Kyrgyz Interrim Government Tries to Handle Crisis; Uzbek Foreign Ministry Confident Bishkek Can Cope
Kyrgyzstan's struggling interrim government is trying to handle the growing humanitarian crisis ensuing from Kyrgyz-Uzbek clashes in the southern Kyrgyz towns of Osh and Jalal-Abad. The death toll in clashes from the last 3 days is now at 84 with 1,117 wounded, AKIpress.org reports. While Uzbekistan has issued a statement condemning the violence and expressing confidence that Kyrgyzstan will cope on its own, Tashkent has sent troops to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border to help strengthen security, 24.kg has reported.
It is not clear whether Tashkent will help a reported 5,000- 6,000 ethnic Uzbeks who have gathered at the Bekobod border post in Kyrgyzstan's Suzak District, attempting to flee into Uzbekistan. At least 1,000 refugees have been admitted into Uzbekistan, Interfax reported. Kyrgyzstan opened up two checkpoints at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border on June 12 to allow refugees into Uzbekistan, but Uzbek border guards later closed them for the evening, and it is not clear if they will re-open, AKIpress.org reports. Some 1,500 ethnic Uzbek refugees who had crossed into Uzbekistan June 12 began returning to Kyrgyzstan on June 13, Cholponbek Turusbekov, deputy head of the Kyrgyz Border Service told AKIpress.org.
As EurasiaNet photos graphically illustrate, a challenge faced by fleeing Uzbek victims of violence in Kyrgyzstan are the irrigation ditches dug by Uzbek forces last year along the Kyrgyz border after a string of violent attacks in Andijan and Tashkent. A stampede of refugees at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border June 12 has already left four dead, EurasiaNet reports.
Yet unofficial reports persist that unrest continues. Fires continue to rage around the city of Osh, with some Uzbek quarters burning to the ground, 24.kg reported.
Bishkek has sent 300 special forces to Osh which are deploying in the central square. akirpress.org reported. The Emergencies Ministry of Kyrgyzstan is organizing humanitarian deliveries and the Defense Ministry of Kyrgyzstan is accompanying the humanitarian freight. Elmira Ibraimova, coordinator of social issues for the Kyrgyz interrim government, has arrived with a flight carrying humanitarian aid, which will return to the capital with wounded.
The Kyrgyz Emergencies Ministry is also evacuating women, children and elderly in Osh out of mixed ethnic neighborhoods, 24.kg reported, citing Interfax. Authorities say there have not been any serious clashes between either Kyrgyz and Uzbek, and deny there have been attacks on police.
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry expressed "enormous alarm and concern" from "the public and people of Uzbekistan" related to the unrest in a June 12 statement:
The facts of murder with impunity, violence, pogroms, arson and theft of civilians committed by bandit groups on the streets and in homes in Osh certainly provoke a sense of outrage on the part of the entire world community.
There is every reason to conclude that such actions are organized, directed and provocative in nature and have the far-reaching goal of provoking inter-ethnic conflict and creating unbearable conditions for representatives of ethnic minorities living in the south of Kyrgyzstan.
We have no doubt that this is all being committed with the instigation of forces whose interests are absolutely remote from the interests of the Kyrgyz people. [...]
We express confidence in the fact that the people of Kyrgyzstan, who have experienced a lot and seen a lot, and its healthy forces have sufficient wisdom and life experience to stop the outbreak of criminality and lawlessness in order to stabilize the situation in the country and ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the multi-ethnic people of Kyrgyzstan.
The Collective Treaty Security Organization (CSTO) is expected to review the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan on Monday, but it is not likely Uzbekistan will endorse CSTO intervention, nor will Russia. Uzbek diplomats are said to be confident that the Kyrgyz can manage to cope with this situation and stop violence on their own, lenta.ru reported.
Reports of Uzbekistan sending troops to the border were initially denied but later on the afternoon of June 13, Cholponbek Turusbekov, deputy head of the Kyrgyz Border Service said "Uzbekistan has sent special units of border troops to the border with Kyrgyzstan in order to strengthen the protection of the border," 24.kg reported.
Kyrgyzstan's interrim government has mobilized those fit for military duty up to age 50 to stabilize the situation, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry.
Human rights groups in Osh continue to be concerned about how the internally-displaced and would-be refugees fleeing into Uzbekistan are going to be treated. Not only are they fleeing back to the country many of them fled from in 2005 after the massacre of demonstrators in Andijan, they have every reason to fear detention, given the clear example set by the arrest and sentencing to 10 years in prison made of one outspoken Uzbek refugee, Dilorom Abduqodirova.
The New-York-based Human Rights Watch, which has a staff person in Osh, has called for the UN to help end the violence.
Panic-stricken ethnic Uzbeks phoned Human Rights Watch pleading for help to escape the threat of violence. A man from the eastern part of Osh said that the lone government armored personnel carrier posted to his ethnic Uzbek neighborhood on the night of June 11 had been commandeered by an ethnic Kyrgyz gang.
Safe movement within Osh and passage out of the city is extremely difficult. Ethnic gangs from both sides have established roadblocks in the city and are preventing people from passing.