Life goes on in southern Kyrgyzstan, but the walls tell a different story
Culture and History, Kyrgyzstan, Photoblog16 Comments
Editor’s note: In the ruins of Osh, the meaning of June’s terrible events are contested not only at the level of voting and rhetoric, but on the very walls. Guest blogger Mary Pole reports on the battle being fought through graffiti for the heart and soul of a torn city. “A glaring reminder of the violence is painted on walls in and around Osh, despite recent attempts to paint over the markings,” she writes.
As reconstruction picks up pace, winter approaches and June’s conflict is described publicly as ‘war’ or more commonly ‘unrest’, collective remembrance of the events takes on a different tone.
A glaring reminder of the violence is painted on walls in and around Osh, despite recent attempts to paint over the markings. An examination of this and writing and drawings painted in the months following the events in which as many as 4000 people may have died reveal the contested narratives of conflict.
A climate of fear permeates many Uzbek narratives of the violence in June and oppression faced since, with few public spaces in which to voice concerns and frustrations. Some perceive the markings of ‘Kyrgyz’ and ‘Sart’, dominating some areas of Osh such as the streets of Kurmanjan Datka and Lenin, to be direct threats against their ability to live in Kyrgyzstan and a reminder of the ethnic nature of the conflict. Others have used writings and drawings as a way of expressing their grievances.
The rise of nationalism in the aftermath of the conflict can also be seen on the walls of the city. As Kyrgyz narratives increasingly blamed Uzbek communities for the outbreak of violence in the weeks and months following the conflict, the ethnic dimension solidified, resulting in several political campaigns during the Parliamentary Elections that focused heavily on ethnicity.
Contested narratives of the conflict, its causes, and the history of ethnicities in Southern Kyrgyzstan have deepened divides between the two groups since violence broke out for the second time in twenty years. The walls tell this story.