More on Kyrgyzstan…

by Christian Bleuer on 6/15/2010 · 18 comments

First up, I don’t really check for comments that are pending approval. But I did today and found this comment detailing the experience of a Peace Corps volunteer who was almost killed in Osh (good work by the Osh fire department). It seems that the Peace Corps made an excellent decision in hiring local Kyrgyz gunmen to rescue the volunteer from their besieged building, especially considering that the car was checked for Uzbeks at a roadblock. A Blackhawk full of US Marines or Rangers probably could have rescued them, but not as quietly as the locals did. That’s scary stuff, but of course almost nothing compared to what’s happening to some locals.

Also, the IU academic mafia (past and present) responded to my earlier article here and here. They’re more familiar with the area than me, so you should probably read their lengthy comments.

In other news, Bakiev said this:

He accused the interim government of having “absolutely no control over the situation” and denied that he or members of his family had a hand in the upheaval.

The country’s leaders, he said, “should stop blaming everything on me, my family, or the previous government. Instead of protecting the people’s safety, instead of trying to resolve the situation and ease the tension, they are only involved in persecution, prosecution, and intimidation.”

Bakiev also called on the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-dominated regional security bloc, to send forces to quell the unrest, saying the move is needed “bring the situation back to normal.”

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government, which took power in the wake of Bakiev’s ouster, has called on Russia to send peacekeeping troops, but Moscow has said it does not have a mandate to act independently.

So, Bakiev and the current government agree: Russian troops are needed urgently. That requires an update on the theory that Bakiev is orchestrating this whole thing…to end up agreeing with Otunbaeva? I thought he wanted this chaos? CSTO troops will have the effect of strengthening the interim government. But I’m sure the people who see Bakiev as the mastermind will make the required adjustments to their arguments.

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tictoc June 15, 2010 at 2:36 am

YOU MUST EDIT OR DELETE that post attributed to the Peace Corps volunteer. That is a violation of Peace Corps policies … policies that exist because they’re necessary for the safety of PC volunteers. I would bet that volunteers in the northern parts of the country have not been evacuated, and something like this attributed to a PC volunteer could put the lives of those other very exposed volunteers at risk.

Christian Bleuer June 15, 2010 at 2:53 am

Well, then they shouldn’t have posted it all over the internet. It’s on Facebook, on other blogs and on DIGG, which has a rather large number of viewers. They clearly wanted their account to be heard.

You can take it up with Nathan if you think I’m somehow endangering Peace Corps volunteers in northern Kyrgyzstan.

tictoc June 15, 2010 at 3:11 am

Other PCV’s from Osh have blogs also and have been much more careful about what they say. The fact that a “friend of a friend” decided it was ok to copy and post this elsewhere doesn’t mean that the volunteer intended for it to get out there in this way. If this volunteer wanted that posted on, he/she could have done it themselves. It certainly doesn’t seem like it was cross posted with permission. PC volunteers have been fired and kicked out of Kyrgyzstan for less than this.

Christian Bleuer June 15, 2010 at 3:20 am

Well, the Peace Corps can talk to Nathan or he can make a decision on his own. It’s his website. I’m sure he’ll notice this soon.

Nathan Hamm June 15, 2010 at 6:50 am

tictoc, I took it down for the time being. Having been a Peace Corps Volunteer and knowing the sensitivities that are attached to comments like that as well as knowing the Andijon volunteer who got in trouble for posting updates in May, 2005 that were highlighted here, I figure it’s the most prudent thing to do for the time being.

For what it’s worth, it looks like someone at Peace Corps posted the comment.

Christian Bleuer June 15, 2010 at 6:57 am

Looks like someone really wants to get their story out. See R.B.’s link below to his Peace Corps story.

Nathan June 15, 2010 at 8:26 am

Yep. R.B. appears not to be the person who wrote what was in that comment. Applying my deeply scientific knowledge of the kinds of things Peace Corps as an institution worries about, the differences in details make all the difference between the two.

R.B. Moreno June 15, 2010 at 6:33 am

Here’s another account of related events: Exit Osh.

Christian Bleuer June 15, 2010 at 7:03 am

Thanks for posting your account of escaping from Osh. Glad to hear that you are all safe.

tictoc June 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Peace Corps volunteers aren’t allowed to publicly comment on the political situation in their country of service or do media/press without advance permission for a reason. They usually say really stupid sh*t that gets people in trouble.

Case in point, Raul Moreno, after having been a PCV for something like a week, decided to ignore the warnings and publish anyways. Peace Corps has told him to remove his post, but nevertheless, it’s out there and you can find a nice little blog post where his account is used as an example of how ” … groups like the Peace Corps must inevitably wind up supporting warlords, mafia dons, and terrorists. This case is obviously neither the first, nor the last. Of course, the Kyrgyz gunmen are the ones terrorizing and killing the Uzbek minority fleeing for their lives. Your US tax dollars at work.” Isn’t that cute how he implies US taxpayers are funding the killing of Uzbeks?

Let’s be realistic. The priority for the US in Kyrgyzstan is the “transit center” supporting operations in Afghanistan. If the “powers that be” decide PC volunteers are a liability in maintaining good relations with whatever government is in power, that post will get shut down. Assuming the government of Kyrgyzstan doesn’t kick PC out first. PC was kicked out of Uzbekistan after Andijon in 2005.

If PCVs want to stay and continue to work in Kyrgyzstan, stuff like this isn’t helping matters.

Reader June 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more tictoc.

Nathan, could you please take down my post (#16) in Kyrgyzstan Violence: Conspiracies Abound. It contains two paragraphs from an unnamed Volunteer author of the same letter you took down for Anan.

Nathan Hamm June 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm

No problem.

Grant June 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I find it strange that you would find it so offensive that a Peace Corp volunteer would post something. Would you (or we) be expected to have the revulsion if it were a leak from the CIA to a newspaper or a U.S soldier speaking off the record?

tictoc June 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Peace Corps volunteers are not employees of the CIA or the US military, but thank you for making that link and confirming Russian propaganda that all PCVs are spies gathering data for military and political purposes. The Kremlin thanks you for your service.

Let me explain the Peace Corps security model. PCVs do not (usually) live in secure compounds surrounded by armed guards and blast walls. They live at about the same level as the locals and what is supposed to keep them safe is “community integration and acceptance.” Basically, the community accepts you as one of their own and protects you as such.

In addition, Peace Corps works at the invitation of the local government. So, for PCV’s to live safely in-country, Peace Corps needs to be viewed (at the very least) as non-threatening and innocuous. In practice, that means Peace Corps and volunteers need to keep their mouths shut when it comes to local political matters. I would call this the “keep your head down” security model.

There have been comments on a local, Russian-language discussion board that “foreigners are lying, it’s the Kyrgyz who are suffering, foreigners are using this to smear the reputation of the Kyrgyz people”. If people start saying that about PCVs because of what they read in a blog post, and it becomes, “PCVs are smearing the reputation of the Kyrgyz people,” what happens the next time a hysterical armed mob stops a vehicle with volunteers in it?

I think there are a lot of great volunteers in Kyrgyzstan doing good work, and I find if offensive that one person would decide that his individual right to bring attention to himself is more important than the safety of other volunteers or the continuation of the Peace Corps program in Kyrgyzstan. I would hate to see the program shut down.

There are lots of people reporting on what’s happened in Osh. This isn’t Andijon 2005. It may have taken a while for the Osh events to show up in western news media, but it’s not as if the interim government of Kyrgyzstan has been able to keep foreign media out of the area (as was the case with Uzbekistan). So, it’s wrong to characterize this as a “brave individual standing up to government censorship to reveal a big important secret.” [I believe the comment that Christian originally linked to was private email correspondence that was posted publicly without the author’s permission.]

What these volunteers went through makes for a compelling human interest story and I definitely found it interesting reading. However, it’s more appropriate for a volunteer memoir published well after these events have passed and the situation has cooled down.

Anon June 15, 2010 at 10:42 am

The account is there because PC has no comment. The usual excuses are only friends and family, ‘we’re mourning(which might be the case)’ or national security. If PC had a statement we’d know what’s going on. They don’t and won’t. Blogs are relied on by PC when it’s something convenient like a coup or post conflict and, now that there is violence and laws and assaults, everything blogs say is bad. One blog has had it’s posts removed. There is legislation for freedom of PCs to write what they need to write as PC doesn’t. It’s of course tied to other legislation.

The evacuation is an error. OIG needs to investigate and Congress needs to check that. The comment is just that. As far as identities of posters it’s anonymous and should stay that way. PC has had some recent problems IDing PCs like Puzey.

We also need to ask other questions like:
Evacuation benefit: choice of any country PC serves in? RPCV status? Hazardous Duty, Danger, Hardship post and Challenging post (IG1002E) differential, Quarters Allowance (cash) and Temporary out of country Duty Pay?Diplomatic Security Service protection?Waive the Acceptance Model as protection? Forced assignment (e.g.) to Dangerous/hazardous countries? Could they leave? Self Evacuation support and compensation? Was there pressure from the Director to stay in country even thought S&S said no and did this affect the evac?

Brian June 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

You’re rattling off a long list of questions at the end that sound rather minor and petty concerning the present circumstances… you know with hundreds of people being killed and all.

I’m not saying they’re completely unimportant, but these are the kinds of things that should wait until the dust settles.

Anon June 15, 2010 at 2:13 pm

^ What do you mean by, ‘the evacuation is an error.’?

Anon June 16, 2010 at 12:47 pm

The long list is why these PCs are in trouble. They have been assaulted in violence because PC didn’t protect them properly or give them the ability to take care of themselves. Waiting until the dust settles is what PC wants, then there is nothing but OIG and personal and nat security classification when you try to figure out exactly what went wrong. Yes, it’s tragic and, yes, PC takes advantage of that. ‘We’re mourning’ means they have no statement and won”t publish what exactly happened and the OIG won’t investigate. We’re mourning really means we were real lucky and made a mistake.

The evacuation is an error because it took too long and didn’t follow the emergency plan. The OIG needs to investigate to find out what happened. The PCs should have had none of these problems; consolidated at the embassy or embassy housing or a safe hotel. The Director should be removed and we should know who in DC put pressure to keep the program non consolidated in a safe place. the program will probably be canceled now that all this happened and it could have been avoided if PC had followed their plan.

The regional division of security in country is a failure like the ‘Acceptance Model.’ So, we have some evacuated based on their status like trainee, three month probation, 1 yr RPCV status or location. Historically, regional evacuations fail. The PCs are escorted to teach English, then evacuated, then there is more violence, then there is more regional violence. Regional evacuations just divide the country more.

So, new PCs need to ask is this a forced assignment? It is obviously more dangerous and do they have a right to refuse the assignment for one safer. Can they refuse based on military coups and destruction of the native government and militarization of the government? Can they refuse based on foreign policy laws that don’t allow foreign aid to these countries with the self exception of PC? Why do PCs need to consider safety when being selected for service? They are all supposed to be equal. No Section 508(foreign aid), military coups leaders, extreme violence, Peace Keeping Operations, democratic governments or voting within a certain period of time(usually three months).

What options were the PCs given? RPCV status? Choice of any country PC serves in? Psychiatric care for one visit or do they have to file for disability? Classified, will that affect their jobs search? Evacuation insurance? Masters, evacuation with their school? Was their violence to them reported and added to PC stats and did they allow PCs to file their reports to Congress or were these stopped because it’s not the right quarter? Will they be offered PC Response jobs in country to keep it open?

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