Kyrgyzstan: Parliament Deputy Stoking Ethnic Tensions
As the grim anniversary of last year’s tragic ethnic violence approaches, many people in Kyrgyzstan are worried about a renewal of the bloodshed. But members of parliament seem to be contributing to the tensions rather than addressing them.
Take, for example, Jyldyz Joldosheva. While parliament discusses various investigations, Joldosheva is pushing unsupported claims about how members of the Uzbek “diaspora” -- a word suggesting Uzbeks don’t belong in Kyrgyzstan at all -- are responsible for the violence. In Kyrgyzstan’s charged atmosphere, her ethnocentric, hateful invective could be easily misinterpreted as a call to arms.
Last week, Joldosheva, who hails from the ultranationalist Ata-Jurt Party, screened for deputies a “documentary” on the violence, with scenes compiled from her “personal archive,” which says Uzbeks “admit they started the June tragedy.”
The next day she said she needed police protection (presumably from those Uzbek “separatists”).
A day later she wanted to show the film on national television.
There is a troubling trend in Kyrgyzstan: Blame for what broke out June 10, 2010, gets pinned on a nebulous league of Uzbek upstarts, Islamic radicals and allies of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, as well as the weak interim government in power at the time. The nationalist narrative posits that Uzbeks started the violence and got what they deserved. This chauvinist interpretation, even among authorities and in the media, goes virtually unchallenged. On May 26, the head of the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC) -- a Finnish politician whose team found evidence that Uzbeks had been hit disproportionately hard and attacks against them may have constituted crimes against humanity -- was banned from the country by a unanimous parliament.
A video that would instill more hatred for Uzbeks should go on national television? Thankfully, several deputies have said this film should not be aired outside of parliament, where it makes up part of Joldosheva’s “investigation.” (Not counting hers, there have been two official domestic ones.)
That hasn’t stopped Joldosheva, however. She now insists that former President Bakiyev, a favorite scapegoat for all that’s gone wrong in Kyrgyzstan, helped fund the violence by paying Uzbeks “separatists.” Her proof? Bakiyev once spoke a few Uzbek words and did a little Uzbek jig at a party.
You may remember Joldosheva for her frantic attempts this April to rescue the Kyrgyz nation from a slanderous Uzbek-funded book, supposedly printed in Finland, which no one credible has seen. She leveled the spurious charges just before the hated KIC, run by a Finn, issued its report last month. That Finn -- Kimmo Kiljunen -- is now persona non grata. He is accused, among other things, of having accepted bribes from Uzbeks to smear the Kyrgyz people.
Tensions are rising again in southern Kyrgyzstan, thanks in part to the reckless rhetoric coming out of parliament. So if the violence kicks off again, investigators -- should any be allowed into the country -- will have plenty of material to study.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.