As Kyrgyzstan approaches the one-year anniversary of the April 7 overthrow of the government under President Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, the country has yet to right the wrongs perpetrated against both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek people.
In June 2010, after the revolution, southern Kyrgyzstan was rocked by a series of clashes involving Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups. The clashes left at least 400 people dead and more than 2,500 injured. Over 400,000 people were displaced.
The interim government headed by Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva, has promised to find those responsible for the violence, but the general situation in the country remains tense.
“The tensions that still exist between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek are very real and quite problematic,” said Ole Solvang, emergency researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Key political, economic, and societal challenges that drove the outbreak of violence in June 2010 have yet to be overcome.
The major concern that human rights groups now face is how to deal with the ongoing events and investigations into last June’s violence.
A report issued by the Kyrgyz National Commission of Investigation puts the blame squarely on Uzbek community leaders and members of former President Bakiyev's regime, according to the human rights organization, Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Although the report addressed some important points in the conflict, such as the lack of political representation for ethnic Uzbek, and the violent attacks against the Uzbek population, including property and land seizures, it failed to address the Kyrgyz’s involvement in the conflicts, and the lack of impartial post-conflict justice, according to OSF.
HRW has documented a large number of cases involving torture, and judicial intimidation, including attacks on Uzbek lawyers and relatives, perpetrated by Kyrgyz police and authorities in the post-conflict period.
Solvang said that the Kyrgyz authorities have refused to deal with these allegations, making it hard for prosecutors to properly investigate the alleged crimes.
One such case involved Farrukh Gapirov, 22, an ethnic Uzbek who was tortured into confessing that he had planned to kill ethnic Kyrgyz people after a box of ammunition was found under the seat of his car at a checkpoint on June 16, according to HRW.
Solvang raised questions about the objectiveness of the National Commission’s report, saying that the majority of detainees were Uzbek, but also “the majority of the victims in the violence were Uzbek.”
“This of course raises serious questions about whether there is ethnic violence [forced confessions] in the investigation,” he pointed out.
Solvang also stated that the commission’s report did not include the criminal investigation that followed the violence, and only briefly touched upon the attacks in the Uzbek neighborhood.
OSF indicated that “the Uzbek community is demoralized and feels trapped” with Uzbekistan authorities refusing to provide shelter and aid to their own people fleeing Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz Member of Parliament Shirin Aitmatova, says that it is hard to tell who exactly was involved in the ethnic conflicts and who will be held responsible.
“It is difficult to give a political estimate,” says Aitmatova who is working in a parliamentary committee to investigate the conflict. “I am afraid of what the final conclusion will be.”
Asylbek, a state university teacher from Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh, believes there never was any real ethnic conflict between the Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks in June. Instead, he believes that the clashes were politically motivated, as politicians for years have used ethnic issues to breed political strife in the clan-based society.
The university teacher is working in conjunction with several international organizations to educate and promote tolerance and mutual understanding among the Kyrgyz and Uzbek people.
“We organize round tables where we invite representatives from both communities as well as seminars on tolerance and conflict resolution studies,” said the teacher.
He also dismissed the possibility of parliamentary rule saying that “the [newly] formed governing parliamentary coalition is weak and people are waiting for this new [democratic] system to work.”