[lg policy] Kyrgyzstan: How to Rouse Ethnic Tensions

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 21 20:11:34 UTC 2012

Kyrgyzstan: How to Rouse Ethnic Tensions
 Submitted by centralasia on April 18, 2012 - 11:11am

Interethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan have
slipped out of the headlines, but analysts say the threat of renewed
violence is still a real concern. And if there’s one Kyrgyz politician who
loves to stoke the tensions, it’s Jyldyz Joldosheva, a parliamentary deputy
from the ultranationalist Ata-Jurt party.

Since the June 2010 ethnic violence, when approximately 450 people died,
Joldosheva has regularly traded on anti-Uzbek sentiment. She has often
claimed to have proof that members of the Uzbek “diaspora” are plotting
against their hosts, the Kyrgyz. Her language relegates Uzbeks to outsider
status, although they have lived in the area that is now southern
Kyrgyzstan for hundreds of years.

Now she’s getting her supporters riled up with the newsflash that Uzbek
high school students are taking their state exams in their native language.
This displeases people, AKIpress cited <http://kg.akipress.org/news:507631>
[6] Joldosheva as saying on April 18. She’s demanding an explanation from
Education Minister Kanat Sadykov, while other deputies, perhaps bowing to
the xenophobic climate, are falling in line behind her. One warns that his
constituents are rallying at parliament’s gates, demanding the exams be
stopped. The Education Ministry
[7] the tests have been carried out in Kyrgyz, Russian and Uzbek since
2001; of approximately 40,000 students who took the exam last year, about
1,000 took it in Uzbek.

Joldosheva’s rhetoric is divisive in and of itself, but in a post-conflict
situation it could be explosive.

Ethnic Uzbeks, concentrated in the country’s south, where Joldosheva is
from, face a “steady pattern of unpleasantness in everyday life: in public
transport, at the market and in dealings with local officials. Probably the
most scarring form of harassment is still the fear of arrest, torture and
detention, often with the aim of extortion,” said the International Crisis
Group (ICG) in a
[8] released last month. “The steady exclusion of Uzbeks from all walks of
life risks creating a dangerous predisposition to violence: the feeling
that the only means of redress left are illegal ones.”

Last year, Joldosheva claimed <http://www.eurasianet.org/node/63339>
[9]Uzbeks were behind an international campaign to call the ethnic
“genocide,” although no credible sources (sensationalist headlines
notwithstanding) have referred to the four days of violence using the
G-word. When Joldosheva went on at length about a lavishly published book
propagating the idea, called “The Hour of the Jackal,” her office ignored
EurasiaNet.org’s repeated requests to see a copy.

One of her regular targets is Kadyrjan Batyrov, once a wealthy businessman
and politician from Jalal-Abad, who was handed a life sentence in absentia
for organizing the clashes, inciting ethnic hatred, and spreading
separatist propaganda. Prior to the violence, Jalal-Abad was a center of
Uzbek political activism. A few weeks ago, Joldosheva
[10] Batyrov and a celebrated ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyzstani astronaut were
organizing an Uzbek resistance movement in Moscow with $120 million.

While it would be hard to claim that any post-Soviet businessman is squeaky
clean, European authorities seem to feel that Batyrov cannot get a fair
trial in his native country. Sweden has
[11] granted him asylum.

ICG and other independent monitors have determined the vast majority of
fatalities that June were among ethnic Uzbeks and most of the destroyed
property had belonged to Uzbeks. But the vast majority of trials have
targeted ethnic Uzbeks, too, “giving support to the widely propagated
theory in Kyrgyz political circles that the Uzbeks initiated the violence.”

Joldosheva no doubt knows the relative calm in southern Kyrgyzstan is
tenuous. With Uzbeks persecuted by officials working for Osh City Mayor
Melisbek Myrzakmatov – who has at times aligned himself with Joldosheva’s
party – Uzbeks are running out of options, ICG says.

The central government appears uninterested in addressing the ongoing
injustices. That’s not much of a surprise when people like Joldosheva are
running the country, and look bent on ignoring the obvious.



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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