Kyrgyzstan’s Downward Spiral

by Joshua Foust on 6/22/2011 · 6 comments

Noah Tucker’s excellent dispatches from Kyrgyzstan on the plight of Osh’s Uzbek community—seriously, read them, part 1 and part 2—have prompted some thinking on my part, in particular about what is happening to Kyrgyzstan’s political and social future.

First up is the worrying report that the supposedly reform-oriented Kyrgyz parliament is saying Uzbeks can’t live in their mahallas. This is, in short, a ridiculous attack on the already-embattled Uzbek communities in Kyrgyzstan. Given the nature of last year’s violence—in which Kyrgyz mobs brutally assaulted Uzbek communities while complaining about Uzbek atrocities no one could confirm—such a decision is worse than insulting: it is dangerous. While mahallas could sometimes be a source of violence and intimidation in some places in Uzbekistan, there’s little evidence they are pernicious artifacts of Uzbek society in Kyrgyzstan. I don’t get it, this seems gratuitously targetted against Uzbeks.

In addition, the Otunbayeva government—which seems to strike most outsiders as a generally benevolent force#*8212;has been persecuting Uzbek journalists:

Khudaiberdiyev, founder and owner of the regional television channel Osh TV, and Mirzakhodzhayev, owner of the independent broadcaster Mezon TV and the newspapers Itogi Nedeli and Portrfel, told CPJ they are being prosecuted for reporting on a May 2010 protest rally in the southern Jalal-Abad region. At the rally, videos of which are available online, an ethnic Uzbek leader and a governor of Jalal-Abad denounced violence and the return to power of your predecessor, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Prosecutors charged both media owners with separate counts of organizing and participating in mass disorder; calls for separatism; incitement to interethnic and religious hatred; abuse of office; and illegal creation of an armed group. Khudaiberdiyev and Mirzakhodzhayev, both of whom are in forced exile, learned of the criminal case from reports in the regional press.

Sadly, the Uzbeks of the Jalal-Abad region have good reason for discontent: the Kyrgyz government, seemingly irrespective of who’s actually in the White House (the one in Bishkek, not the one in Washington), will find ways to marginalize and dispossess them. Even going so far as to persecute journalists who film protests calling for non-violent opposition to a rule ostensibly committed to free expression.

It’s getting more and more difficult to see a way Kyrgyzstan avoids another painful paroxysm of protests as a result of these repressive policies. Is that any light to be had at the end of this tunnel?


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 6 comments }

Fifi June 23, 2011 at 3:50 am

In Uzbekistan there are 69 schools and two academic lyceums where about 300 teachers of Kyrgyz language and literature instruct and educate schoolchildren in their Kyrgyz language. On Tashkent’s book stalls one can find school textbooks in Kyrgyz. Paedagogical universities have faculties of Kyrgyz language preparing those teachers.

Robtastic84 June 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

I seriously believe it all comes down to brain drain. Every time there is a revolution, a riot, a pogrom, the smart and hard working people leave oppressed by criminals on one hand and criminal government on the other. One giant Kleptic society forces everyone to either steal or live somewhere else.

The young can’t do anything in a culture where anyone under 40 isn’t respected, and the old are stuck in the soviet ways of doing things which is no way to run a democracy. Combine that with tribalism, nepotism and a culture that is willing to do anything to save face (Reaction to Osh Violence) and you have a recipe for a place no one will want to live for decades.

Caomengde June 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Ironic that Noah Tucker wrote in his excellent dispatches about his Uzbek guide Hamid:

It was not that he dismissed their suffering as unimportant or unworthy of attention; it was that even when delivered by an outside observer, he dismissed the idea that such suffering had actually occurred.

Here we have JOSHUA FOUST write:

Given the nature of last year’s violence—in which Kyrgyz mobs brutally assaulted Uzbek communities while complaining about Uzbek atrocities no one could confirm

kamalov June 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm

“Given the nature of last year’s violence—in which Kyrgyz mobs brutally assaulted Uzbek communities while complaining about Uzbek atrocities no one could confirm”

this is exactly what makes people angry. my kyrgyz cousin had to witness his mothers murder and his wife’s rape and murder. his 3-year old will never walk again. he is the only one who was left relatively ok.

the current government is dumb but this is no way to provoke anyone.

Me July 18, 2011 at 9:13 pm

C’mon, it’s Joshua Foust!! What else to expect from him. Even if someone he knows well confirms that there have been Kyrgyz victims he will not believe. The reason is that he does not want to believe. He is a hypocrite. Funniest thing is that this guy was accusing the Rolling Stones magazine in media hypocrisy by publishing pictures of dead Afgans (he refered them as “natives”) and not including pictures of dead American soldiers.

Erlan July 23, 2011 at 8:18 am

your research is definitely pro-Uzbek and hence lacks credibility. you think that if Uzbeks are ethnic minority then they suffered unjustly? or you think that since they are minority it exempts them from the guilt? everyone knows that they started this violence first even Human Rights Watch with its pro-Uzbek bias reluctantly admitted this fact and Amnesty International as well. i don’t know what kind of conversation you had with local Uzbeks , but they are skilful noodlers, they know how to grab people on their side.

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