Subversive Politics at the Heart of the Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan

06/15/2010 02:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • The Morningside Post TMP is the student-run news and opinion site for Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs

Calling what is happening in southern Kyrgyzstan "inter-ethnic clashes" means buying the idea that the organizers of the violence are trying to sell to the world. The events that resulted as of today in over 90 deaths and hundreds of injured are directly linked to the political developments in the country. These are the subversive actions towards the upcoming Referendum of June 27th that is expected to make the Interim Government legitimate.

Ex-President Bakiev, who fled the country after the April 7th revolution that claimed over 80 lives, doesn't have a chance to return to the power but he and his gang are very much interested in destabilizing the country. Call it revenge.

As for the inter-ethnic relations, of course, like in any country there are some tensions from now and then, but they are not at a scale to hate or readily kill each other. Whenever I visited Osh, I greatly appreciated the mutual respect Uzbeks and Kyrgyz have towards each other. So, the idea that two ethnicities were just waiting to get at each other's throat once the opportunity arose is too cheap. Plus, it is not in the interest of Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan to cause a conflict when they have to flee to tyrannical Uzbek regime. Karimov is also not eager to accept Uzbeks from the revolution-infected neighbor. Why should they flee by the way? Kyrgyzstan is their home too. As many know the southern Kyrgyzstan is different from the rest of the country in many ways. It is the ethnic composition that makes the Ferghana valley so unique and exotic. In short, the issue of regionalism (i.e south versus the north) is more problematic than any inter-ethnic tensions.

The violence allegedly started in a local slot machine parlor and spilled over further . If it was just a fight between two ethnic gangs of youngsters (which exist by the way) they wouldn't head to seize the TV station or burn cultural centers and government offices. Everything was well-prepared. It is also hard to believe that families in Osh just casually have so many arms and weapons at home. The organizers of the violence cleverly exploited the incident in the history -- June 1990 inter-ethnic clashes that reportedly started over territory claims and claimed more than 300 lives. The fight between the gangs spilled over to the inter-ethnic violence back then too. The massacre was stopped by the Soviet troops. Because of that very hard lesson learned from that infamous event in the history, it was not so easy to incite the inter-ethnic clashes, which started last month. It is also not surprising that the violence started among the youth, which may not have experienced the 1990 events.

Just recently the phone conversation of ex-President Bakiev's son with his uncle Janysh Bakiev was broadcasted on TV channels where they shared their plans of such disruptive events, including terrorist attacks in public places. One would ask why then the Interim Government couldn't prevent the violence with so much information at hand? The Interim Government simply doesn't have a capacity to control it alone. Russia sent the humanitarian assistance to the country but is reluctant to send forces yet, explaining it as "an internal conflict of one country" that it does not want to intervene in. The possibility of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation's (CSTO) peacekeeping forces is also waved off for now. This makes you think how much more lives will still be lost until they decide to intervene to save lives. The priority now is stop the violence before it grew to a regional conflict and not calling for calm and assigning yet other special envoys.

According to Roza Otunbaeva, the President of the Interim Government, the timing of the violence that coincides with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Tashkent clearly shows that it was in someone's interest to include in the SCO agenda the capability of the Interim Government to govern. One could possibly take it as a hint that there are more players in this dirty game than just Bakiev's gang.