Kyrgyzstan Protest Update

by Nathan Hamm on 3/9/2005 · 5 comments

For the latest on Kyrgyzstan–including some exclusive reports from the ground, click on Manas below at right
My goodness that hat rocks!Today’s Recap: OSCE inserts foot in mouth; Reports from people on the ground; Media on the protests; And, unfortunately, it’s not all coming up tulips.

The tulip banner is back for now. Though a good picture of the handful of yurts in the center of Jalalabad would make a great replacement.

And, before the roundup, I must give an obligatory tip of the hat to Ben Paarmann, with whom the wonderful information from young people in Kyrgyzstan would not be available. Thinking-East.Net, a project with co-blogger Christopher Schwartz, is seeking authors for all those who are interested or who know others who might be.

Anointer of Protests

Funny. Just yesterday Tim remarked on the stunning ability of OSCE bureaucrats to foul things up simply by opening their mouths. Well, congratulations to Markus Mueller for so gloriously speaking up and doing the forces of stagnancy a great favor:*

On Tuesday, the OSCE’s Bishkek office criticized the protesters for occupying government buildings and blocking roads.

“The election shortcomings may not be a reason for occupying government buildings and blocking roads,” said, in a statement, OSCE Ambassador Markus Muller.

Kudos! He managed to end up on the same page as the Central Election Commission and I’ll be damned if Yulia Orlova wasn’t in the midst of rapture writing this. Really sir, way to earn your pay. I’m glad a penny or two of my lucre made what is disturbingly close to a Western sanction of a government backlash possible.

It makes me wonder how bad it would have to be for Mr. Mueller to feel that such actions are justified. Personally, I’d want to occupy City Hall for a lot less than what’s in this report (PDF), and feel that the Kyrgyz have plenty of reason to be disrupting government the way they are.

*Though I should clarify that I don’t think this was his intention and is probably more a result of piss-poor phrasing and having too many political interests to satisfy.

Click “more” for protest news, disturbing developments, and remarks on the state of the situation

The Protesters

As for the protesters–people who may be better positioned to determine the appropriateness of their actions than Ambassador Mueller–themselves, check out today’s earlier post. It’s full of statements straight from the opposition and reports from the ground coming from local reporters and citizens. None of it would have been possible without the superb Ben Paarman of Thinking-East.Net.

EurasiaNet also comes in with a report on the election reactions in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for those who like to read one story.

IWPR’s report from the protests places the number of protesters in Jalalabad at 5,000, including 1,000 who came in from out of town (KelKel had mentioned there being 10,000, though crowds are notoriously easy to misjudge upwards or downwards depending on which side one stands). The state media is pretty much doing that at which the Central Asian media excels–not talking about the situation. They also report that police have plans to retake the Jalalabad government building occupied by protesters, but authorities are keen to avoid repeating the deaths that came during the crackdown on the 2002 Aksy protests (background here–police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing six, and causing months of nationwide protests).

Today’s RFE/RL Newsline says that the number of legislators willing to call an extraordinary session of parliament is up to 40. I keep hearing that 1/3 of the legislators are needed to call the session, and if that’s true and if the 1/3 is of both houses (because the sitting parliament is still bicameral), they’ve got it with a handful of votes for breathing room. However, nothing counts without 2/3 of the members in attendance (Article 62). I keep hearing reports both ways on there being an upcoming extraordinary session, so I’ll believe it when it happens.

Transitions Online has a detailed report by a local journalist on developments across the country.

Disturbing Developments

In Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city (which has a large Uzbek population and knows its share of recent ethnic strife), the mayor is eager to preserve calm.

The mayor’s office of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, is ready to introduce a state of emergency due to an unsanctioned protest organized by the opposition on the city’s central square, Osh Mayor Satyvaldy Chyrmashev told a press conference on Wednesday.

“The city’s authorities are ready to do everything necessary to preserve calm among Osh’s 500,000 citizens,” Chyrmashev said.

This came in response to a rally of about 400 people. It’s unclear whether or not the protest dispersed after negotiations started by the mayor’s office. Though it’s somewhat confusing, the protesters referred to in this story appear to be the same as these ones who, according to RFE/RL, didn’t actually enter Osh.

As much as Mr. Mueller’s statment bothers me, it’s nowhere near as nefarious as this one from the aforementioned IWPR article:

“Why should we fuss about it? They are demonstrating there in exchange for money. When the money’s gone, they will go back home by themselves. When we introduce a state of emergency, the opposition will regret a hundred times that it started this political intrigue.”–Anonymous official to IWPR

In closing…

Despite such statements. I’m cautiously optimistic. The TOL article notes that there seems to be a widespread dissatisfaction in Kyrgyzstan. And, it seems to expressing itself a little more forcefully every day. The government knows, given the reaction to Aksy, that a strong reaction is a risky proposition. Not that I expect 100,000 protesters to pitch yurts in Bishkek, but the chances for some kind of negotiated settlement are not too long.

Thanks for tuning in again. Keep coming back for the info from the local and international media and people on the ground.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 4 comments }

Jim Hoft March 10, 2005 at 12:14 am

You guys are doing a terrific job!

I totally agree with your assessment of the OSCE. They came out after the initial vote and said that it showed “improvements” while the other groups said…

NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society – which fielded the largest number of local observers – noting numerous violations including restrictions on the independent media and biased decisions by courts. Civil Society Against Corruption said the elections were partially free, open and transparent, but not fair as many citizens were denied the right to vote.

Now they are wanting the protesters to go home.

I am not familiar with the group but am wondering what kind of organization it is?

Thanks for the information and the great job you are doing in spreading the hope of this people.

Nathan March 10, 2005 at 1:32 am

Our pleasure, Jim. One of my personal goals is to use my experience in the area to paint an accurate picture of the region. And I’m glad that Ben, who has experience specifically with the democratization NGOs in Krygyzstan (he’s met Mark Mueller as well), is helping out.

The OSCE is probably right that there are improvements to the vote–in some ways anyhow. They are an organization that must serve many masters unfortunately, so they can be a little unclear. The deal is though, even if there have been improvements, I think that because the Kyrgyz have had a taste of what it’s like to have a civil society and democracy, they are much more willing to fight back. It’s hard to explain how different it feels to be in Uzbekistan than it is to be in Kyrgyzstan. It’s almost like a giant weight is removed from your shoulders when you enter Kyrgyzstan from elsewhere in the region. And, I think that the Kyrgyz can feel that weight being applied.

As for the NGOs you mentioned, from what I know, they are local. The former is linked under my politics links, but Kyrgyz websites are going down left and right. I don’t know if CSAC has a website–most of these sites I’ve found through KelKel. The pdf I have up from them comes from the head of IFES in Kyrgyzstan.

Ben March 10, 2005 at 7:53 am

Civil Society Against Corruption:

led by Tolekan Ismailova

Another local NGO, Civil Society Against Corruption, operates on a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, another American nonprofit. Its head, Tolekan Ismailova, a veteran Kyrgyz human-rights campaigner and opposition activist, just held a seminar on nonviolent forms of resistance, attended by Kel-Kel activists. She organized the translation and distribution of a 1993 revolutionary manual used in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia and written by Gene Sharp, a political scientist and senior scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston.

As mentioned many times before on Nathan’s blog, here, and here, it is not only about the distinction between opposition and government within Kyrgyz politics. It is much more difficult. This one might be symptomatical:

Tolekan Ismailova has joined the Civic Union despite misgivings about possible government attempts to manipulate it. Yet despite this she believes that “politicians have acquired a chance to influence the decision-making system”.

-> http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=8944

Also, quoting one of my earlier articles:

A fact that lies very much at heart of this dilemma is the culture that prevails within politics. The lines between government and opposition are not clear-cut, “We should not divide people according to government and opposition, but into categories of honest and not honest. If you go to Dasmiya [popular Bishkek restaurant] you’ll see the opposition sitting there with the White House”, a pro-government official told the International Crisis Group in one of their reports.

http://www.thinking-east.net/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=56&Itemid=56

Though not up-to-date, this report from EurasiaNet is pretty good:

http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav121602.shtml

I think this helps in understanding current events a bit better.

Ben
http://www.thinking-east.net

Arthur Edelstein June 9, 2005 at 5:43 am

The Kyrgyz version of Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” distributed by Tolekan Ismailova in Kyrgyzstan, is located at http://tinyurl.com/dujlh

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