Protests, Clashes, and Arrests in Kyrgyzstan

by Nathan Hamm on 4/6/2010 · 35 comments

Most readers of this website surely know that protesters seized the Talas administration building and took the regional governor hostage after the detention (rumored or actual isn’t clear) of opposition politician Bolot Sherniazov. Authorities shut down numerous websites and eventually cut off access to websites outside of Kyrgyzstan. Police took back the Talas administration building and dispersed protesters only to lose control to regrouped protesters shortly later. Regardless of whether or not he was actually arrested in the morning, Bolot Sherniazov was arrested, as were Almazbek Atambaev and Omurbek Tekebaev. Atambaev, and likely the many other opposition politicians who have reportedly been arrested, was arrested on suspicion of fomenting unrest in Talas.

Numerous media outlets have plenty of stories about the day’s events with EurasiaNet and RFE/RL having predictably good reports. Throughout the day, however, Twitter has proven a good way to stay on top of things (and a bit ahead of the wire services and media outlets). At the bottom of the post is a widget that will keep updating with #freekg tweets.

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– 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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AS April 7, 2010 at 3:32 am

also an interesting interview on the Roberts Reports with exiled Kyrgyz politician Edil Baisalov

Noah April 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Baisalov is a journalist who was shot in the head by Kyrgyz security forces, not a politician.

Jeffrey Renz April 7, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Edil is actually both, having run for office in an opposition party.

Bigfoot April 7, 2010 at 4:08 am

It is one of those classical revolutions that devours its own children. I anticipate more people from Kyrgyzstan will leave for Russia or Kazakhstan looking for safer life. Most people do not like revolutions, whether they are “red”, “tulip”, “orange”, or “rose”.

Ari April 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

This really brings back memories of 2005, when I was following the Tulip Revolution on Registan.

reader April 7, 2010 at 10:57 am

I knew a woman whose relatives participated in the last Kyrgyz rebellion. For her it was basicalyl giving those Northern Kyrgyz what for and taking the government buildings. Didn’t have the heart to explain that the buildings have symbolic value, but that’s not where government happens.

These color revolutions do reflect frustration with economics and regimes, and plain-old familial jealous. But importantly, there isn’t an broad-based intellectual element to these movements. These revolutions are just about getting at “bad apples”, not at systemic changes that demand something from everybody. Nobody questions society as a whole, so you just replace one crook with another. Beyond a small engaged few, Westerners never seem to get this. When the color revolutionists yell for freedom, they are just parroting words (if the truth be known, the same could be said of many Westerners see Tea Party). There is a very small group, but growing, of young people who are genuinely committed to change. But based on my impressions they end up completely disillusioned and emigrate, or are hopelessly unrealistic, or they buy into the system and offer platitudes, which you know they can’t believe.

Oldschool boy April 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Do not be naive. All revolutions are like that. I am not talking about Ukraine and Georgia, because they weren’t really revolutions. But at the end the result is similar – frustration and reaction.
Only few people really believe in change and they are the most disappointed ones, most participants are thugs who like violence. There are lots of criminals who escape from prisons and do all the looting and robbery. Majority of population are just victims, hostages of those revolutionists.
So, there will be killing, raping, burning, looting, lost homes, destroyed businesses, lost jobs, and etc. Instead of old thugs in power there will come new ones, it’s a vicious circle.
It is sad.

reader April 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

“Do not be naive. All revolutions are like that.”

I’d disagree on the revolutions, but if you look at what I wrote, you’d see I’m basically in agreement on this. Insofar as authoritarian regimes go, the problem is a natural human tendency towards authoritarianism that is exacerbated because of a lack of cultural or structural checks against abuses of power.

Fnord April 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm

“Only few people really believe in change and they are the most disappointed ones, most participants are thugs who like violence. ”

With all due respect, thats bull*. If you look at the Romanian, Serbian, and for that sake the Icelandic revolution, you will se that that the level of violence seems to be in a direct scale to the level of violence that the government is willing to resort to. The schwerpunkt of any revolution are the armed forces, if they dont agree to kill their mothers and/or friends, then the revolution will usualy win.

oldschool boy April 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Which Romanian and Serbian revolutions do you mean? What happened, what changed, how many people died? Who mostly benefited?

Fnord April 7, 2010 at 11:09 am

Hmm, on Norwegian television they are showing images of the police fleeing for their lives and relaying messages that the president and PM are holed up in their offices, without the ability to leave.

Ian April 7, 2010 at 11:19 am

Rumors on Twitter and Regnum are saying Bakiev’s plane took off.

Jay April 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Here’s the latest I’ve heard. New government is now being put into place at this moment. Bakiev left a few hours ago in his own personal plane. Rosa Otunbaeva is heading up a four person commission to lead the country until a president can be either elected or appointed. There are calls for Tekebaev to be the new president.

MamaShift April 7, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Such memories flooding in today. I was RighteousBiche back in 2005. So violent this time around.

Jay April 7, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Its more violent because Bakiev took central control of inner security forces, through his son and others, as he knew what he was doing was very unpopular.

Ian April 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I’m assuming this event is canceled:

Turgai April 7, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Euh… why? :))))

Turgai April 7, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Karimov, take note.

DePetris April 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I’m always a little skeptical of street protests, regardless of where they occur. On the one hand, the people of Kyrgyzstan are exercising what should be their democratic rights in denouncing and protesting the government’s corruption and ineptitude. On the other hand, dozens of people are being killed. There is no many things going on up-to-the-minute that its downright impossible to say that the opposition has won.

Not to mention that street protests haven’t really been all that useful for the Kyrgyz’s before. The administration being driven out today is the same administration that was brought to power by protests in 2005.

Fnord April 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Message on Norwegian TV says that the opposition is now in control, the PM has resigned and the president has taken off…

Jeffrey Renz April 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Let’s add some context to this discussion. First some recent reports: KG24 reports that Bakiev and the Defense Minister flew to Osh and that the Osh city administration confirms that he is there. Maxim Bakiev (son) has flown to DC and the Embassy isn’t sure what to do about him.

Bakiev came to power as a southerner. Notice that all of the activity is in the north. Kyrgyzstan, for all its wish to be a republic, is a society driven by family-clan-tribal ties–and even that is an understatement. That prevents the development of of a government along the lines that we recognize–one that looks to the commonwealth of the entire country.

In Bakiev’s case, as in Akaev’s case, so long as the graft is spread around and opportunities for power are shared, the government will last. When power, and the wealth that follows it, is concentrated, we have Tulip Revolutions and the current crisis, which was exacerbated by electricity and mobile phone rate increases–both of which benefit those in power.

oldschool boy April 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm

To those who romanticize revolution, my advice: read Anatole France’s Penguin Island.

Laurence April 7, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Could someone post some background items on the various leaders of this movement? I had thought Otunbaeva was pro-US in 2005. Now she is portrayed in the media as pro-Russia. Who’s who? What’s what? Who’s backing who? Etc. I’m sure Registan has some expert readers who can give us a scorecard, etc…I’d like to know what the media isn’t telling us…from the North-South divide to the possible role of Iran, China, Russia, the US, and so forth. Analysis, please!

jonathan p April 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm

My thoughts exactly, Laurence! I’d love to hear from people who have insight (or even informed opinons) about the players and the behind-the-scenes action here…

Oldschool boy April 8, 2010 at 5:52 am

Read too many spy books, eh? It is not 24 with Jack Bauer or some strategy video game, it is a real world, chaos, where what happens depends on everybody and of nobody.

jonathan p April 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

Chaos that depends on everybody and nobody? Cool phrase, but I’d argue that in the ‘real world” there are influential forces that contribute to outcomes. Understanding those forces and the interplay between them helps makes a modicum of sense out of events like this one. I don’t think anybody is saying there’s only one right way to analyze these events, justthat some analysis would be helpful. 🙂

Metin April 8, 2010 at 3:03 am

just wonder why Americans have their military base in a volatile country like Kyrgyzstan. The regimes be it more democratic (Akaev, who btw puts blame for revolution in his country on americans), or less (Bakiev) were changing their choices based on who pays more. The latter ended up with bases of both russians and americans, kind of prostitute sleeping with two clients at once. What will be like if regime changes – probably nothing will change dramatically.
seems like americans do not care that much about reliability of partners. Otherwise they wouldn’t have left more stable/reliable Uzbekistan.

Grant April 8, 2010 at 9:15 am

God forbid that a state pressured by two very powerful states try to get a good deal from them. And I note that you seem to push the concept of Uzbekistan as a stable partner regardless of the topic.

Metin April 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I note that you seem to push the concept of Uzbekistan as a stable partner regardless of the topic.

on this topic, do you think the opposite?

Grant April 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm

The point was that it wasn’t precisely on topic.

Metin April 9, 2010 at 2:51 am

got your point. But comment is on topic.

jonathan p April 8, 2010 at 10:13 am

Remember it was Uzbekistan who kicked the US out of Karshi-Khanabad after the instability caused by the Andijan incident.

Metin April 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

do you think it kicked out US without a reason?
or maybe US didn’t want to pay for the base the price Uzbeks asked?
or was it conflict of interests between State Dep and Pentagon?
it is more complicated than what remind about.

Laurence Jarvik April 8, 2010 at 11:00 am

Is Uzbekistan involved in this? I think Uzbekistan played a role in the Tajik civil war…they have interests (and Uzbeks) in Kyrgyzstan, certainly…

Jay April 8, 2010 at 11:59 am

I would hope that Bakiev really doesn’t want to stir up trouble by trying establish power in Osh. It could turn ugly with Uzbeks vs. Kyrgyz when I am sure at that point Uzbekistan just wouldn’t stand by and watch. Lets hope he calms down and just comes to his senses at this point.

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