We must confront the facts about Osh 2010
Editor’s note: It has been one year since the terrible events in southern Kyrgyzstan, particularly Osh. neweurasia’s Marat reviews what he sees as a year of avoidance and wrongful finger-pointing. “I believe [reconciliation efforts] will not work until someone legibly explains the disproportion in the numbers between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz of those killed, raped, shot, tortured, convicted and forced to flee,” he says. “I’m sorry, but my countrymen must confront this fact.”
That the June 2010 events would leave a deep scar on Kyrgyzstan’s face was clear from the very first days after the clashes, no matter who started it and who responded. But it was not clear how neighbors — far and near — would respond to it.
The first response was Tashkent’s permission to let tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees fleeing rape, arson and killings to enter Uzbekistan for a brief period of time. Then came a statement from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and later from Moscow, the “verdict” of which — “it is Kyrgyzstan’s internal affair” — dashed the last hopes people had that the superpowers would intervene and put an end to the atrocities.
After the initial “fog of war” settled by early July, the power centers in Osh and Bishkek sent contradicting messages. While one side would blame the ousted president and his supporters for staging an “act of revenge” for his eviction from power, nationalist figures put the blame squarely on shoulders of “separatist Uzbek” citizens of Kyrgyzstan. Most of the blame was (remains) advanced against the self-exiled business figures of Uzbek ethnicity.
But if there is one thing politicians in both power centers agree upon, it’s that everyone else but themselves are guilty. For some reason, nobody talks about the dire economic situation in the region where unemployment is high; nobody talks about the tensions that were present between the two ethnic groups; nobody talks about how the government has mismanaged the national economy or how local officials mismanaged interethnic relations.
Thus, Fall descended upon charred homes and businesses and thousands of men and women of mainly Uzbek ethnicity beyond Kyrgyz borders. The attempts over the summer to introduce OSCE police advisors crashed against the wall of protestors who feared allowing foreign police officers would lead to a Kosovo-like scenario. And it was no surprise the nationalistic Ata-Jurt Party entered Parliament in October, as they claimed they had fought the separatists from chipping away part of the country. Again, nobody has bothered to analyze the persistently heard word “autonomy”, which does not mean “separation” but rather… autonomy.
After the parliamentary elections were judged to be valid and MPs were granted their mandates, almost throughout the whole winter, the Osh and Jalalabad events disappeared from the radar. The MPs were no new faces and were in power under different pro-president parties. Therefore, it was no surprise that the old “slicing the cake” exercise continued to prevail while hundreds of people were deprived of shelter in the South and were living in homes funded by the international community.
It was not until early Spring that the MPs and other politicians started raising the specter of those “dreadful attempts of separatists to break our country apart.” This was partially aroused by the final report of the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), an independent international commission. The report had been delayed for various reasons until early May, when its release stirred renewed animosity toward the international community among nationalist-minded individuals. In response to the report, Parliament labeled the head of the commission, Kimmo Kiljunen, as a persona non grata for allegedly displaying the Kyrgyz nation in a negative manner. Some MPs saw a connection between the release of heavily anti-Kyrgyz books and the KIC — Kiljunen is from Sweden where the books were allegedly published.
Nevertheless, the KIC report found no instances of demands for “autonomy”, which was the cornerstone of the charges being made against Uzbek community leaders. It also found no grounds for calling what happened a genocide, although the events could qualify as crimes against humanity. Yet, MP Joldosheva issued her own report, complemented with a video which provides the opposite conclusion: Kyrgyzstan was on the brink of a potential break up into two pieces and it was the wealthy ethnic Uzbek citizens of Kyrgyzstan who wanted it to do so.
Throughout the last 12 months, mass media has taken a clear stance: either with us or against us. The Kyrgyz-language mass media mostly spoke along nationalistic lines. When our President offered apologies, these were denounced as a “manifestation of weakness before [vicious] Uzbeks.” In sharp contrast, mass media outside Kyrgyzstan has been stubbornly claiming the Kyrgyz were not simply “responding to” assaults during the June events. Most of our MPs saw such a stance as an “info-war” against Kyrgyzstan. The claim is quite novel, but also absurd, as this would mean Kyrgyzstan is at info-war with the whole world. Of course, nobody bothered to ask whether anyone actually declared such a war against us, much less whether Kyrgyzstan is a worthy opponent to withstand such media giants as Al Jazeera, CNN and BBC, to name only a few adversaries with “hostile attitudes”.
Today, as we look back over the last 12 months, we can still feel tension in the air. There are rumors of new clashes on the anniversary, and politicians using the “be on alert” type of rhetoric. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say the government has not undertaken any reconciliation attempts. But I believe these will not work until someone legibly explains the disproportion in the numbers between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz of those killed, raped, shot, tortured, convicted and forced to flee. I’m sorry, but my countrymen must confront this fact.