The Challenges Facing Southwestern Kyrgyzstan

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by Joshua Foust on 10/27/2011 · 4 comments

Over at The Atlantic, I have a dispatch from my recent trip to Osh. An excerpt:

“These NGOs mean well,” Adilya told me. She lost her shop when a gang of Kyrgyz men smashed in her windows, stole all of her inventory and cash, and set her home on fire. “But they hire mostly Kyrgyz to work for them. I can’t tell them a Kyrgyz is harassing me.”

These NGOs have helped to fund a recovery effort, channeled through the local Kyrgyz-dominated government that Uzbeks feel so uncomfortable approaching for help. Most directly affected businesses have received a credit for rebuilding equivalent to about $1,000. The Kyrgyz I spoke to think this should be enough to fix a few broken windows. The Uzbeks complain that it’s not enough if their business was burned to the ground, and besides which the money goes to Kyrgyz businesses first.

Some Kyrgyz businesses were affected as well. I spoke with one restaurant owner whose store was in the path of the rioters: his windows were broken, and the looters stole almost everything inside except the oven. It took nearly 11 months to find new suppliers, repair the damage, and re-open for business. On that same block, however, Uzbek businesses remain burned out husks, never rebuilt and never reoccupied.

It’s difficult to look at the current situation and see hope.

More, over there.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from 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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Russell Zanca October 28, 2011 at 9:04 am


I meant to ask you last week: what is your impression about life these days for young Uzbek men–specifically–in s. Kyrgyzstan? I mean, would you say they face discrimination and danger on a daily basis?


Joshua Foust October 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

Discrimination, yes, danger, no. They’re not being beaten up on the streets, though if they refuse to comply with the police they’re afraid of it happening. But not many Uzbek men leave their mahallahs — a lot of them feel like they’re under virtual house arrest, and those that do get harassed and cannot do much without a Kyrgyz saying yes. It is a serious mess.

Russ Zanca October 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

Very helpful.



John Walker October 31, 2011 at 8:35 am

Thanks Josh for sharing this with us. It’s a real treat to learn so much about the events in southern Kyrgyzstan from a regional expert like you.

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