Protesters Strike Back

by Nathan Hamm on 3/24/2005

Protesters Inside Main Government Building

Kyrgyzstan — Protests 2 (Bishkek 24 March)
Protesters mass in Bishkek today

24 March 2005 (RFE/RL) — Anti-government demonstrators in Bishkek have stormed and entered the Kyrgyz presidential compound.

Hundreds of protesters now apparently control the building, the seat of the Kyrgyz government. They are demanding the resignation of President Askar Akaev.

AP reports that officials could be seen leaving the building, although other reports suggest that some officials are trapped inside. It was not immediately clear where President Akaev was.

Bubukan Dosalieva, RFE/RL’s Radio Azattyk correspondent, filed this report shortly after protesters went streaming into the building.

“At 2:55 pm Bishkek time [1055 Prague time], most of the people demonstrating on Alatoo [central square of Bishkek] crossed the metal barriers surrounding the ‘White House’ and entered the government building. Many citizens forced their way through the police lines at the checkpoint outside the building and went in,” Dosalieva said.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators chased away riot police who had ringed the building after a tense standoff that turned violent at times.

RFE/RL correspondent Jean-Christophe Peuch was at the scene. He describes how police first appeared to hold the upper hand — and then quickly retreated in the face of the protests.

“The police forces, which are probably several hundred, managed to move toward the center of the square and repel the protesters, and it looked like the police forces had the upper hand for about two minutes. And then, after two or three minutes, the protesters managed to repel the police forces, and this is exactly the moment when the clashes broke out,” Peuch said.

Widespread Protests

The rally today began peacefully, with thousands gathering in the central square to renew calls that Akaev step down.

But the demonstrations turned violent after apparent Akaev supporters clashed with the protesters.

Anti-government demonstrations are continuing in other cities, including Jalal-Abad and Osh in the south, where protesters have occupied local government buildings. Several people were reported injured over the weekend as demonstrators set fire to buildings and a billboard.

The actions are aimed at forcing Akaev from office and overturning the results of recent parliamentary elections that left government-backed parties overwhelmingly in power.

Those elections were criticized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other Western monitors as flawed.

(with agencies)

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org


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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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