WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 644, March 21, 2011

REMAKING LIFE IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN  Images reflect slow pace of recovery in Osh. 
 By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

KAZAK POLICE THREATEN DISSIDENTS WITH PSYCHIATRIC CONFINEMENT  Image-conscious 
government avoids labelling critics as mentally unstable, but police in 
provinces still use forcible committal as threat.  By Andrei Grishin - Central 
Asia Human Rights Reporting Project

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REMAKING LIFE IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN

Images reflect slow pace of recovery in Osh. 

By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

Eight months after their lives were torn apart by ethnic violence, people in 
and around Osh and Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan are still struggling with 
the practicalities of rebuilding their homes as well as with the psychological 
trauma.
 
These pictures, taken in February 2011, show scenes from the daily lives of 
Uzbek and Kyrgyz families who lived through the clashes in the sprawling city 
of Osh.
 
An investigation into the violence over several days in June 2010 found that 
426 deaths had been verified, of which 276 had been identified as Uzbek and 105 
Kyrgyz, while 2,200 people sustained injuries.
 
Thousands of homes and businesses were looted and torched, apparently not on a 
random basis, but after they were selected because of the ethnicity of their 
owners. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR calculated that 2,000 private 
houses were damaged and 1,700 completely destroyed. The central market serving 
the whole of Osh was also devastated, and business has not yet recovered to 
where it was before the fighting broke out.
 
The authorities in Kyrgyzstan say immediate rebuilding work will take at least 
two years and cost half a million US dollars, while full recovery in the region 
could take up to a decade. They say they have a clear plan for reconstructing 
damaged areas of Osh and Jalalabad, but residents complain that help has been 
slow in coming. The slow pace of economic recovery coupled with the perception 
of continuing instability is prompting a steady exodus of people, many of them 
ethnic Uzbeks but also some Kyrgyz.
 
Inter-communal tensions remain, and people interviewed by IWPR for our recent 
report Deep Rifts Remain in Conflict-Torn Kyrgyz South said the sense of 
separation was feeding mistrust and suspicion, and was one of the factors 
holding back economic recovery.
 
Saule Mukhametrakhimova is IWPR Central Asia editor.
 
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.


KAZAK POLICE THREATEN DISSIDENTS WITH PSYCHIATRIC CONFINEMENT 

Image-conscious government avoids labelling critics as mentally unstable, but 
police in provinces still use forcible committal as threat. 

By Andrei Grishin - Central Asia Human Rights Reporting Project

The practice of locking away regime critics or perceived troublemakers in 
psychiatric hospitals largely ended with the collapse of the Soviet system two 
decades ago, but human rights defenders report that some police are still 
trying to apply the tactic in Kazakstan. 
 
These days, it is not high-profile dissidents who are referred for compulsory 
psychiatric care, but political activists far from the two main cities Astana 
and Almaty, and individuals who ask too many awkward questions.
 
Unlike the old days, however, many doctors are refusing to approve an order for 
treatment of individuals who they can see are sane.
 
In December, 64-year-old Alexander Bondarenko was detained by police and sent 
to a psychiatric clinic in the city of Karaganda in central Kazakstan.
 
A committed communist, Bondarenko was detained while protesting against the 
dismantling of a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Karaganda’s central squire.
 
He was then held for three days at the regional psychiatric clinic, where staff 
told him police had filed a statement that he was a danger to the public and 
must undergo a compulsory assessment of his mental state.
 
Doctors reassured him that they would not force any treatment on him, and 
allowed him to leave.
 
Bondarenko filed a case against the police on grounds of mistreatment, but the 
case was thrown out for lack of evidence.
 
This was the second time Bondarenko had been forcibly taken to the psychiatric 
clinic. On the first occasion, five years ago, he was detained while supporting 
a miners’ protest.
 
There have been similar cases in Karaganda, the centre of a mining region where 
left-wing sentiment is strong. In October 2010, Tahir Muhamedzyanov, deputy 
head of a miners’ rights group in Shakhtinsk, a town near Karaganda, was taken 
to the same clinic by police. Once again, doctors pronounced him to be sound of 
mind and he was able to leave.
 
In 2007, Anatoly Prilepsky was held for almost a week in a closed ward in 
Karaganda after campaigning for a public commemoration of the end of the Soviet 
Union.
 
The overall impression is of a police force that seeks to label troublemakers 
as mentally unstable. IWPR submitted a formal request to the provincial police 
department in Karaganda to find out whether this was in fact policy, but 
although government agencies are required to reply within a set period, no 
response was forthcoming.
 
Kairat Abdrakhmanov, the head doctor at the clinic in Karaganda, confirmed that 
there were cases where police accompanied individuals brought in for possible 
treatment. But he said the prosecution service had conducted an investigation 
in January following allegations of forcible admissions, and had found no 
wrongdoing by medical staff.
 
“We understand that forcible treatment is a serous matter, so we adhere to the 
law,” he added.
 
The head of the Karaganda branch of the Kazakstan Bureau for Human Rights and 
Rule of Law, Yuri Gusakov, recalled the region’s sad history as the location of 
a major Gulag prison camp complex where political prisoners were held in Soviet 
times.
 
“The absurd policy of placing dissidents in clinic is still being practiced by 
our police,” he said. “There’s generally no justification for it whatsoever.”
 
In the western city of Uralsk, local resident Alexander Puzdrikov accuses 
police of trying to get him committed in January. Now 37, he has been trying 
for some years to claim subsidised housing, to which he is legally entitled 
because he was brought up in a children’s home.
 
On January 6, he joined a small protest in Uralsk against plans for a 
referendum to extend the term in office of Kazakstan’s president Nursultan 
Nazarbaev. The other participants – journalists and opposition members – were 
arrested and either fined or given five days in jail. (See Taking a Stand in 
Kazakstan on the experience of another participant, journalist Sanat Urnaliev.)
 
Puzdrikov alleges that police planted drugs on him when he was detained, and 
then threatened to press charges unless he accompanied them to the psychiatric 
clinic and signed a consent form for treatment. However, a doctor at the centre 
issued a written statement that no treatment was needed, and Puzdrikov was 
released.
 
The police department in Uralsk denied that any officers were involved in the 
incident, and refused to comment further.
 
Puzdrikov has now filed a complaint against the police with the prosecution 
service.
 
Cases in remote parts of Kazakstan often go unnoticed, but the detention in 
2007 of Nurlan Alimbekov, a writer from the southern city of Shymkent, sparked 
a campaign by media and human rights groups including the New York-based Human 
Rights Watch. Alimbekov was placed in a high security psychiatric institution 
after he was accused of sending emails said to have insulted President 
Nazarbaev and incited ethnic hatred.
 
The international reaction appears to have warned officials at national level 
off using the psychiatric care system to confine dissidents.
 
“It is clear that the [national] authorities… have learned from their mistakes 
and have no desire to create an unwanted international outcry,” freelance 
journalist Andrei Sviridov told IWPR. “But things are altogether different 
matter in the provinces, where nothing has changed and the law-enforcement 
officers are used to doing whatever they like.”
 
Sviridov said the police targeted local NGO activists, left-leaning opposition 
supporters and people pursuing individual claims.
 
“They’re well aware that these dissenting individuals are not of a high enough 
profile to prompt an international campaign,” he added.
 
Andrei Grishin is a staff member at the Kazakstan Bureau for Human Rights and 
Rule of Law.

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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REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique 
insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists, 
the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly 
basis.

The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek, 
Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better 
local and international understanding of the region.

IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The 
service is published online in English and Russian. 

The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and 
do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal 
Chazan; Senior Editor and Acting Central Asia Director: John MacLeod; Central 
Asia Editor: Saule Mukhametrakhimova.

IWPR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; Head 
of Programmes: Sam Compton.


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