Kyrgyzstan: Nationalists Protest Unpatriotic Independence Posters
Promotional billboards and banners celebrating Kyrgyzstan’s 20th anniversary of independence have offended Kyrgyz nationalists, sparking the kind of violent reaction that is becoming common in the Central Asian nation.In the southern city of Osh, representatives of the Ak Kyzmat youth organization burned signs they called “anti-ideological,” including a poster depicting Kyrgyz yurts covered with the flags of China, Russia, and the United States. While the photographer responsible for the banner maintained that his image was intended to represent the three great powers he says “keep watch over” Kyrgyzstan, his detractors interpreted the image as degrading. The protestors also took issue with a banner depicting a foreign tourist surrounded by Kyrgyz, which they argued placed their compatriots in a subservient position. “It looks like the Kyrgyz are following after him, but I want to point out that the Kyrgyz have always lived on their own and have never depended on anyone,” complained Ak Kyzmat leader Turgunbai Aldakulov. “If the appropriate agencies do not remove the banners, the youth of the city are ready to burn every poster in Osh.”The reactions underscore the surging Kyrgyz nationalism that has reshaped the fragile country’s politics. Kyrgyzstan’s yellow press has linked Ak Kyzmat (“Pure Duty” in Kyrgyz) to Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov, a self-proclaimed nationalist whose uncompromising rhetoric helped fan the city’s June 2010 ethnic violence, according to the independent international Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission. A member of the country’s youth parliament, Amanbol Babakulov, claimed the offending billboards had been commissioned through a contest sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, but a UNDP spokesman said September 8 the program had no connection whatsoever to any such project, according to the 24.kg news agency.The ads drew a strong reaction in Bishkek as well. The department of advertising for the mayor’s office announced that it would be removing certain banners immediately, including the one featuring the flag-covered yurts. The decision comes after the office received numerous complaints that, as the AKIPress news agency reported, “a Kyrgyz should see the sun through the tunduk [central roof opening] of a yurt, not some kind of Russian flag.”
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