Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mob Violence, Possible Ethnic Cleansing in Kyrgyzstan

It looks like the Kyrgyz majority in Kyrgyzstan is attacking the Uzbek minority in the runup to a constitutional referendum later this month. But what's striking about this story is that it's not really that striking at all.  Read this and see if it sounds familiar:
Kyrgyz mobs burned Uzbek villages and slaughtered their residents Sunday in the worst ethnic rioting this Central Asian nation has seen in 20 years, sending more than 75,000 Uzbeks fleeing across the border into Uzbekistan.

Most of the Uzbek refugees were elderly people, women and children, and many had gunshot wounds, the Uzbek Emergencies Ministry said in a statement carried by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency. It said refugee camps were being set up for them in several areas of Uzbekistan.
Fires set by rioters have destroyed most of Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, and food was scarce after widespread looting. Triumphant crowds of Kyrgyz men took control of Osh on Sunday as the few Uzbeks still left in the city of 250,000 barricaded themselves in their neighborhoods. Fires continued to rage across Osh and shots were heard but police were nowhere to be seen.

The rioting has significant political overtones. Former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in a bloody uprising in April and fled the country. Uzbeks have backed Kyrgyzstan's interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south support the toppled president...

...In Jalal-Abad on Sunday, thousands of Kyrgyz men brandishing sticks, metals bars and hunting rifles marched together to burn Uzbek property while frightened police stayed away. Uzbeks felled trees on the city's main street, trying to block their advance. Jalal-Abad is 45 miles (70 kilometers) from Osh.

Kyrgyz mobs tried to storm the city's hospital, but Uzbeks drove them off after a fierce gunbattle that raged for hours, witnesses said. Mobs also surrounded a local prison, trying to free its inmates and attempted repeatedly to capture the Jalal-Abad police headquarters, but were repelled.

Kyrgyz mobs killed about 30 Uzbeks Sunday in the village of Suzak in the Jalal-Abad region, Talaaibek Myrzabayev, the chief military conscription officer in Bishkek, told the AP. Another Uzbek village, Dostuk, was burned by Kyrgyz assailants, but it was not known how many people were killed, he said.
Doesn't it sound like Darfur? Or Bosnia? Or Rwanda? The militias of poorly-armed men running around killing everybody from the wrong group, the politicos exploiting it to try to disrupt the democratic process, the barely-concealed process of ethnic cleansing (read: genocide), the Great Power conflict behind it's the same damned thing over, and over, and over again.

Technically, Kyrgyzstan is a democracy, too; more so if the referendum gets through. Hilariously corrupt, mind you, but still a democracy. Yet here we are. Says a lot about the value of democracy to forestall conflict.

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