Registan is naturally far from the top of the information food chain when it comes to the situation in Kyrgyzstan. Reading these stories, along with our own attempts to parse meaning and motive from ethnicity and criminality, I’m struck by the lack of information available to anyone at all. Whatever the cause, the violence is approaching a state of chaos.
New fires raged Monday across Osh — the second-largest city that’s on the border with Uzbekistan, and where food and water were becoming scarce. Armed looters smashed stores, stealing anything from televisions to food.
No police could be seen on the streets, though authorities insisted some of the improvised checkpoints dotted around the city of 250,000 were theirs.
Cars stolen from ethnic Uzbeks raced around the city, most crowded with young Kyrgyz wielding sharpened sticks, axes and metal rods.
In some parts of Osh, Kyrgyz residents protected homes housing both Kyrgyz and Uzbek.
In another city beset by violence, Jalal-Abad, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away, armed Kyrgyz amassed at the central square. Their stated goal was to travel to the nearby Uzbek settlement of Suzak in search of an Uzbek community leader they blame for starting the trouble.
The Uzbek border is just 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Osh. Uzbek refugees were mostly elderly people, women and children, with younger men staying behind to defend their property. Some were fired on as they fled.
Internet news stories seem to have the news only as it gets edited and regurgitated from the forum and twitter feeds, and who knows how reliable any of those is? Without people on the ground or a government in power, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to describe the situation, let alone hope for a quick and merciful end to the violence.
The military presence is clearly not enough, as a military patrol in Jalalabad was almost hi-jacked by gangs of Kyrgyz men. Even though the military has been given permission (or shall I say ordered?) to fire on sight any and all violent looters, there are allegations that the military refuses to fire on fellow Kyrgyz men. It doesn’t take much more than this to make people start using the G-word.
But there may yet be a reckoning for some of those responsible, as “The commandant of Jalalabad Kubatbek Baibolov said that the authorities managed to apprehend one of the suspects alleged to have organized and carried out the mass ethnic riots in Osh.” (another link to that story, also Russian and one more from the BBC in Russian) The suspect will be charged also with attempting to overthrow the government, suggesting some connection with the government’s accusations that Bakiev & Co. are behind the riots. Perhaps even a Bakiev brother?
“You could say that it is well-known political figure.”