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Southern Kyrgyzstan marks second anniversary of ethnic riots
As region remains alert to trouble, authorities and NGOs work to safeguard security
By Bakyt Ibraimov
OSH – Zuboida Rakhimova, 52, still remembers the day she lost her son during the ethnic conflicts in southern Kyrgyzstan June 10-14, 2010. “He was 17 years old, and we were planning he would be called up after school, but he was shot and wounded in Osh, and he died in hospital,” she said crying.
Today, she and her neighbours worry that nationalists – Kyrgyz and Uzbeks – might mark the second anniversary of the ethnic riots with more violence. Amid such tension, which some officials say is fairly common, local authorities and activists are trying to defuse the situation.
“We don’t want war – we lived in peace and accord from times immemorial, and what happened (two years ago) was just a game played those engaged in political intrigue, and willing to embroil Kyrgyz in a quarrel with Uzbeks, so I’d like to call on people not to yield to provocation,” Rakhimova said.
She is not planning to leave town and is hoping for the anniversary to pass peacefully.
Security efforts increased
In an effort to quell concerns and prevent flare-ups, security officials have worked with residents since May 29, Osh Interior Department officer Zamir Sadykov told Central Asia Online. “To safeguard public order and security, two police operations, code named ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Arsenal,’ will be conducted in Osh during the second anniversary of the June 2010 riots,” he said.
As part of these operations, Sadykov said, police have stepped up patrols, doing such things as checking cellars and abandoned houses.
“Also, we are looking for lost or stolen weapons and checking in-coming and outgoing vehicles for illegally carried arms, ammunition and explosives,” he added. But the police precautions aren’t enough to satisfy everyone that the anniversary will pass quietly.
Osh resident Buraima Suranchiyeva, 47, for example, said she will take her family to a village in the mountains in the Alai district of Osh Oblast because “no one can guarantee the situation in Osh will be calm and quiet during the second anniversary of the riots.”
Word has gone around, she said, that the circulation of CDs with “provocative” songs might spark ethnic tensions.
“They extol one nation while disparaging the other,” she said of the songs. “That’s a way to drive a wedge between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.”
Mayoral officials in Osh, however, are re-assuring people. “Measures are being taken on the eve of the second anniversary of the riots to prevent an escalation of tensions,” Osh mayor’s office spokeswoman Gulzhan Azhimatova told Central Asia Online.
As part of anniversary observations, the “Manas” memorial complex will open June 10 and the “Peace Bell” monument will be unveiled.
Also, a religious service will be held in memory of all the victims of the 2010 inter-ethnic conflict near the “Mothers’ Tears” monument, she said.
“No entertainment will be allowed on June 10; prayers from the Koran will be read at mosques, and local media will publish stories dedicated to the tragedy of two years ago,” Azhimatova said.
Government plays part in preventing clashes
Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society analyst Ruslan Tashanov told Central Asia Online that the state can be proactive in preventing further inter-ethnic clashes.
“We need a clear-cut government strategy to prevent and defuse conflicts, namely a series of short- and longer-term multi-ethnic diversity projects,” he said. “Our major tasks are to increase integration processes, promote Kyrgyz-Uzbek neighbourliness in the areas where they live together, and establish a single information space for them.”
Also, work with young people needs to be intensified, the role of government officials strengthened, and ethnic minority representatives need to be involved in the work of government bodies, Tashanov said.
“Learning the state language can help a lot: if Uzbeks, Russians and other minority representatives can speak Kyrgyz well, they’ll be able to work in government agencies, which will bring about positive change,” he said.