WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 617, June 24, 2010

KYRGYZSTAN: LOCAL CLASH MARS RETURN TO STABILITY  Violence flares up as police 
enter village where colleagues were killed.  By Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, 
Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Bakyt Ibraimov

UNSUNG HEROES TOOK ON KYRGYZSTAN MOBS  Grassroots “peacekeepers” needed to 
rebuild trust between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.  By Inga Sikorskaya

ORGANISED ENTHUSIASM IN TURKMENISTAN  Behind the cheering, quiet resentment at 
being forced to turn up and applaud government.  By IWPR Central Asia

UZBEK RIGHTS ACTIVISTS TO FIGHT FOR SPORTS WRITER’S RELEASE  Campaigners hope 
jailed reporter’s popularity will increase pressure on authorities to review 
case.  By IWPR Central Asia

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KYRGYZSTAN: LOCAL CLASH MARS RETURN TO STABILITY

Violence flares up as police enter village where colleagues were killed.

By Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, Isomiddin Ahmedjanov, Bakyt Ibraimov

A fresh clash near Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan has raised tensions that have 
been slowly easing as people began putting their lives back together after the 
worst bloodshed in two decades.

A police unit met stiff resistence on June 21 when it was sent in to disarm 
residents of the ethnic Uzbek village of Nariman, two kilometres outside Osh.

The government’s press office said eight people were taken to hospital, and one 
of them later died. Human rights activists in the region believe four people 
died.

The official statement said police were acting on intelligence when they raided 
the village, and opened fire only when armed men put up a fight.

Seven arrests were made and two hand grenades, three Molotov cocktails and 
dozens of Kalashnikov rounds were seized in the raid.

Government spokesman Timur Sharshenaliev told IWPR the police action was 
prompted by a double murder in the village early on in ethnic clashes that 
first began in Osh overnight on June 10-11. The district police chief and his 
driver went to Nariman on June 13 to try to persuade residents to calm down, 
but were killed by angry locals.

As of June 22, the Kyrgyz health ministry said 251 people had died and about 
2,200 required medical treatment in ethnic fighting in Osh and Jalalabad 
regions.

The official death toll remains much lower than the 2,000 cited by some 
international media outlets; this higher figure may have come from a comment 
which Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader Roza Otunbaeva made in an interview for the 
Russian newspaper Kommersant, to the effect that the real figure might be “ten 
times higher” than the official count, which at that point was around 190.

In Osh itself, there were signs of life slowly getting back to normal. Shops, 
markets and banks were beginning to reopen, there were more cars on the 
streets, and public transport resumed on some routes, except in the city centre 
where makeshift barricades were still being cleared away.

Kursan Asanov, deputy chief of police in Osh province, said gunfire was 
petering out. “Several districts of Osh [region] remain hot-spots, but even in 
those areas no shots are being heard.”

Food shortages have led to rocketing prices, but humanitarian aid is now coming 
into the city on a regular basis, even if there is still not enough to go round.

Like other parts of Kyrgyzstan, Osh is preparing for a June 27 nationwide 
referendum in which voters will be asked to approve a new, more democratic 
constitution, and also to confirm Otunbaeva as interim president until an 
election can be held at the end of 2011.

Otunbaeva is currently visiting areas affected by the violence.

In the city, volunteer groups are being set up to accompany police on patrol.

A member of one of these groups, Hikmatullo, who served in the 1980s Soviet war 
in Afghanistan, said the idea was that veterans like him would lead squads of 
younger men. Their role would be to support the police, mediate between them 
and the local population, and generally keep an eye on them to prevent them, 
for example, planting drugs on suspects.

Meanwhile, some refugees are beginning to return to their homes. The United 
Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimates that 400,000 people were displaced from 
their home by violence, intimidation and arson attacks. (See Desperate Refugees 
Wait on Kyrgyz-Uzbek Border.) 

The head of Kyrgyzstan’s border guards, Cholponbek Turusbekov, said 4,419 
people had returned from camps over the border in Uzbekistan since the 
beginning of this week, bringing the total who had come back to their own 
country to about 35,000. Turusbekov predicted that the estimated 40,000 
refugees still in Uzbekistan would return by the end of this week.

An Uzbek from Osh who gave his first name as Zainabiddin told IWPR that his 
daughter, who fled to Uzbekistan with her children and mother-in-law during the 
violence, was not planning to come back yet.

“The Uzbek authorities have made speeches explaining that anyone who wishes to 
leave can return home to Kyrgyzstan, but that if they don’t wish to go, they 
can remain in Uzbekistan,” said Zainabiddin, adding that his daughter was among 
the latter.

The confrontation in Nariman highlighted one of the dilemmas facing the Kyrgyz 
authorities – when force is necessary to restore law and order, and when such 
actions risk fuelling tensions unnecessarily.

The heads of two leading rights groups, Tolekan Ismailova of Citizens Against 
Corruption and Aziza Abdirasulova of Kylym Shamy, issued a warning to the 
interim government that heavy-handed tactics could impede reconciliation 
attempts.

“During this so-called disarmament operation [in Nariman] a young man… died of 
a bullet wound, two others were beaten up and died the next day and a fourth 
died of a heart attack,” Abdirasulova said. “What the law-enforcement bodies 
did is contrary to Kyrgyz legislation.”

Security officials in Osh rejected allegations that the police action was 
excessive, and said Nariman residents were warned of the raid a day in advance. 
They also deny suggestions that more than one person died.

Leonid Bondarets, an expert on security matters, told IWPR that resolute 
policing was necessary, but when such measures were taken, they must be 
demonstrably even-handed, and must be communicated clearly to the public.

Sahira Nazarova, a member of the Advocacy Centre for Human Rights Defenders and 
is currently part of a mobile team monitoring the distribution of humanitarian 
aid, also believes the police have to take action to disarm the armed men who 
caused the violence. In addition, she says, local residents must clear 
roadblocks when they are instructed to do so, as they were before the police 
moved into Nariman.

Nazarova said these measures would help restore law and order and get 
humanitarian aid through.

Ainagul Abdrakhmanova and Isomidin Ahmedjanov are IWPR-trained journalists, and 
Bakyt Ibraimov is a freelance journalist based in Osh.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.


UNSUNG HEROES TOOK ON KYRGYZSTAN MOBS

Grassroots “peacekeepers” needed to rebuild trust between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

By Inga Sikorskaya

During last week’s bloodshed between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks – the worst in two 
decades – there was a widespread sense that only intervention by an outside 
force could restore peace to southern Kyrgyzstan. Many traumatised residents 
who lost family members in the fighting placed were hoping that if military 
peacekeepers were deployed in the region, their presence would be a deterrent 
to further violence.

On June 12, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s interim government, Roza Otunbaeva, asked 
Moscow to intervene militarily, but this request was turned down and no 
peacekeepers were sent. Three days later, the members of Collective Security 
Treaty Organisation, a Russian led regional security bloc, decided to offer 
logistical support to the Kyrgyz security forces on the grounds that the 
situation was fragile and in danger of deteriorating further.

This assistance may well help secure a kind of peace in the short term. But 
over the longer term, what will be needed most is dialogue between Kyrgyz and 
Uzbeks.

This process must be driven by new leaders and new structures coming out of 
both communities. Local government cannot fulfil this role, as it is regarded 
with deep mistrust in some communities. One only has to think of the brutal 
murder of the Karasuu district police chief and his driver, who went unarmed to 
the village of Nariman with the genuine intention of negotiating a truce.

Nor is there much point relying on the traditional elders or “aksakals” who 
have moderated in disputes since time immemorial. Without diminishing their 
importance, it needs to be said that a different kind of mediation is required 
in such a febrile atmosphere. The crowds of armed men – and it was men, mainly 
between the ages of 17 and 35 – who ran amok on the streets of Osh and 
Jalalabad were not listening to their elders, and were way beyond their control.

“There’s nothing we can do,” said Jalaliddin Salahiddinov, who heads the Uzbek 
cultural centre in Osh. “They won’t listen to us. We have no authority over 
them.”

Some experts argue that this lack of obedience is an indirect consequence of 
Kyrgyzstan’s success in creating greater freedom and democracy than 
neighbouring states. People of the younger generation have grown up in a 
different world from their elders, and were not prepared to heed their advice 
once they were pumped up with rumour and ready for the fray.

Others say the aksakals had little influence over the crowds because the latter 
were largely drawn from a marginalised “lumpenproletariat” which has little 
connection with the traditional order.

Yet amidst the chaos, I have seen potential leaders emerge – individuals with 
the authority and sheer grit to steer communities towards reconciliation. Many 
are people who enjoy respect within their communities as persevering, 
hard-working local organisers, people with the gift of speaking to others on 
their own terms, rather than talking at them.

Many of them used these skills to uphold civilised values and face down the mob 
during the ethnic violence.

One of these unsung heroes is Adyl, a middle-aged Kyrgyz man who runs a small 
business and has lived in Cheremshki, an Uzbek quarter of Osh for 20 years. 
When armed men arrived and started torching Uzbek homes in his neighbourhood, 
he went out to put out the fires with whatever came to hand.

Adyl faced the mob and told them they had no right to attack private property 
acquired through honest labour, whatever the ethnicity of its owner. Some of 
the arsonists, at least, listened.

“It will be hard to look my neighbours in the eye when they return, as they 
will do, to live and work on the land we share,” said Adyl.

A couple of days later, Adyl persuaded a neighbour to come back to her partly 
ruined home. She had taken five grandchildren to hide in a cellar in the next 
street.

“I take responsibility for what these marauders have done,” he said. “If they 
return, I will try to persuade them to stop this anarchy.”

Similar courage was shown by a middle-aged woman in Osh who stood guard to 
prevent a small computer centre from being destroyed. It survived unscathed 
when other shops and cafes along the same central street were wrecked and set 
alight.

Over the course of three days, she conducted lengthy negotiations with armed 
gangs eager to loot and smash the IT centre. They told her they were poor and 
envious of those better off than them.

Nevertheless, the woman continued to urge them to refrain from their shameful 
plan, and to leave the premises alone.

“They listened to me because they could see I was like their mothers,” she said.

On another battle-line, in Jalalabad, where the bloodletting began later than 
in Osh, the “people’s peacekeepers” employed different tactics. Here the main 
role was played by the Women Leaders of Jalalabad, a non-government group.

One its members picks up the story. “We managed to stop a group of young people 
from entering the city,” said Nurgul Joloeva. “We initially halted them by 
saying troops were on the way here and would shoot them all. That worked, for 
some reason.”

When a group of young men began massing at the racetrack outside the city, the 
activists went there and talked to those that seemed the most reasonable. They 
got them to give them the mobile phone numbers of other participants and began 
calling them to persuade them to disperse.

“Why are you going about with weapons?” asked one of the NGO members. “Because 
they [Uzbeks] are doing the same,” came the reply.

Asked whether he had actually seen this, the man replied that he had only heard 
it was true.

“I realised it was all being orchestrated in the interests of provocation, so 
we tried to set them right and explain why it was wrong. Maybe they listened to 
us because we are women and less swayed by emotion,” said Joloeva.

At the moment, community leaders say that while animosity is still running high 
in both communities, there is also a readiness to call a truce. That suggests 
dialogue is both possible and essential.

According to another member of the Jalalabad women’s NGO, “We’re holding talks 
by phone with the head of Tash-Bulak [Uzbek village in Suzak district] which 
has been 97 per cent torched and wrecked. People there are already organising 
themselves to rebuild.”

Another important group that could help bridge the gap between Uzbek and Kyrgyz 
is people of mixed ethnicity. Marriage between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks is quite 
common, and people who share both backgrounds could act as emissaries and 
intermediaries in the peace-building process.

Many of these potential peacemakers are ready to offer their services. It will 
be essential to coordinate their efforts to avoid overlapping or worse, 
conflicting activities. Such coordinated programmes could lay the foundations 
for a new ethnic harmony, and could ultimately serve as a model for the 
government’s ethnic policy.

Inga Sikorskaya, IWPR’s chief editor for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, was in 
Osh throughout the worst of the bloodshed. She is now back in Bishkek.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.


ORGANISED ENTHUSIASM IN TURKMENISTAN

Behind the cheering, quiet resentment at being forced to turn up and applaud 
government.

By IWPR Central Asia

People in the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan say they are sick and tired 
of being corralled into demonstrating their public spirit and loyalty to the 
regime.

Whenever a cheering crowd is needed for some national celebration, or when 
President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov or foreign dignitaries make an appearance, 
“volunteers” are corralled into service.

The same happens when extra labour is needed for public works such as cleaning 
the streets or planting trees, or for the all-important cotton crop, when 
people are sent out into the fields to weed and pick.

A visit that Berdymuhammedov paid to the northern province of Dashoguz in 
mid-May is a case in point.

Residents were instructed to form a welcoming crowd of several thousand people. 
To be ready in good time for the president’s plane touching down at nine in the 
morning, they had to be up with the birds,

“The children and others gathered to greet him had been waiting since four in 
the morning,” said a local teacher, who was up all night organising pupils for 
the event. “We were left emotionally and physically exhausted. This waste of 
our private time is completely unjustified.”

At least this was summer, unlike the minus-20 temperatures of a freezing-cold 
February day when Berdymuhammedov arrived to inaugurate a new textiles factory.

“By the time the president’s car appeared over the horizon, people were very 
cold and were just about ready to greet him with expletives instead of jubilant 
cries and greetings,” said a civil servant forced to join the welcome party.

When Berdymuhammedov came to power in 2007 following the death of Saparmurat 
Niazov, he announced a programme of reforms. Although he rolled back some of 
the worst policies thought up by Niazov in areas like health and education, he 
has done little to create a more liberal political and social climate.

Public displays of enthusiasm are very much a holdover from the Niazov era, 
designed to create an impression of public engagement in state policies. As 
well as ideology, there is an economic subtext as well. Using communal labour 
to clean the streets or bring in the cotton harvest saves the government a lot 
of money in wages.

There is a lengthy list of public holidays for which people have to turn out – 
Water and Harvest Day, Melon Day, Carpet Day, to name but a few.

“They come up with something new for us every day,” said a language student in 
the capital Ashgabat. “One day we have to come in sports gear to take part in a 
walk along the Path of Health, and the next we have to wear festive dress to 
form a cheering crowd at the opening of a site inaugurated by the president.”

These communal activities leave little time for actual study, she added.

Refusing to take part is not really an option, especially for public-sector 
workers who cannot afford to be sacked given the difficulty of finding other 
employment. Anyone who dared to protest would find themselves in even more 
trouble, and could well be questioned by the secret police and blacklisted as a 
troublemaker, making it hard to travel abroad or find work.

So everyone complies. Managers at government offices, health centres, 
universities and libraries say they are constantly being ordered to suspend 
classes so staff can attend events that are of little relevance to them.

A librarian in Ashgabat said the mix of compulsory events and free labour 
contributions was eating into her private life as well as work. Most recently, 
she and her colleagues had to close the library and go out to plant trees.

Other public sector workers resent having to contribute money to pay for things 
like the seedlings they will then have to plant.

“There’s no end to these activities and collections. How long can we take it?” 
said a lecturer at a teacher-training college.

Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Turkmen Helsinki Fund for Human Rights based in 
Bulgaria, says the only thing that might make the authorities stop and think 
would be if people stopped complying, or tried to challenge the authorities’ 
coercive methods through the law. Neither would be an easy route to take.

(Names of interviewees withheld out of concern for their security.)

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.


UZBEK RIGHTS ACTIVISTS TO FIGHT FOR SPORTS WRITER’S RELEASE

Campaigners hope jailed reporter’s popularity will increase pressure on 
authorities to review case.

By IWPR Central Asia

The conviction of a popular football journalist on charges of Islamic extremism 
has caused outrage among human rights defenders in Uzbekistan, who say they 
will do everything they can to secure his release.

Khairullo Hamidov, 35, a sports writer and TV commentator, was given a six year 
term on May 27 in a trial in which 20 people were accused of membership of a 
radical group calling itself “Jihodchilar” (Jihadists).

Arrested in January, he was convicted under the penal code offences of 
belonging to an extremist group and producing seditious material.

Hamidov denied all the charges. His lawyer says the factual evidence presented 
by the prosecution was flimsy.

Police said that during a search of Hamidov’s home in January they found audio 
recordings of sermons by two popular Muslim clerics – Abduvali Mirzoev, a 
revered imam from the eastern city of Andijan who disappeared in the early 
Nineties and is widely believed to have been abducted, and Obidkhon-Qori 
Nazarov, a leading imam in the capital Tashkent who fled the country to escape 
government persecution. Sermons by both clerics circulated widely in Uzbekistan 
for years, and were available for sale openly or under the counter at markets.

“The charges were based solely on that,” said the lawyer, who plans to appeal 
the verdict.

Human rights defenders say the authorities were clearly unable to pin anything 
on Hamidov but secured a guilty verdict anyway.

Surat Ikramov, leader of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights 
Defenders of Uzbekistan, a non-government organisation that monitors trials, 
says the judicial process was deeply flawed, and “no proof whatsoever” was 
offered to show Hamidov or his fellow-defendants were members of a group called 
Jihodchilar.

Many believe Hamidov was targeted because of his second line of work, as a 
writer on religious and ethical themes. As well as writing for the sports 
papers Interfootball and ?hampion and commentating on state TV, he presented a 
programme called “The Road to Enlightenment” on a private radio station, Navruz 
which proved so popular that CD recordings went on sale at markets in 
Uzbekistan and neighbouring Tajikistan.

Friends and colleagues say Hamidov used the programmes to encourage people to 
observe the traditional form of Sunni Islam practiced in Uzbekistan and stay 
away from extremist, fundamentalist trends.

Although Hamidov shared the Uzbek government’s dislike of fundamentalism, said 
Ikramov, “he was summoned to the National Security Service and given a warning 
on two occasion before his arrest. They very much wanted to put him in jail for 
conducting religious education, something the authorities don’t like.”

Another contributing factor may have been Hamidov’s poetry, published on the 
internet, expressing concern for the future of the Uzbek nation.

One poem, called “What has Happened to the Uzbeks?”, speaks about the hardships 
faced by many people in Uzbekistan, including labour migration, rising 
prostitution and increasing poverty.

While arrests of dissidents are commonplace in Uzbekistan, Hamidov’s case has 
caused unusual amounts of disquiet since he was so widely known among the 
general public.

Diloram Iskhakova of the Expert Working Group, an independent organisation that 
monitors social and political trends, predicts a wide-ranging campaign in 
support of the jailed journalist, although it will take place mainly on the 
internet rather than on the streets, given the high risk of arrest.

“Everyone will demand justice and will defend Khairullo because they know the 
accusations are illusory,” she said. “The millstones [of repression] have to be 
stopped, otherwise the same fate will befall all of us.”

Journalists say campaigns can be effective, citing the case of Umida Ahmedova, 
a top photographer whose images of rural life were deemed to have “libelled” 
the entire Uzbek nation. Ahmedova was found guilty in February, but released 
under an amnesty, in what many saw as an attempt by the authorities to defuse 
international outrage while saving face.

“The campaign… did achieve a result, even if it didn’t quite take the form one 
would have wanted,” said one local journalist.

Another journalist said the Hamidov case might be a turning-point if it focused 
greater public attention in Uzbekistan on cases of persecution and unjust trial.

“People might go as far as protesting. They know what authority he carries and 
they’re unlikely to remain silent, as used to be the case,” he said.

A third journalist said Hamidov’s conviction merely proved things were getting 
worse.

Rights groups say there are at least ten journalist languishing in jail in 
Uzbekistan, including Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdrahmonov, Jamshid Karimov, 
Muhammad Bekjon, Rashid Bekjon, Ghairat Mehliboev and Mamadali Mahmudov.

In its annual ranking for freedom of the press, published in April, the United 
States-based watchdog group Freedom House put Uzbekistan in 189th equal place 
with Turkmenistan and Belarus, out of a total of 193 countries.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.


The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.

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