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One Family Waits Out the Osh Unrest

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I became very worried about reading the news about the last two days of ethnic violence in Osh. I lived with an Uzbek family in Osh for close to a year. The mother traveled to my wedding in the United States, her first time ever on an airplane. She has three sons who are young men and I feared any of them could be at risk. I wondered what it must be like to live in fear in your own house, the place I also used to consider home. The Uzbek neighborhoods, or mahalas, are close knit. But they are also segregated by ethnicity and easily identifiable.

As soon as possible, I called to find out. Nargiza (name changed) said that her husband and her two sons that are in Osh spent all night guarding the street. The men sit together on the street, guarding their neighborhoods. "But they don't have guns," she said. "I don't know how much they can do."

She wanted her sons to stay home, but "they are grown up now, and don't listen to me."

Markets and workplaces have been closed for the past two days. Her youngest son was supposed to take his last exam to graduate high school today, but that didn't happen. She said some houses were burned in a nearby neighborhood and that she heard gunshots. She heard that many of the nice, large shops that were constructed in recent years, many by Uzbeks, were looted.

"It's been terrible," she said. "Two nights and a day of violence."

Nargiza has a stall at the market, where she sells dishes. Her dishes are in storage at her market stall. I asked if her goods were in damage of being looted. "I don't know. I didn't have time to think about that," she said. "This happened so suddenly. I haven't been there for the past two days."

She was hopeful the unrest would blow over within a few days and said the presence of the troops seems to be helping.

I asked what relations at work would be like after this. How would her husband and son return to work, where most of their colleagues would be Kyrgyz? How would they be treated?

"Relations between the Uzbek and the Kyrgyz in the city are fine, very friendly," she said. "This has been caused by wild people brought in from other places, rural areas in the south. It's only been a problem since Bakiyev was removed."

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