The Kyrgyz-language newspaper Aykin Sayasat published an outrageous commentary on April 27, titled “Will the ‘Jews’ Leave Us with Nothing?”. Its appearance raises concerns that unchecked bigotry can spur more violence in Kyrgyzstan.Among the many disturbing aspects to the piece is its use of the pejorative term “жиды” (zhidy), instead of “евреи” (yevrei), to characterize Jews. Beyond that, the article rants that Jews have “over a number of years, and in many different countries, developed anti-state policies.” It also revives a rumor that former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s notoriously venal son, Maxim, was Jewish.It is worth remembering before going into a more thorough discussion of the article’s contents that on April 7, 2010, the day Bakiyev was driven out of Bishkek, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in the central Ala-Too Square. That same day, a Molotov cocktail was hurled into the country’s only synagogue. In September, that synagogue was again target of an attack – this time attackers launched an explosive device at the building.Officials in Bishkek have been conspicuously silent on the Aykin Sayasat commentary. Such reticence sharply contrasts to their response to the alleged publication of The Hour of the Jackal, a book they say has been funded by scheming ethnic Uzbeks seeking to incite racial hatred. Kyrgyzstan’s Prosecutor General has even opened a criminal investigation into the matter.The Jewish community in Kyrgyzstan is tiny and has not historically been subject to notable intimidation. But the appearance of this kind of toxic rhetoric can only deepen concerns about the growth of anything-goes nationalism in the country. Kyrgyz nationalists of late have taken to blaming Kyrgyzstan’s problems on outsiders. The Aykin Sayasat attack article, then, fits neatly into a xenophobic narrative that is shaping the nationalists’ worldview. In Kyrgyzstan, opines Aykin Sayasat journalist Abylai Sayak, the Jews have fashioned plans to “humiliate the Kyrgyz people, lead them into swampland, scatter them around the world, and manipulate our politicians into selling our valuable resources, water and land, as well as foment corruption.”Sayak implies further that it is this kind of scheme that has burdened Kyrgyz people with $2 billion worth of debt and caused terrible damage to the economy. Not quite happy with this barrage of hateful nonsense, Sayak rails against supposed plans to turn the country into an “experimental laboratory for the production of bacteriological equipment.” The article, which is translated into Russian by the Gezitter website, concludes on this note: “If the ‘dog’ politicians of these ‘dog’ times don’t think about tomorrow, and everybody is interested only in the good of their own pocket, then the nation will undoubtedly remain in the hands of the Jews.”Now, this is racism, pure and simple. It is also incitement to racial hatred. And this has been published in a legally registered newspaper openly sold in kiosks up and down Kyrgyzstan. Why do prosecutors rail against allegedly racist tracts supposedly published by Uzbeks that virtually nobody in Kyrgyzstan has seen, but do nothing about racist material easily available on the streets of Bishkek?The Prosecutor General's Office announced on its site April 27 that it will punish media outlets for publishing material inciting ethnic enmity, but it is hard not to be skeptical. Different standards have been historically proven to apply to different types of intolerance.
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