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FREELY North-south divide fuels Kyrgyz
mistrust By Ryskeldi Satke
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times
Online feature that allows guest writers to have
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Grievances over the
violence that shocked the Kyrgyz Republic in the
summer of 2010 are still felt in the northern and
There have been
numerous attempts by domestic and international
commissions to find the root causes of the
conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, but
neither has able to do so conclusively.
The findings of multiple investigations
have partially implicated the government of
Kyrgyzstan - several reports from international
organizations indicated involvement of the Kyrgyz
military in the ethnic
strife that saw mobs rampaging through ethnic
Uzbek neighborhoods in the cities of Osh and
Kyrgyz officials stick to
original statements announced by the State
Security Department accusing the Islamic Movement
of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union (IMU/IJU),
the Taliban, and the family of ex-President
Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev of fomenting the
However, Kyrgyz authorities have
not yet presented sufficient evidence of a IMU/IJU
or Taliban role in the conflict.
Meanwhile, the family of former president
Bakiyev, who was ousted in the weeks before the
crisis, remains on the run and is unlikely to be
apprehended in the near future.
close relative to the ex-president Bakiyev who was
detained, his brother, managed to avoid jail by
escaping from a medical clinic.
absence of the Bakiyevs, ethnic Uzbek politicians
are emerging as convenient scapegoats. Meanwhile,
human-rights groups repeatedly express concern
over torture in prisons, biased courts and
extortion by policemen. The aftermath of the June
2010 violence has created a massive exodus of the
ethnic Uzbek population out of southern provinces
to Russia and elsewhere, with 70,000-100,000
believed to fled the region.
opinion in the south reflects the official line,
that the ethnic Uzbek community is responsible for
planting hostility between Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks.
It is is no secret that opposition
figures, then headed by former diplomat Roza
Otunbayeva, offered high-ranking positions in the
new government of the republic to leaders of the
the Uzbek diaspora in exchange for support in the
south, where Bakiyev's base was threatening to
shake up the status of the interim government.
One of the political heavyweights in the
south, Uzbek community leader Kadyrzhan Batyrov,
took such an opportunity after negotiations with
the interim officials including close interactions
with current President Almazbek Atambayev.
After these talks violence erupted that
turned thousands of Uzbek blocks and businesses
into ashes and saw dead bodies in their hundreds
line the streets of two southern cities. The
Ferghana valley became a critical hotspot in June
2010 with the possibility of all-out regional
conflict was in the air.
According to one
report, co-authored and published by Norwegian
Helsinki Committee, interim government appointees
in the south implemented defensive measures in Osh
and Jala-Abad based on information from the border
reports of troops crossing from Uzbekistan into
Kyrgyz territory caused a panic in Osh.  The
scale of chaos in the hallways of the Kyrgyz
authorities during the ethnic bloodshed
contributed to the delay in halting horrendous
attacks on Uzbek neighborhoods.
human-rights activists and NGO leaders saw
indiscriminate killing by both sides, but the
higher level of deaths among Uzbeks suggest that
attacks on them by Kyrgyzs were premeditated.
Ethnic Uzbek activist Azimzhan Askarov
tried to tell his ethnic group's side of the
story, but he was sentenced to life in prison in
Kyrgyzstan in September 2010. It is widely
believed that criminal charges against Askarov
were fabricated to conceal the facts he'd gathered
from areas hit by clashes.
he had in his possession that showed how the
conflict had escalated in the Jala-Abad area may
have had a dramatic affect on the public's view of
the inter-ethnic tension. The government has
seized Askarov's files and still refuses to open
The Committee to Protect Journalists
has repeatedly requested that Otunbayeva and newly
elected President Atambayev to intercede in the
case of the activist, both officials have failed
to address the manner.
politics of the north-south factions The
mountainous landscape and historic culture of the
nomadic tribes of the country has for years
segregated the Kyrgyz nation into regional
subdivisions in the north and south.
division is one source of the political
instability that's rocked the Kyrgyz Republic for
almost a decade.
A fierce power struggle
among competing commercial interests lies at the
heart of internal politics, with geopolitical
events in the region of Central Asia complicating
The Western coalition's
military operation in the AfPak region has
impacted on the dynamics of domestic political
struggles. A regional feud between the US and
Russia has produced two coup d'etats in the Kyrgyz
Republic in the past 10 years.
One of the
distinct characteristics of Kyrgyz politics is the
entry of the immediate family members (or regional
clans associated with a head of the state) into
the decision making process after power is taken.
After both coups in the last decade, events caused
by the north-south factional contest paved the way
for a near collapse of the Kyrgyz state.
The latest parliamentary model has failed
to press ruling elites to move ahead with
long-awaited reforms in the republic, which
remains infested with corruption and constant
the circles of the northern ruling class that is
in control of the country's national finances and
resources. Meanwhile, southern Kyrgyzstan has
become a major drug trafficking hub for the Afghan
heroin in the region of Central Asia. UNODC's (UN
Office on Drugs and Crime) recent report states
that the city of Osh is a "reconnecting point of
the heroin shipments from Afghanistan."