As Kyrgyzstan’s southern capital recovers from the turmoil of ethnic violence and its aftermath, its ancient market has been a touchstone of Osh’s general wellbeing. Gutted by fire and fear in June 2010, it is now thriving again – though without the vigor and seeming prosperity of the days before “the war.” Both ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek venders work at the market, but under the surface tensions remain, as deep-rooted problems like poverty, injustice, and poor governance simmer unaddressed.
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.
Caption: Kamchybek Tashiev stumping during his failed run for the presidency, October 28, 2011.
A court in Bishkek found three members of Kyrgyzstan’s nationalist opposition party guilty of trying to overthrow the government and handed them short prison sentences on March 29. The verdict, though less severe than their supporters had feared, did little to temper passions outside the courtroom, where riot police held back several hundred protestors, local news agencies reported.
Under the terms of Kyrgyzstan’s constitution, the three must be stripped of their parliamentary seats, which should be passed to other members of their party.
Kamchybek Tashiev and two other Ata-Jurt ("Fatherland") lawmakers were arrested after a protest outside parliament on October 3 grew violent. Tashiev, Sadyr Japarov and Talant Mamytov organized the rally, which drew approximately 1,000 demonstrators, to demand nationalization of the country’s most-lucrative asset, the Kumtor gold mine. After vowing to “replace this government,” and “occupy” the White House, Tashiev led dozens of protestors over a fence surrounding the building and chased away armed guards. Tashiev later said he was just trying to get to work.
The three pled not guilty. Their lawyers vowed to appeal.
UPDATE / 0245 Saturday, Bishkek time: A Kyrgyz government source says the reports of Maxim Bakiyev's arrest are true, and denies that Maxim was released. (An earlier version of this post was headlined "Kyrgyzstan: Bakiyev Jr Reportedly Caught and Released in London.")
Late Friday night the website of Kyrgyzstan’s president announced that Maxim Bakiyev, son of the former president, had been arrested in London that morning. Maxim, wanted at home for fraud and embezzling tens of millions of dollars in state funds, has apparently been living in the United Kingdom since his father, Kurmanbek, was chased out of Bishkek on April 7, 2010.
But Vechernii Bishkek, a popular local newspaper, has cast doubt on the claims. The paper says it spoke with someone who had contacted Maxim; the source reportedly said that the former first son had in fact been detained but was released quickly with an apology “for the misunderstanding.”
A member of the president’s press office did not immediately return requests for more information.
Maxim, the demonized scion of the Bakiyev clan, who turns 35 this month, was also detained on June 13, 2010, when he arrived in the UK on a private jet. Six days later he was reportedly granted temporary asylum. Little has been heard from him since.
Protestors were back on the streets of Jalal-Abad on Monday to support a nationalist legislator charged with trying to violently seize power in Kyrgyzstan.
Late Friday, a court in Bishkek ruled that Kamchybek Tashiev must spend two months in a detention center run by the State Committee on National Security while investigators look into his October 3 calls for the government to be overthrown. That day, Tashiev led a crowd of young men over a fence surrounding parliament, before claiming he was just trying to get to work.
Tashiev, Sadyr Japarov and Talant Mamytov, all from the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party, face up to 20 years in prison.
Tashiev takes his role as an opposition leader in parliament seriously. He is most often in the news for calling for the government to resign. But the October 3 rally – which was ostensibly organized to call for the nationalization of the country’s largest goldmine – was poorly planned and few think he had intended to force out the government. Instead, members of his party say he got caught up in the moment.
It was not a coup attempt, but “just a stupid move,” Fergananews quoted his colleague Jyldyz Joldosheva, also a deputy with the Ata-Jurt party, as saying.
Police in Bishkek clashed with protestors calling for the nationalization of a strategic gold mine on October 3. Dozens of men climbed over the fence surrounding the parliament building, known as the White House, before police drove them away with tear gas and stun grenades.
Two deputies from the nationalist Ata-Jurt (“Fatherland”) party led the protests, which local media reports say were attended by over 1,000 people. Photos show Ata-Jurt leader Kamchybek Tashiev -- who said he suffered a leg injury -- leading the assault. A deputy interior minister said Tashiev led the protestors over the fence.
Another member of Ata-Jurt, Sadyr Japarov, reportedly told protestors to follow him to the White House, where they would “sit in the offices of the deputies, the president, the prime minister,” the Knews.kg news agency quoted him as saying. Ata-Jurt has the most seats in parliament, but is not a member of the ruling coalition.
At least 12 people were injured, Kloop.kg reported, several with gunshot wounds. It is not clear who fired at whom or if some of the rioters were armed. Police were among the injured.
The fact that Kyrgyzstan’s deposed ex-president resides openly in Minsk is accepted as common knowledge. But now his hated little brother appears to be hanging in the Belarusian capital, too.
A photo that presents a striking likeness to Janysh Bakiyev, former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s security chief and brother, freely fraternizing with two men outside a Minsk café, has caused fury in Bishkek since appearing on Facebook earlier this month. Perhaps no man in Kyrgyzstan is more hated than Janysh, who is accused of mass murder and wanted by Interpol for kidnapping and organized crime.
Ousted by violent protests on April 7, 2010, Kurmanbek appeared in Minsk quickly thereafter and is said to have since become a citizen and purchased a $2-million home there. But the whereabouts of Janysh have long been unclear.
The snap was taken by Belarusian activist Mikhail Pashkevich, who uploaded the photo onto his Facebook profile on August 17.
Janysh has few friends in Kyrgyzstan these days. After Minsk failed to respond to verbal requests for his extradition, Kyrgyz officials say they have called their ambassador home.
A spokesman at Kyrgyzstan’s Interior Ministry has acknowledged that only about half of the small arms that went missing during the country’s 2010 political and ethnic violence have been accounted for. The “huge number” of weapons floating about is “enough to carry out another revolution in the country,” believes the chairman of parliament’s defense and security committee.
Bishkek’s 24.kg news agency reported this week that security forces lost about 1,200 small arms and light weapons – including assault rifles, grenade launchers and pistols – during the political violence that unseated President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on April 7, 2010, and during ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in and around Osh that June. (Some reports have said security forces distributed guns and armored vehicles to ethnic Kyrgyz, or at least did little to stop violent gangs from commandeering them.) Though 24.kg’s numbers don’t quite add up, the report says only 49 percent of the 1,177 arms lost have been returned, and authorities fear many of the rest may be available on the black market.
There, an unused Makarov pistol goes for about $1,500; a Kalashnikov (AK-47) for about $1,000; and grenades for a rocket-propelled (RPG) launcher cost between $300 and $500 a pop, says 24.kg. A Dragunov sniper rifle, which can hit a target 800 meters away, costs about $4,000, according to the agency.
As southern Kyrgyzstan marks the second anniversary of ethnic clashes between its Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities, local and international rights activists are concerned about wounds that continue to fester, and what they describe as ongoing discrimination against the Uzbek minority.
Amnesty International released a report June 8 that it says “outlines the failure of the Kyrgyzstani authorities to fairly and effectively investigate the June 2010 violence,” which killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands.
“There are wounds that time will not heal. Truth, accountability and justice are the only tools that will mend the bridges between the two ethnic communities,” Maisy Weicherding of Amnesty said in a statement.
As Amnesty pointed out, during the June 10-14 violence in 2010, both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities were involved in “killings, looting and rampaging” in and around Osh, but most injuries and deaths were suffered by ethnic Uzbeks.
An internationally led inquiry found that 470 people were killed, 74 percent of whom were Uzbeks. Nevertheless, the inquiry said ethnic Uzbeks were accused of murder over 30 times more often than members of the Kyrgyz community. Bishkek subsequently rejected the findings of that inquiry.
The only member of Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s family to be imprisoned following the ex-president’s bloody 2010 overthrow has gone missing, according to Kyrgyzstan’s penal service.
On March 6, parliament deputies began inquiring about rumors that Akhmat Bakiyev – who was charged with organizing unrest in Jalal-Abad following his brother’s ouster and sentenced to seven years in a high-security penitentiary – had disappeared from a Bishkek hospital. He had been taken to the hospital in late January, after getting transferred to Bishkek’s lower-security Penal Colony No. 35, where he was not required to reside permanently but to check in at regular intervals. According to local press reports, Akhmat Bakiyev’s sentence, which was reduced by about 1.5 years, was due to end in September 2014. The penal service says Bakiyev disappeared a few days ago, though one lawmaker is publicly saying he’s been gone for a month.
Deputy Shirin Aitmatova went to the penal colony to try to find the former first brother. She reports he was actually discharged from the hospital a month ago and argues that Akhmat Bakiyev received some help escaping. He’s long gone by now, she suspects. Some posts from her Twitter feed, translated from Russian:
As explained by the prison warden, the judge issued a ruling on A. Bakiyev’s free movement and the prosecutor didn’t appeal. And here’s the result))
Akhmat Bakiyev was released from the hospital a MONTH ago!
It’s no secret that former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a fugitive in his own country, has been hiding Belarus. He’s held news conferences there and has even, sources in Minsk tells us, been spotted eating ice cream in the street. Now, if local media are to be believed, he’s a Belorussian citizen, too.
Citing Belorussian portal Tut.by, Russian media report that Bakiyev, in fact, received citizenship back in August 2010, only months after fleeing a bloody mess in the streets of Bishkek.
Belorussian authorities neither confirm nor deny the story, which was based on an anonymous tip. But Lenta.ru reports that a police source said Bakiyev’s name exists in the Belorussian registry of internal passports. According to local protocol, Lenta.ru adds, the decision to confer citizenship would have had to come from President Alexander Lukashenko.
Kyrgyz authorities have nothing to add, but local media outlets are also reporting that Bakiyev has purchased a house outside of Minsk for $2 million. Kyrgyzstan’s yellow, and often vindictive press has made outrageous claims about the former president and his family in the past, however, without much concern for veracity.