Kyrgyzstan Votes for Intolerance, Bans Finnish Investigator
Kyrgyzstan’s leaders just can’t accept the international response to last June’s ethnic violence. Responding to the latest in a series of independent studies that dare say more Kyrgyz killed Uzbeks (though it did clearly point out that Uzbeks killed Kyrgyz, too), on May 26 parliament banned the report’s author, Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen, from entering Kyrgyzstan. Not a single deputy in the 120-seat legislature was brave enough to vote against the proposal, which passed with 95 votes and one abstention. As Kyrgyzstan approaches presidential elections, the country is becoming a bastion of intolerance. Anyone who challenges the dominant nationalist discourse, which essentially holds that Uzbeks got what they deserved during the ethnic bloodletting -- and, by the way, members of the minority are ungrateful separatist-terrorists -- is accused of conspiring against the nation. The majority, in turn, takes increasingly drastic measures to make sure all they hear is that they are correct. The ban is a play straight out of detested despot Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s book. Don’t like what someone has to say? Ban them. Now, will anyone with the audacity to ask for a measured response to the violence also end up dead in a mysterious car fire? Or cast from a sixth-floor window? There seems enough hate going around to believe so. President Roza Otunbayeva has been painfully silent as politicians fall all over themselves to denounce Kiljunen and his May 3 report, where he wrote that members of Kyrgyzstan’s military took part in the ethnic violence, and found indications they committed crimes against humanity. Deputies say the report, which Otunbayeva commissioned, incites interethnic discord.Parliamentary Speaker Akmatbek Keldibekov, leader of the virulently nationalist Ata-Jurt Party, has said repeatedly that the report is biased. He blames “separatists” for the violence – a clear reference to minority ethnic Uzbeks. Unfortunately, since it is doubtful many Kyrgyzstanis have read the whole 89-page report, most will believe the interpretations of such illustrious public figures, no mater how one-sided. For the record, the report does not say only one ethnic group attacked the other.Nevertheless, Keldibekov, repeating his government’s response, declared at a meeting of post-Soviet parliamentary assemblies on May 16 that he could not stomach the charges: “We do not accept the tendency, which takes into consideration the crimes committed only by members of one ethnic group, ignoring its losses, and presents another group as defenseless victims.” (The international studies, including reports by Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, dismiss the separatist fear mongering). The May 26 vote included a provision tasking the Interior Ministry with prosecuting those disseminating “false information.”What about deputy Jyldyz Joldosheva's irresponsible rants? On May 25, she screened a “documentary” claiming that “The first days of the tragedy demonstrated the preparedness of the Uzbek separatists,” and, “Today Uzbeks themselves admit they started the June tragedy.”They do? Oh, but it doesn’t matter: You are a public figure. People believe you. Who cares about truth and reconciliation?