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S. Kyrgyz residents want peace after struggles
People’s trust in each other is becoming stronger
By Bakyt Ibraimov
OSH – For the sake of stability and community security, the inhabitants of the south of Kyrgyzstan are compromising with each other.
“The most important thing is that ordinary people, both Kyrgyz and Uzbek, understood that no one needs conflicts and that the instigators of such wars are political players; therefore, we want to live peacefully, bring up our children and grandchildren and rejoice at each new day,” said Nasiba Mirzokhodzhayeva, 47, who was injured during the ethnic clashes in Osh.
The efforts of the authorities and international organisations in building peace are gradually enabling local residents to trust each other again, she said.
Pulat Gafurov, chairman of tha Ak-Buura Territorial Council No. 8 of the city of Osh, agreed.
“Our Territorial Council covers about 20 streets in the central part of the city, where 18,300 people live. Of these, 45% are Uzbeks and 54% Kyrgyz. With the assistance of donor organisations, we are taking various measures: we are helping each other to build and restore housing, to hold sports contests and to mark festivals together: for example, Novruz, May Day and Victory Day on May 9 lie ahead,” he said. “All this significantly helps to strengthen relations between the two ethnic groups.”
Building relations with police
Now authorities and international organisations are looking at that inter-ethnic co-operation to serve as a model so they can bridge the gulf between the population and law enforcement agencies.
The OSCE is helping to keep the peace through its Community Security Initiative (CSI) programme, Gafurov said.
“Our work involves close co-operation with the law enforcement agencies in the provinces, on the basis of the protection of human rights and compliance with the law by the police,” said Frank Rowe, deputy head of the CSI.
The project’s main aim is to help the police solve public safety problems arising after the June 2010 ethnic riots and to increase their professionalism in protecting the entire population, regardless of ethnicity, he said.
“Under this project, we are teaching police methods to the internal affairs departments, and the 28 specialists working in Kyrgyzstan are sharing their experience and helping to solve problems of a legal nature, acting as intermediaries between the population and the local police in conditions of inter-ethnic integration,” he said.
The OSCE jointly developed and implemented the CSI project with the help of the Interior Ministry, said Shamshybek Mamyrov, co-ordinator of the OSCE Kyrgyz Police Reform Programme.
“Activities under this project are closely linked to the Police Reform Programme, which has the long-term aim of building up potential,” he said. “This work is closely co-ordinated in those places where advice and support are decisive in conducting reforms.”
Trust among ethnic groups largely has recovered, but trust in the police is more fragile, said Aliima Sharipova, head of the NGO Culture Plus.
Only if the police respect rights and obey the law will inhabitants of the south come closer together, Sharipova said.
Osh resident Sherzod Abbasov, 23, said he and his friends were afraid to go outside, especially at night, after the riots.
“In the first few months after the June tragedy, we were afraid to show our faces in other regions of the city, but then the situation began to stabilise,” he said. “The local residents started working closely with representatives of international organisations, who came to our homes along with the police and assured us we had no reason to be afraid of them.”
Trust began to return gradually, he said, although frequent police inspections of documents after the riots made southerners nervous.
“Now we can move freely within the city, my younger brothers go to school, my sister is studying at university, and my parents are trading in the local market with me helping them, for which we are grateful to all concerned: the international organisations, the local police and all who took part in the peace-making process,” Abbasov said.
Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have begun to visit each other and go to each other’s weddings and funerals, Gafurov said.
“It is very important for the younger generation to see that everything is gradually beginning to stabilise, which is undoubtedly strengthening inter-ethnic harmony, and that people are starting to trust the local authorities, primarily the police, who are helping to resolve certain difficulties.”