Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: OSCE must put aside political maneuvering in order to throw a lifeline to the frightened citizens in the South

Source: Refugees International (RI)

This Thursday is an important date for the 58 members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE). Tomorrow OSCE will decide whether to approve the immediate deployment and funding for 52 police advisors to Kyrgyzstan. This, coupled with the quick recruitment and deployment of experienced police professionals, could provide a tangible lifeline to hold south and north together and to rekindle hope for impartial justice. It could bring the return of rule of law to the conflict-plagued people of the south Kyrgyzstan.

Since June 10th, that region has been the scene of violent conflict that has injured and killed thousands of people, many of whom were burnt to death in the ashes of their firebombed homes. Both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have been killed, wounded and driven from their homes, but the Uzbek minority bore the brunt of the violence. While the rampant mob attacks of June 10-15 have not returned, hundreds of the Uzbeks continue to face harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and demands for payment of bribes. Uzbek citizens' efforts to seek court assistance or police protection from attackers have been ignored, while inter-ethnic tensions continue close to the boiling point.

Thousands of uprooted Uzbek families are living in tents, trying to clean out their burnt and damaged dwellings. Or they're living five or six families crowded together into dwellings that escaped damage, off of the main roads in Osh, Jalal-Abad or Bazarkorgan. Shots fired in the night or the sounds of passing cars or helicopters, continue to frighten these traumatized families who after earlier attacks, find their resources nearly depleted. Many fear for their lives and are struggling to find ways to escape the country.

Uzbek families remember the violent ethnic attacks of 1990 which were never investigated or punished. They wonder about the reasons for this second wave of ethnic cleansing, which this time threatens their ability to live and do business in their own country. The evil genie of ethnic hatred has risen to a fever pitch, enabling it to destroy and undo generations of living and working together with the Kyrgyz majority and with other ethnic minorities. These victims of conflict see the international community as able to provide humanitarian and medical assistance after violence breaks out, but with no ability to step in between attackers and attacked to prevent violence in the first place. The offer of the OSCE to send in unarmed police observers is at least one visible indicator that the world, and perhaps the Kyrgyz government and their former Russian masters find the current situation unacceptable and are willing to support the restoration of law and order.

Let us hope that the nations who meet in Vienna this Thursday will put aside political maneuvering in order to throw a lifeline to the government of Kyrgyzstan and its frightened citizens in the South.

Dawn Calabia's blog