Monday, September 27, 2010

There's no tension like ethnic tension

Weeks after political tensions resulted in the president fleeing the country and the opposition party taking power, things got even worse.

By late spring 2010, longstanding ethnic tensions between minority Uzbeks and majority Kyrgyz begin rising, and finally boiled over in the nations second largest city of Osh. On June 9-10 gunfire was reported and a state of emergency was declared, resulting in the deployment of military units to restore law and order.

Many sources, including the UN, have claimed the riots were orchestrated from outside forces, with multiple reports of organized groups of gunmen in ski masks shooting both Uzbeks and Kyrgyz to ignite the riots.

Although damage was widespread, it seems that Uzbek businesses, schools, and homes were systematically targeted. The United Nations has said it believes the attacks were "orchestrated, targeted and well-planned." Human Rights Watch has documented numerous examples of ethnic Uzbeks being the target of detention and torture.

Thousands of people were killed, several thousands more wounded, and tens of thousands of people are now displaced refugees.

Osh is now a city of two divided communities, with suspicion and mistrust between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

The PBS Newshour put together an excellent slide show - Turmoil in Kyrgyzstan - that I highly recommend.

There's a pretty good chance that I'll be working in Osh to observe voting there in the upcoming election - and I'm curious to see firsthand if the tragic events of last spring have an impact on the democratic process there.

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