RENEWED FOCUS ON US BASE IN KYRGYZSTAN  As new way of opposition to the 
American military presence in Central Asia gathers strength, some believe the 
real pressure is coming from Moscow.  By Jipara Abdrakhmanova in Bishkek

UZBEKISTAN: ANGER AT BORDER HOMES DEMOLITION  Relocated residents complain of 
inferior homes and loss of income.  By an IWPR contributor in Tashkent

KYRGYZSTAN: KULOV CONFEDERATION PLAN SLATED  Idea of union with Russia attacked 
by establishment and opposition alike.  By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek


entries to the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism is just two weeks 
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As new way of opposition to the American military presence in Central Asia 
gathers strength, some believe the real pressure is coming from Moscow.

By Jipara Abdrakhmanova in Bishkek

There have been sporadic rumblings of hostility to the presence of a United 
States military base in Kyrgyzstan in the past two years, but in recent weeks 
the discontent has hardened into a mainstream political issue.

There have been moves in parliament to remove the base, although the government 
remains in favour of keeping it. Some commentators believe that as well as a 
groundswell of popular opposition to the US base, Kyrgyzstan is also coming 
under pressure from larger regional neighbours who would like to see the 
American military leave Central Asia.

On June 2, about 50 people from various political parties and NGOs of 
Kyrgyzstan held a protest outside the US embassy building in the capital 
Bishek. Waving banners bearing messages such as “Yankee Ketsin” – “Yankee Go 
Home” - the protesters demanded a review of the terms under which the Americans 
use the Ganci air base, located at the Manas international civil airport just 
outside Bishkek, and a deadline for its closure. 

They also asked the authorities to draft legislation covering the status of 
foreign military and civilian personnel stationed in Kyrgyzstan.

At the invitation of the then president Askar Akaev, the US-led coalition 
carrying out operations in Afghanistan set up the Ganci base in late 2001, 
after the September 11 attacks on the US. 


The protests reflect rising concern about the Ganci base in the wake of the 
death of Alexander Ivanov, a petrol tanker driver at the base who was shot dead 
by a US serviceman in December. Under the 2001 agreement on the base, the US 
military are not subject to Kyrgyz jurisdiction, an issue which generated 
considerable anger when the US serviceman concerned was posted away from 
Kyrgyzstan instead of facing prosecution, as some had hoped.

Another issue focused on by opponents of the US presence is that the 50,000 US 
dollars offered as compensation to Ivanov’s widow is inadequate.

The demonstrators also raised longer-standing allegations that people living 
near the base have suffered health problems because of US planes dumping 
surplus fuel before landing. Protesters called for an environmental study of 
the area within a 50 kilometre radius of the Ganci base. 


The latest protests followed a resolution which five parliamentary committees 
passed on May 23 calling for the US military to withdraw from Kyrgyzstan. 

“Kyrgyzstan is showing that it is incapable of taking action on Alexander 
Ivanov’s death,” parliamentarian Rashid Tagaev told IWPR. “We are important 
people… yet we can’t do anything about an American soldier who shot one of our 
fellow citizens.”

An additional concern raised by the deputies was a suggestion that the Ganci 
air base might be used as a launchpad for operations against Iran in the event 
of a conflict. They felt this would present a direct and unwarranted threat to 
Kyrgyzstan’s own security. 

Parliamentarian Iskhak Masaliev, who is co-chairman of the Communist Party of 
Kyrgyzstan, fears that the country could be dragged unwillingly into larger 
global conflicts. 

“There should not be a single [foreign] military base in Kyrgyzstan. This is a 
real threat to our country. Because of the foreign military base on our 
territory, other nations may automatically regard Kyrgyzstan as their enemy,” 
he said. “Sooner or later, unless the airbase is removed, we will be dragged 
into conflicts between NATO forces and eastern countries.”

However, Masaliev accepts that a motion to end the US presence is unlikely to 
be supported by a majority of his fellow members of parliament. In his view, 
their reluctance to act stems from the significant revenue the Kyrgyz state 
earns from the rent paid by the US government.


Jamil Abrakhmanov is another Kyrgyz politician opposed to the base both because 
of the potential risks to civilians living around it and because it could make 
Kyrgyzstan a player in the troubled world of Middle Eastern politics, at a time 
when it could use investment from wealth Arab states. 

“If bombing attacks are launched on Iran or other countries from the airbase, 
it will undoubtedly affect the security of our country. We should not forget 
that the policies of Kyrgyzstan are those of a small country that is forced to 
manoeuvre between the superpowers,” he said. 

Abdrakhmanov continued, “If threats do arise on our borders, they can be 
resolved within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the 
Collective Security Treaty Organisation. In my opinion, these forces are quite 
sufficient to stop attacks by international terrorists,” he said.

On May 3, US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch rejected as “ridiculous” the rumour 
that Ganci would be used for an attack on Iran. Speaking on May 25, Kyrgyz 
prime minister Almazbek Atambayev said that “on no account” would the base be 
used for such an attack. 


Bolot Shamshiev, an advisor to Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev, believes the 
original contract was flawed and needs to be revised. 

“I am in favour of reviewing the agreement, and if there is no longer a need to 
fight international terrorism in Afghanistan, then Kyrgyzstan does not need 
this air base,” said Shamshiev.

However, the official position continues to be in favour of keeping the base. 

“We believe it makes sense for the [US-led] coalition forces to be stationed in 
Kyrgyzstan,” said Kanat Tursunkulov, director of the foreign ministry 
department dealing with western countries. 

“The arguments made by those who believe the air base is no longer necessary 
are wrong. Military operations in Afghanistan are still under way and will 
continue in the near future.” 

Tursunkulov dismissed as “unfounded” suggestions that the base might be used in 
any US attack on Iran. 

“Under the mandate, this base will only be used for Operation Enduring Freedom 
in Afghanistan. This has been stressed officially by both Kyrgyz and American 
officials,” he said. 

President Bakiev proposed setting a deadline for a US withdrawal almost as soon 
as he came to power in 2005, but the Kyrgyz leadership backtracked on the issue 
after a visit from the then secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld. In 2006, 
US-Kyrgyz relations were again strained, but this time the argument seemed to 
be about how much the Americans should pay in rent and other fees. After 
prolonged negotiations, Washington agreed to a one-off payment of 150 million 
dollars in the form of an assistance package, and to pay 15 million dollars per 
year for the use of the base.


Some politicians are questioning the timing and new ferocity of the anti-Ganci 

“The campaign to remove the American air base from Kyrgyzstan is gaining 
momentum. To the outside observer, these campaigns seem to be manifestations of 
growing anti-western sentiment,” said Roza Otunbaeva, co-chairperson of the 
Asaba party and a former foreign minister. “The speed and scale of the campaign 
are quite astounding – it isn’t often that five parliamentary committees gather 
to discuss a single issue, especially a foreign policy matter.”

In her view, the public discourse on the US base is marred by “subjectivity and 
ignorance of the central issues”. 

“We are being biased, hasty and short-sighted,” she continued, “and this is a 
disastrous and irreversible approach where international relations are 

Analyst Valentin Bogatyrev says that the current wave of anti-American rehtoric 
raises questions about whether outside actors are involved. He points out that 
Russia, China and Uzbekistan oppose the US presence, and notes that the 
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security grouping to which all 
these states belong, will hold its next summit in Bishkek in August. 

Alisher Mamasaliev, leader of Civic Platform, a non-government group, predicts 
that the Bishkek meeting will be used to pressure the Kyrgyz leadership to get 
the Americans out. 

“The upcoming SCO summit will look at the advisability of having American armed 
forces stationed in Kyrgyzstan, and of removing them by the end of 2007,” he 

Mamasaliev believes Russia, in particular, is working behind the scenes to 
change the president’s mind. 

“Moscow is using all its levers of influence on President Bakiev…. The Chinese, 
too, may have good reason to hope that the Bishkek summit may be the beginning 
of the end for western democratic expansion in Central Asia,” he said.

Other commentators note that the latest round of anti-Ganci activity began 
after a parliamentary delegation led by speaker Marat Sultanov returned from 
talks in Moscow on May 21. 


Advocates of a continued US presence say it is precisely because Kyrgyzstan is 
located in a rough neighbourhood that it needs all the help it can get.

“It isn’t just the US that needs this air base, but the whole of Central Asia 
and Russia, as there are still problematic complex processes going on in 
Afghanistan,” said Miroslav Niyazov, formerly Secretary of Kyrgyzstan’s 
Security Council.

“There need to be negotiations. If the Americans are breaching any of the terms 
for their presence, then their behaviour should be reviewed and some agreement 
reached. But I do not believe the existence of this base runs counter to our 
interests; in general, it is in keeping with the security interests of the 
entire Central Asian region.”

Topchubek Turgunaliev, who leads the Erkindik party, argues that since Moscow 
as well as Washington has a military foothold in Kyrgyzstan, it would be unfair 
to ask one to leave and not the other.

“It is completely wrong to demand only the withdrawal of the Ganci air base. If 
Kyrgyzstan wants good relations with all countries, then it should demand the 
withdrawal of both military bases – Russian and American. You can’t establish 
good relations with one country at the expense of another,” said Turgunaliev. 

“Kyrgyzstan receives payment for renting the Ganci air base, which cannot be 
said of the Russian base in Kant. Why do we grant privileges to one side and 
infringe the interests of the other?”


As the SCO summit approaches, the background noise – both from grassroots 
campaigners and regional governments – looks likely to get louder. 

President Bakiyev’s May 23 announcement of a new special commission which will 
look into the terms of the US-Kyrgyz agreement on Ganci gave little away about 
whether its remit is contractual details or the whole future of the base. But 
the fact that such a commission is deemed necessary at all in the wake of last 
year’s substantial changes to the financial arrangements for Ganci suggest that 
Bakiev is under pressure from his SCO partners to make some kind of decision 
about its fate.

Jipara Abdrakhmanova is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.


Relocated residents complain of inferior homes and loss of income.

By an IWPR contributor in Tashkent

Uzbeks who live along the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border area are angry at a scheme by the 
local authorities to demolish their homes and relocate them to a new site some 
distance away.

Over 150 homes around the Dustlik, or Friendship, checkpoint in the Andijan 
region of Uzbekistan, which borders Kyrgyzstan, are to be destroyed on the 
orders of the hokimiyat, or mayor’s office.

The planned demolition is part of a wider anti-terrorism scheme to create a 
security zone along the border, and similar relocations are planned in other 
regions, including Marhamat and Madaniyat.

The Uzbek authorities are concerned about Islamic militancy, particularly in 
the eastern Fergana Valley next to Kyrgyzstan, and want to monitor closely the 
flow of traffic between the countries.

The site of the demolished homes will become part of the border zone with 
monitoring devices to detect people trying to cross into Kyrgyzstan and a 
barbed-wire fence will be erected to secure the frontier.

But residents are up in arms, saying the new accommodation they are being 
provided lacks space and basic services and that resettlement will affect their 

Until now, border control has been lax and traders have routinely ferried goods 
through houses straddling the frontier into Kyrgyzstan, where they can command 
a higher price for them.

Protests have now erupted at the enforced resettlement of the Dustlik 
residents, which began in April and will end on September 1 – Independence Day 
in Uzbekistan.

Those Dustlik residents not yet forced to leave are calling for the plan to be 
scrapped, or at least to be relocated to a house of equal size.

Some protesters have been invited to talks with the local authorities, and 
threatened that if they don’t comply with the resettlement, they will be 
accused of Islamic extremism.

Those involved in cross-border trade argue that moving is affecting their 
livelihoods, while others claim the replacement homes are inadequate.

An employee of the Andijan regional planning department said that every 
resident whose home is demolished will receive a new house with the same number 
of rooms.

“Each square metre of the buildings to be demolished was studied, so that 
identical buildings could be built in the new location,” said the employee, who 
wished to remain anonymous.

He added that residents also had the option of modifying their new homes if 
they wished to add new features, such as an open veranda, a bathroom with a 
steam room, or a larger cellar. 

“In other words, all the wishes of the residents are taken into account in 
building the new houses,” he said.

A representative of the hokimiyat told IWPR that approximately 900,000,000 soms 
(714,535 US dollars) had been allocated for the building project, and added 
that if people are concerned about the lack of room in their new home, they are 
free to build additional rooms in the plot of land allocated to each home-owner.

But many of the residents who have already moved to their new homes say the 
provisions are inadequate.

A man who wished to remain anonymous told IWPR that his new house was much 
smaller than the old one.

“My house had five to six rooms, and a plot of land of 800 square metres, but 
the new house has only three rooms and 400 square metres of land. Where are the 
other members of my family going to live? I have grown-up sons and daughters,” 
he said. 

Another resident says her new home is inadequate and that the planners have 
failed to consider centuries-old Uzbek traditions.

In Uzbekistan, the parents of the groom build a separate room in another part 
of the yard, in order to give the newlyweds the chance to live separately but 
near to the parents. When the couple become financially independent, they leave 
the parental home, vacating the room for the younger brother.

“In my old house, we did some additional building, because we had to put on 
weddings for our sons, but in the new house these needs are not taken into 
account at all,” she said.

The resident said that the yard is so small, that it’s not even possible for 
the family to extend the house themselves.

“We’ve just been put into a cage,” she complained.

According to the residents, when the new houses were planned they didn’t take 
into account the size of the families nor the age of the children. 

According to eastern tradition, teenage boys and girls cannot live in the same 
room, or even in rooms which are close to each other.

“Imagine what it’s like for parents to be in a room which is right next to 
their children’s rooms, it’s just outrageous!” said an elderly man.

But while builders understand people’s anger, they are powerless to do anything.

“There is a severe lack of building materials, because the state [hokimiyat] 
allotted a sum for each house which is just enough to build a one-room house 
without a roof,” said the head engineer of a construction company contracted to 
build some of the new homes.

He said that the local authorities worked out the budget based on prices for 
residential property established by the state, which are lower than real 
prices, and so the construction companies make a loss from the building work.

“To help the people, we use the materials we get from the demolished houses, 
but not all of them are suitable for repeated use, and so we have to build 
homes with a minimum amount of rooms,” he said.

One builder, who gave his name as Ahmadjon, agrees that the recycled materials 
are inadequate.

“The problem is that several of the houses which are to be demolished are quite 
old and dilapidated. When these houses are demolished, they will not be able to 
provide building materials which are suitable for use, and buying new materials 
is very expensive,” he said.

The material is often not suitable as many of the houses were built according 
to outdated local customs, when dried clay was used instead of bricks, he said.

While it’s possible to reuse the clay bricks, he went on, each one has to be 
dried out in the sun, and won’t give stability and durability to the new house.

Residents are also worried about a lack of facilities at the new site, 
including water and gas supplies, and also complain that moving away from the 
border will affect their income.

“My house was in such a location that half of it was in Uzbekistan and the 
other half in Kyrgyzstan, which helped me earn money by letting shuttle-traders 
through my house. Now I won’t be able to do this, and I don’t know how my 
family will get by,” said one local resident.

“There are a lot of people who are unhappy about being moved to a new area, 
because some residents who are being resettled lived well, but now they won’t 
be able to do this, and they are very worried,” said another builder who gave 
his name as Makhmujon.

The hokimiyat representative pointed out that while those who have been 
relocated are complaining of loss of income from the move, some were engaged in 
work that they shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place.

“It should be noted that not all the work which they did in their old houses 
was quite legal - they helped people to smuggle goods through their houses, and 
earned good money from doing so, ” he said, adding that the authorities were 
under no obligation to find them work.


Idea of union with Russia attacked by establishment and opposition alike.

By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek

Kyrgyz opposition leader Felix Kulov’s proposal to create a confederation 
between Kyrgyzstan, Russia and other former Soviet states has provoked 
widespread criticism from analysts and politicians across the political 

Kulov, the former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan and leader of main opposition 
group United Front for a Worthy Future, mooted the idea of a political alliance 
with Russia on a television broadcast on May 30. 

He then outlined the proposal in an interview in the opposition Agym newspaper 
on June 1, arguing that a confederation with Russia would help unite the 
country’s population - divided between the political elite in the north and the 
poorer south - while boosting its flagging economy. 

He is calling for a referendum to gauge support for the confederation, under 
which Kyrgyzstan would retain full sovereignty, and is in the process of 
collecting the 300,000 signatures necessary to hold one – an initiative 
launched at a supporters’ assembly on June 2.

If the referendum shows that the majority of Kyrgyz citizens approve of a union 
with Russia, the authorities would be obliged to take the proposal to the 
Moscow authorities. If the government fails to hold a referendum by June 20, 
then a petition will be gathered, calling for the dissolution of the present 
parliament, as well as new parliamentary and presidential elections.

While Kulov seems confident of popular support, his proposal hasn’t gone down 
well with either the establishment or the opposition.

Many perceive a union with the larger country as a threat to Kyrgyz sovereignty 
– the country has been independent since 1991, following the break-up of the 
Soviet Union.

Kulov’s detractors accuse him of appealing to nationalist sentiment to garner 
support and revive his career – which has been flagging since parliament 
refused to approve his candidacy as prime minister in January.

Kulov rejects the notion that a confederation between Kyrgyzstan, Russia and 
other countries of the former Soviet Union poses any threat to Kyrgyz 
sovereignty, and instead sees the union as a means of strengthening law and 

“If we create an international formation of this kind, then bandits will not be 
able to rule our country,” he told IWPR.

He also sees it as an opportunity to enhance defence and boost trade across 

“Kyrgyzstan will be able to solve issues of defence and border security 
together with other members of the confederation, to introduce common customs 
regulations, use a single currency and solve other issues that are important 
for Kyrgyzstan,” he added.

He said that history shows uniting with Russia has strengthened Kyrgyzstan and 
improved living conditions there, while allowing it to retain its own culture.

“As part of Tsarist Russia, and, subsequently, as part of the USSR, the Kyrgyz 
were able to preserve their unity and nationality. When Kyrgyzstan faces issues 
of water supply, electricity production, threats of drug trafficking and other 
problems, our country cannot get by without support from the outside,” he said.

There is already much cooperation between the two countries, particularly in 
the military sphere.

A Russian airbase was opened in the Kyrgyz town of Kant, 14 kilometres north of 
Bishkek, in October 2003. Kyrgyz military personnel are often trained in Russia 
and Moscow supplies Kyrgyz military forces with material and technical support.

Kyrgyz defence ministry official Ismail Isakov said in an interview with the 
Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda on May 29 that Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation is 
“effective, friendly and mutually beneficial”.

The two countries also cooperate in economy and business, with Russia investing 
in Kyrgyz agriculture, energy, aluminium, and development of uranium, and, 
depending on how this is calculated, between 300,000 to 700,000 Kyrgyz 
nationals work in Russia.

“Kyrgyzstan is interested in Russian investment, and increasing this is a 
realistic possibility, “said Apas Jumagulov, the Kyrgyz ambassador to Russia.

According to government sources, there is 513 million US dollars of trade 
between Kyrgyzstan and Russia a year currently, and analysts say there is 
potential to double this.

But in spite of the obvious benefits closer cooperation could bring, Kulov’s 
proposal for a formal confederation between the countries has been slated by 

Strongest censure came from leader of the Forum of Young Politicians Adil 
Turdukulov who characterised it as “a populist move by a politician who is 
swiftly losing his popularity and authority among the people”.

“It is the last attempt to win over at least the Russian-speaking section of 
society, the section that is nostalgic for the Soviet past. This is a reckless 
idea, and it will not gain support from the majority of the population, as it 
undermines sovereignty and threatens the integrity of the country,” he told 

Turdukulov can’t see the idea working and compares it the proposed 
confederation between Russia and Belarus, where talks between countries appear 
to have stalled due to disagreement over the terms of the union.

“This idea is risky and perilous for Kulov himself, because if the idea is a 
failure, then the subsequent ideas that he comes up with will not be accepted 
by society or even his supporters,” said Turdukulov.

Kyrgyz analyst Valentin Bogatyrev believes that this is a “foolish” idea that 
could even harm relations between the countries. He argues that having left 
behind the yoke of Soviet rule, the Kyrgyz population wants to hang on to 

“The majority of Kyrgyzstan citizens, after 15 years of independence, do not 
want to live under the rule of Moscow, under ‘big brother’, and they will 
oppose this idea, which will worsen relations with Russia,” Bogatyrev told IWPR.

“Russia itself is completely uninterested in this idea, and no one there is 
even discussing it.”

Bogatyrev suggests Kulov made this proposal out of powerlessness, helplessness 
and a lack of good political ideas.

“It is an unsuccessful attempt to play to the feelings of a certain section of 
the population,” he said.

Analyst Alexander Knyazev agrees that Kulov is trying to revive his popularity, 
which dipped after the failed opposition rallies in April this year.

“Felix Kulov’s rating fell after the April incidents, and at the same time 
there has been a considerable increase in pro-Russian feelings, and so he is 
trying to attract the interest of the electorate for whom cooperation with 
Russia would be beneficial - migrants, for example,” he said.

Knyazev can see no economic or political benefits for Russia in such a union.

“For Russia, Kyrgyzstan is of medium importance, as it does not bring economic 
benefits. Furthermore, this will create problems for Russia with western 
countries, and I don’t think that Kazakstan or Uzbekistan will be happy 
either,” said Knyazev.

Parliamentary deputy Akhmat Keldibekov said that Kulov got carried away when he 
came up with his proposal.

“We are a sovereign country, and we have our own attributes of a sovereign 
nation. Such things must not be announced on behalf of the entire nation. I 
categorically object to this, and I don’t think that Russia is prepared to meet 
us with open arms,” said Keldibekov.

While parliamentary speaker Marat Sultanov supports stronger Kyrgyz-Russian 
cooperation, he opposes the confederation, insisting that “a sovereign nation 
is a great asset for any people”.

Sultanov argues that there is already cooperation in existence between the 
countries, with citizens free to live in both.

“We must be guided by our own political considerations; if a person wants to 
live in the Russian state, then go ahead, the road is open, we have the 
institution of dual citizenship,” he said.

Even Kulov’s former supporters in the opposition have attacked the idea.

Kanybek Imanaliev, an opposition deputy, supports the idea of closer 
cooperation in a customs union with Russia, Kazakstan, Tajikistan and Belarus - 
“which may be turned into a Eurasian Union”. 

These countries, he said, share “a common history, a common culture, and common 
social values”.

But he deems Kulov’s idea of a confederation as impractical.

“Firstly, the confederation goes against the principles of the constitution and 
national interests. Secondly, we do not have common borders with Russia,” he 

While Temir Sariev, opposition deputy and one of the leaders at the April 
protests, believes the proposed confederation is unrealistic and 
ill-considered, and questions Kulov’s motives.

“Kulov wants to use this idea to halt the process of his departure from the 
political scene, but, unfortunately, he missed his chance when he was a real 
leader,” he said.

Taalaibek Amanov is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.

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