World Struggles to Address Escalating Violence in Kyrgyzstan

Reports find 2,200 killed and 400,000 displaced

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Violence returned to Kyrgyzstan earlier this week, as ethnic Kyrgyz gangs attacked members of the ethnic Uzbek minority in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, where many Uzbeks live. The clashes have increased since that time, driving many Uzbek survivors from their homes. Official estimates put the death toll so far at 2,200, with 400,000 people displaced. The Big Picture has photos of the conflict. The spiraling racial violence has been met with scant response from the international community. Here's what's happening and why.

  • Human Rights Groups Plead for Action  The Washington Post's Philip Pan writes, "In a joint letter on Friday, two influential organizations, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, called on the U.N. Security Council to move 'without delay' to work with regional groups to send an international police or military force to Kyrgyzstan that could establish a corridor for the delivery of aid, provide security for refugees to return home and make it possible for reconciliation programs to begin."
  • UN Pledges $71M Emergency Aid  Reuters's Louis Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip report, "The United Nations is launching a $71 million emergency appeal for humanitarian aid for Kyrgyzstan. ... The U.N. secretary-general said he had contacted Kyrgyzstan's interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov and others 'to explore options for restoring order, preventing further loss of life and coordinating humanitarian assistance.'"
  • Global Powers Shrug at Kyrgyzstan  The New York Times' Ellen Barry writes, "for the past week, as spasms of violence threatened to break Kyrgyzstan apart, its citizens saw their hopes for an international intervention flicker and die. With each day it has become clearer that none of Kyrgyzstan’s powerful allies — most pointedly, its former overlords in Moscow — were prepared to get involved in a quagmire. ... For the most part, the powers have evacuated their citizens, apparently content to wait for the conflict to burn itself out. ... Kyrgyzstan may have unraveled anyway, but competition between Moscow and Washington certainly sped the process."
  • We Could Have Prevented This  Global Post's Bridget Conley-Zilkic writes, "the events of last week should have come as no surprise to policymakers paying attention to facts on the ground. ... Further violence can be prevented. The United States has one of the largest embassies in Kyrgyzstan. Its central focus has been the maintenance of a military base there that offers strategic support for the war in Afghanistan. But human rights protection and prevention of genocide ought to be core foreign policy priorities for our government."
  • International Community Risks Another Rwanda  The Guardian's Adam Oxford laments that global leaders have "sat on [their] hands" while Kyrgyzstan's entirely foreseeable violence approaches genocide. "The names of recent ethnic conflicts have become bywords for international incompetence at humanitarian intervention: Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, the list goes on. The speed of the response to those caught in Kyrgyzstan's cleansing shows how little we've learned from them."
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