Understanding Renewed Violence in Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic violence has already killed 117

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Two months after a coup ousted the repressive government of Kyrgyzstan, violence has returned to the Central Asian state. Ethnic Kyrgyz gangs are targeting ethnic Uzbeks in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, where much of the country's Uzbek minority lives. The government has declared a state of emergency but the fighting is continuing to spread, with an estimated 117 civilians killed so far. Here's what's happening and what to expect.

  • The Scene in Osh  The New York Times' Michael Schwirtz recounts, "Gangs of gunmen continued raids on ethnic Uzbek enclaves, and a refugee crisis grew at the border of this strategically important Central Asian nation on Monday, after four days of violence left swaths of the country’s ethnically mixed south in ruins. ... Kyrgyz volunteers armed with bats and iron bars — some recently arrived from the north of the country — continued to patrol outlying villages, saying they were defending the country’s south against an Uzbek attempt to seize it."
  • Military Struggling to Bring Order  Registan's Michael Hancock writes, "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."
  • Some Police Join in Ethnic Violence  The Globe and Mail Hulkar Isamova reports, "Ethnic Uzbeks in a besieged neighbourhood of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, said gangs were carrying out 'genocide,' burning residents out of their homes and shooting them as they fled. Witnesses saw bodies lying on the streets. 'God help us! They are killing Uzbeks like animals. Almost the whole city is in flames,' said Dilmurad Ishanov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights worker in Osh. Rights activists said the authorities were failing to stop the violence, and occasionally joining in."
  • Thousands of Ethnic Uzbeks Flee  New Eurasia's Chris Schwartz writes, "Uzbekistan officials are saying that at least 30,000 Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks have crossed the border; one even told RIA Novosti news agency that 75,000 have fled. When we consider that Uzbeks only make up approximately one million inhabitants of Kyrgyzstan’s total five million peple, even the low estimate is downright shocking."
  • Kyrgyzstan Seeking Help From U.S. and Russia  Foreign Policy's Steve LeVine reports, "Before Kyrgyzstan turned to Russia, it informally asked Washington for military assistance including a supply of rubber bullets to quell ethnic bloodletting in the south of the country, but was turned down, I am told by people privy to the situation. Russia says it may deploy troops if it's a collective regional decision."
  • Could Complicate Afghan War  The Wall Street Journal's Kadyr Toktogulov and Alan Cullison warn the fighting is "threatening to destabilize what has been a conduit for troops and supplies for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan." They note that the U.S. has maintained a base in Kyrgyzstan for nine years now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.