Bishkek protest violence and “Young swords”

by Teo on 4/14/2007 · 1 comment

Protests turned violent on the 4th day as provocateurs circulated among crowds to incite over-reactions & discredit opposition at a rally outside the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Corporation office, where protestors were demanding unbiased media coverage of the rally. One of the instigators was beaten unconscious and a journalist from the nation’s leading news-site,, had his skull fractured by unknown assailants. The logic of immersing oneself amidst immediate enemies can only make sense if you are keen to make a point – or a scene. Or as one of the men paraded on stage in Ala-too square seemingly confessed, you’re paid 25 bucks (1000 som) by the government to kick up an unsightly fuss. Meanwhile, a journalist was beaten by unknown assailants.

Opposition leaders are milking support from these ‘planted’ incidents with rather extreme allegations. One opposition MP, Temir Sariyev, claims that hired thugs are poised to loot stores, acts which will be blamed on the protestors.

With Kulov & co slightly discredited with a low turnout since the first day and newly installed moderate PM Atambayev already working on reforms, the opposition is seemingly “left with no alternative exit strategies” and few clear aims, as this panel of Soros/OSCE-funded Bishkek Inst. for Public Policy analysts suggest.

The opposition has failed so far to achieve its declared goals while strongly damaging the opposition movement in general. There is a danger that the executive power, which has so far failed to become an effective institution, may decide that it can do anything with such a weak opposition.

For the opposition, a few incidents to distract and rally the people could be exactly what’s needed. And it’s not a huge leap to posit that the opposition might plant such diversions themselves.

The danger is that, with both factions contemplating strategic violence as a tactic, the situation could easily spin out of control. The swaggering theatrics of protest are a heady intoxicant for underemployed teens, goaded by banners such as this one (photo, below), which uses the logo of a naked blade to break down the kyrgyz word “kanjar” (sword) into its component syllables, “kan” (blood) and “jar” (abyss). Feliks Kulov’s ‘United Front’ name-choice is also strongly suggestive of a battle-alliance – at some level surely intentional. It’s hardly suprising then that teenagers are running around with bandanas over their faces like guerillas. Tonight, the fifth day, the protestors were put to sleep with a screening of ‘300 Spartans,’ a historical war film depicting a band of spartans defeating a massive Iranian army.

Paranoia is mounting in the opposition camp over further provocations, with reports of certain hunger-strikers allegedly spying for Bakiyev’s brother and yurt residents being reshuffled. In further news that’s sure to be used in the ongoing info war, one of the few remaining hunger-strikers died today.

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{ 1 comment }

carpetblogger April 14, 2007 at 11:03 pm

I’d be careful of the use of the world “lynching.” I don’t see any bodies swinging from scaffolding in those photos. [Teo: Edited out. Thanks for the heads up]

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