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124 die, 1,500 hurt, as 80,000 Uzbeks try to flee
By Aibek Karabayev, Ubaydullo Babadzhanov, Alisher Karimov and Maksat Osmonaliyev
OSH/DZHALAL-ABAD/BISHKEK – Clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continued June 14, leaving 124 dead and 1,500 wounded, and forcing 80,000 ethnic Uzbeks to flee across the border to their homeland.
“Barricades were built on the streets where Uzbeks or half–Uzbek, half-Kyrgyz live. It is impossible to get through. Dead bodies are lying right on the street in those districts, but people are afraid to gather them”, said Okulbek Jakayev, a resident of one such neighbourhood who has gone to a relative’s home in a calmer neighbourhood.
“A lot of my neighbours were shot. We saw ethnic strife in the 1990s, but not such open cruelty”, he said. “At that time, they were just shooting, but now some of the bodies cannot even be identified. Where are the special services? Why are they not getting the situation under control”?
As the inter-ethnic fighting continued for a fourth day, the interim government in Bishkek awaited a decision on what aid the Collective Security Treaty Organisation would provide.
“We are now waiting for some sort of decision regarding peacekeepers”, interim president Rosa Otunbayeva told Central Asia Online. “We turned to them because the situation has reached alarming proportions and we were unprepared to pacify it on our own. I spoke with (Russian Premier Vladimir) Putin and wrote to (Russian President) Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev".
The Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Press Service reported that it has redeployed all possible forces to the South. An additional 100 commandos arrived in Osh June 13. One was killed when driving through the streets. In addition, six policemen were killed and 17 were wounded. The head of the District Internal Affairs Directorate in Karasui, Osh, Suyunbek Omurzakov, was killed as he headed for talks with Uzbeks. His driver was beheaded.
“My brother and I hid at our good Kyrgyz neighbours’. The rest of our family fled to the Uzbek border. We have not heard anything from them yet,” said Raikhon M. She did not give her last name out of fear that she would be found. “We would have fled for the border too, but how would we get there now? And, what guarantee is there that they would not kill us on the way? We do not sleep at night. We hear shots and screams”.
Both sides have reportedly suffered losses.
The Ministry of Health said late Monday that 124 people had died, and 1,500 were wounded. More than 800 foreign nationals, including Turkmen, Turks and Pakistanis in the area, have been evacuated. The Uzbek community reports that at least 700 Uzbeks have been killed. The hospitals do not have enough medicine, but there is food since one of Osh’s grocery stores has opened.
Doctors drive for supplies and food. Doctors are concerned that with temperatures over 30 degrees centigrade, the many bodies in the streets could create a public health crisis.
Zhaslan, a doctor, said it is not safe even for them to drive on the roads. “A number of our colleagues had their cars taken away and were beaten in Dzhalal-Abad. The biggest problem is with moving humanitarian aid. The supply comes from Bishkek, but how do we deliver it here?”
There is no special convoy to escort people to the border. International Red Cross representative Anna Nelson said that 80,000 refugees have already crossed the Uzbek border.
Uzbek authorities are providing refugees with food and shelter, but camps in Khanabad and Andijan are overflowing.
Andijan human rights activities Saidzhahon Zainabiddinov, who visited the refugee camp, said, “The refugees come to Andijan, but they are not in the city itself, but special camps. Some of the refugees live with relatives. I spoke with a few people. According to them, the refugees are being provided the necessary help — the wounded are in the hospitals and everyone is being fed. … Most likely, when everything calms down in Osh, the refugees will return back to Osh, that is, they will not stay in Uzbekistan since supporting them is costly for the country”.
Khanabad human rights activist Dilshod Usmanov said, “The refugees are being placed in school buildings, kindergartens, and tent cities. There are a lot of them – more than 40,000. Whenever possible, they are provided with tents, medicine and food. The locals are also helping them, bringing them groceries or already prepared meals and morally supporting them.”
Refugees crossed the border at two control points in Osh Oblast, but on the evening of June 14 Uzbekistan announced that it would close the border.
A Ministry of Emergency Situations representative told Central Asia Online that there is not enough space for the refugees: “Those refugees that were accepted will probably be sent back as well, maybe one month after”. The border is packed with Uzbeks who have not been allowed to cross. In Dzhalal-Abad, gunshots and explosions rang out. Stores and residential areas were ablaze and the city was under curfew.
“Seventeen were killed in just one mahalla. Two were shot with a machine gun and the rest from an armoured vehicle. We have never seen such cruelty,” said an ethnic Uzbek from Odiljon.
Another Uzbek, Okimullo, said, “They give the emergency services’ and commandants’ telephone numbers on television, but all the announcements are only in Kyrgyz, and the Uzbeks do not know Kyrgyz! Would it be so hard to say them in Russian at least or in Uzbek”?
Dzhalal-Abad attempted to hold negotiations between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz but failed.
Dzhalal-Abad Oblast State National Security Service Commandant Kubatbek Baibolov said, “The situation is stabilising here. We arrested a man who has direct ties to organising the upheaval – a member of Ak Zhol party, Paizullakh Rakhmanov. He is now giving his statement. The coming nights will be the litmus test. The MIA is mobilised. We are hoping to put down those responsible for the pogroms and provocations.”
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation’s Security Council secretaries held an emergency consultation June 14 in Moscow. Interfax reported that the secretaries agreed on measures to resolve the situation in Kyrgyzstan. These measures will be reported to presidents of the member countries. The members have not excluded the use of any of the CSTO’s potential means.
But, Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun said, “I do not think that there is any need for peacekeepers now. We are dealing with the conflict on our own. This could create unnecessary tension.”
Special Interim Government Representative on Refugee Matters in the South Aigul Ryskulova said, “The situation with refugees is quite difficult. We are now trying to establish the exact number of ethnic Uzbeks who fled the country. We are trying to evacuate Osh residents to the country’s calmer areas. Children, women and the wounded are first. The humanitarian aid is coming — a lot of it”.