Saturday, June 4, 2011

OSH - Kyrgyzstan's Dark Side

Ethnic violence of June 2010 - Kyrgyzstan's dark side

June 12 will mark the anniversary of the violent ethnic riots which erupted in and around Osh.
Over 400 people were killed, and up to 400,000 Uzbeks fled the cities of Osh and Jalahabad for sanctuary in Uzbekistan. Some are still languishing at the border refugee camps.

Why did this happen? It was an ugly 'ethnic-cleansing' episode in a violent history, reminiscent of The Balkans or Rwanda. A combination of ancient animosities, geo-political ethnic borders crudely drawn up by Stalin,  and desperation by an unpopular leader and his security forces and supporters in Osh. Uzbeks told me many Kyrgyz were jealous of their mercantile success in the Kyrgyz 'homeland', a fact shown clearly by the scorched iron and wood on the Uzbek businesses.

The Uzbeks made up 40% of the population in Osh, and historically were the sedentary pastoralists, tilling the soil and operating as merchants. The Kyrgyz, on the other hand,  have been essentially nomadic farmers herding their animals across Central Asia. This is the classic Cain v. Abel allegorical tale in a modern setting and although simplistic, may partly explain the deep ethnic divisions here.

Here are some photos I took as I left Osh. The entire Uzbek neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Osh was completely destroyed - incinerated by Molotov cocktails and torches, smashed with sledgehammers and looted by the rampaging mob.

The burnt-out shell of an Uzbek shop

Inside a courtyard of a razed Uzbek home, the family's van remains, waiting for its owners to return.

Entire neighbours were smashed, looted and then set ablaze by roaming hate-filled Kyrgyz men.

Russian contract workers rebuilding an Uzbek shopping centre

An uneasy calm exists in Osh Bazaar, with police and army on patrols. The security forces have been implicated in the violence, and the UN hold them responsible for instigating it. 
UNHCR are constructing transitional shelters to encourage the displaced Uzbek refugees to return to their homes. Most of the Uzbek neighbourhood in the eastern area of Osh remains eerily silent and empty.

Go to this link below to see the destruction and human suffering of this violent period.

No comments:

Post a Comment