kyrgyz - to assume their "deserved preeminent status" in the country. Ethnic minority involvement in politics and the economy must be limited because the recent events indicate their representatives (i.e. Uzbeks) are unreliable: ethnic minorities did not shed blood toppling the authoritarian Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April. Rather than work with the Kyrgyz toward building Kyrgyz statehood, the ethnic minority representatives sought political autonomy and language privileges, such narratives attest.
3. The main perpetrators of the June 10-15 violence are Uzbek community leaders and they must be punished severely.
Osh Mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov says he has security under control.
Here’s a revelation: Osh Mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov is also against deploying OSCE international police monitors to his besieged and frightened city. Reports 24.kg:
According to him, most of residents of the southern capital are against bringing in this OSCE group. “I entirely support the citizens and think that we are able to manage the situation on our own,” the city Mayor said.
According to him, now it is necessary to solve one of the most important questions – about restoration of Osh.
Yep, rebuilding; not stopping his security forces from torturing and killing Uzbeks, as impartial observers have widely documented. Isn’t it convenient? Most of what Myrzakmatov wanted gone – including those awkward Uzbek mahallas – was destroyed in the June bloodletting. Guess he’ll have to move that bazaar outside the city, after all.
Myrzakmatov, recall, is a powerful force in Osh. Appointed by former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, he emerged on the steps of his office a few days after Bakiyev's April 7 ouster and asked his people to show their love. (He failed to disclose how much he paid them.) Since then, despite widely being suspected of complicity in last month's violence, the infirm government in far off Bishkek has been unable to remove him.
He has a growing lobby: the thousands (or more) Kyrgyz who refuse to accept that some of their ethnic kin may have had a role in the violence. Osh sees rallies on almost a daily basis.
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.”
A Bishkek-based human rights activist working in violence-plagued Osh, who was interrogated over a false media report, has expressed concern that the authorities are seeking to hush up the real circumstances surrounding ethnic violence that has left up to 2,000 dead.
The Osh prosecutor’s office summoned Tolekan Ismailova and fellow activist Aziza Abdurasulova after media reports quoting them said 20 people had died during a security sweep in the mainly Uzbek-populated village of Nariman on June 21.
Ismailova acknowledged the reports were false – the official death toll was two – and put it down to a “technical mistake, which distorted data about the situation in Nariman.”
The two activists spent several hours on June 28 under interrogation at the Osh prosecutor’s office in an episode Ismailova described as “strange and alarming.”
In remarks quoted by the 24.kg news agency, she suggested the authorities may be seeking to hush up the truth. “The impression is forming that they want us [rights activists] ‘sent out’ of here to cover up the scale of crimes committed with the connivance of bodies of power,” she said.
For the last few days, the Uzbek government has been forcing back to Kyrgyzstan all refugees officially registered in Uzbekistan after fleeing ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan since June 11, ferghana.ru reports. The number of people affected has been estimated at 100,000. Only those who are too sick or wounded to move are being allowed to stay.
Some women and children who have lost relatives and whose homes are burned were told that a separate camp was being built in Uzbekistan for them. After they were forced to board buses supposedly to go to the new camp, they were taken to the border and told to cross back into Kyrgyzstan. Muhammadkady Karabayev, a leader of ethnic Uzbeks from Jalal-Abad, confirmed the story for ferghana.ru.
Only those were not registered and crossed the border illegally and are staying with relatives now remain in Andijan and Namangan regions, says ferghana.ru. They are forced to hide from Uzbek authorities. Uzbek human rights activists believe that the reason the Uzbek government is forcing the refugees to go back to Kyrgyzstan is that they want them to take part in the
referendum. They estimate that only several thousand refugees now remain in Uzbekistan, mainly in hiding. The Osh administration authorities have reported that more than 317,000 people were displaced by the violence, AKIpress.org reported. Some 600 ethnic Kyrgyz who lived in Uzbek neighborhoods and were forced to flee are now in camp for internally-displaced persons in Osh.
Kyrgyz interim government officials had offered to bring ballot boxes to refugee camps in Uzbekistan. Amnesty International has called for an end to the forced repatriation of refugees in Uzbekistan.
Officers exhume unidentified bodies they say are Kyrgyz and were hurriedly buried in an Uzbek cemetery.
Osh investigators have embarked on a macabre task that could stir tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities ahead tomorrow’s referendum on constitutional reform.
Early on June 26, Kyrgyz troops began exhuming bodies from a graveyard in an Uzbek mahalla (neighborhood) on Kurmanjan Datka Street. Officials say they have been ordered to dig up 10 unidentified corpses that were hurriedly buried during the ethnic violence that left hundreds – if not thousands – dead.
Officials overseeing the operation at the cemetery said the corpses are of ethnic Kyrgyz buried in an Uzbek graveyard.
“These are Kyrgyz corpses,” an Interior Ministry officer from Osh, wearing civilian clothes and a medical mask over his mouth and who declined to give his name, told EurasiaNet.org. “When the war [ethnic fighting] was taking place, they took them and buried them here. The local people did it. … These corpses are unidentified and there are Kyrgyz people looking for their relatives.” He did not provide any substantiation for the allegations.
Nearby, an elderly Uzbek man, visibly upset, was tending the grave of his nephew, Nabijon Korabayev, who was killed in the violence. As armed soldiers shoveled the earth out of a grave behind him, he knelt to pray by his nephew’s burial spot.
Troops kept other local people at a distance and discouraged them from talking to journalists. Contacted by telephone, one resident said there was tension in the area; troops have been conducting house-to-house sweeps and summoning some members of the community for questioning at the prosecutor’s office.
Interior Ministry forces from Bishkek guarding the graveyard during the exhumation said they doubted any reconciliation was possible between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the wake of the bloodshed.
“There won’t be any [reconciliation]. There are a lot of Kyrgyz casualties and they have relatives,” said one officer speaking on condition of anonymity.
Not available during Bishkek's greatest hour of need, CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha and his team are now paying a visit. They are in the Kyrgyz capital to assess and assist, the CSTO website reports.
The group's main tasks are to assess the military-political situation in the Kyrgyz Republic and assist law enforcement agencies of Kyrgyzstan in the aftermath of the riots.
The Moscow-led body refused Bishkek's requests for peacekeeping assistance when ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands.
Bordyuzha and co. will also visit Osh and Jalal-Abad, the southern cities hit hardest by the violence.
Needing two weeks to make a decision is not an admirable quality in a security organization. Or was Moscow too afraid to upset the CSTO's delicate balance by committing troops?
Earlier this week, Russia's drug tzar, Viktor Ivanov, said a CSTO base in Osh could help combat drug trafficking. Tashkent has long opposed the presence of Russian troops in the shared Ferghana Valley and Moscow has long sought a good reason for stationing them there.
A frequent critic of America's anti-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, Ivanov compared the proposed Osh base to "US military bases" fighting drugs in Columbia, RIA Novosti reported.