International Community Fails Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstani officials failed to effectively protect all of its citizens during the outbreak of violence, in particular the Uzbek community. (c) Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images

We could read their signs of distress from outer space.

People trapped on the blood-stained streets of southern Kyrgyzstan painted massive signs on roads and sports fields for the sake of sending one simple message that the entire world could understand – “S.O.S.”

This international code for help was as clear as day from our satellite images of the country. However, nearly two months after the worst of the violence has subsided, the international community has failed to push for justice. To this day, entire neighborhoods are still burned to the ground and the people who lived there are still looking for a place to call home.

Reports are prevalent that Kyrgyzstani law enforcement abused its authority by failing to protect those citizens who were being targeted during the period of unrest.

Now that video and photographic evidence from local journalists and residents who documented this abuse of power are beginning to surface, law enforcement officers are re-igniting a new wave of terror – silencing journalists and anyone who dares to reveal the truth about the horrific acts of violence that were perpetrated primarily against Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic Uzbek population.

It wasn’t bad enough that Kyrgyzstan’s government failed to protect its citizens from violence, now the perpetrators of the violence are about to get away with impunity.

Don’t let Kyrgyzstan’s government get away with this outrageous abuse of power. Call for an impartial, international investigation into the recent violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Satellite Images Reveal Massive Destruction in Kyrgyzstan

Satellite images released and analyzed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights Program show the dramatic impact of the recent violent events on the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. The new findings were released shortly after a top U.N. official warned the Security Council that ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan continue, along with fears that there could be another wave of violence in the strategic Central Asian state.

Comparison of buildings in the Cheremushki neighborhood, Osh (2007 vs. 2010). Houses without roofs indicate destruction by fire. CLICK TO EXPLORE. After Image: © 2010 DigitalGlobe. Before Image: © 2010 DigitalGlobe © 2010 Google Earth. Produced by AAAS.

Entire neighborhoods are burnt down (1,640 structures are damaged or destroyed in total), leaving only empty shells of houses behind. You can see a sample of the Cheremushki neighborhood at our interactive explorer or check out the in-depth analysis from our colleagues at AAAS. Additionally, and even more distressing, we found more than one hundred “SOS” signs throughout Osh, mainly in still intact areas. The varying sizes, shapes, and orientations of these images show little regard for the viewing angle or perspective of ground-based observers. As such, it is likely that many of them would be difficult to read, except from above, indicating that the population is aware that it is being observed from above. To the remaining residents in Osh we would like to say that we have documented your distress and captured your dozens of large SOS signs from space.

Today’s release of satellite images comes amidst reports that the Kyrgyzstani interim government is not in full control of its security force and that Uzbekistani authorities started expelling refugees to Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbekistani authorities should refrain from forcibly removing, coercing or persuading refugees from Kyrgyzstan to return until they can do so in safety and dignity. We are also very concerned that encouragement by the Kyrgyzstani interim government for refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes is premature as Kyrgyzstani security forces do not appear to be able to ensure the safety and security of these persons.

We have issued several Urgent Actions to protect displaced people. Join us in urging the government of Uzbekistan (pdf) to refrain from the forcible return of refugees.

SOS signs in the Cheremushki neighborhood, Osh, June 18, 2010. © 2010 Digital Globe. Analysis performed by AAAS. CLICK TO SEE FULL GRAPHIC.

The deadly violence is said to have started with clashes between rival gangs of mostly Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths on 10 June and rapidly escalated, reportedly leaving more than 2,000 people dead and thousands injured. Around 400,000 people are reported to have fled their homes and about 100,000 are believed to have fled to Uzbekistan.


Investigate Kyrgyzstan Violence

Yesterday, Kyrgyzstan’s interim President, Roza Otunbayeva, visited Osh, the site of violence that began the 10 June 2010, killing hundreds and displacing nearly 400,000.  The violence erupted between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs in the south of the country and lasted for six days, spreading to other cities in the southern region. Although the reported number of deaths was approximately 200, Otunbayeva stated that the death toll is actually much higher, closer to 2,000. Also yesterday, the Holocaust Museum’s Bridget Conley-Zilkic made the case that the racial violence could have been prevented.

At this time, the UN estimates that 1 million people may be in need of humanitarian aid and the organization is mobilizing its resources to provide food and medical care to the refugees in Uzbekistan as well as the internally displaced persons within Kyrgyzstan.

However, in addition to the humanitarian crisis, severe human rights violations must also be addressed. At this time, allegations are mounting that security forces may have colluded in some  human rights violations. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Violence in Kyrgyzstan Escalates

Ethnic Uzbeks refugees stand at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in a village of Suratash (c)Getty Images

Violent clashes continue to erupt in Southern Kyrgyzstan this morning, although the raids are settling after three full days of brutality and bloodshed that have reportedly left more than 100 dead and over 1,000 injured. The violence is mainly concentrated in Osh, a city mostly comprised of ethnic Uzbeks, who are now fleeing in droves to safety in Uzbekistan. In fact, it is estimated that 75,000 have fled to Uzbekistan, mainly women, children, and the elderly, sparking a refugee crisis and grave humanitarian concerns. Many are trapped inside their homes, in need of medical attention, and are too fearful to escape.  It is imperative that the Kyrgyzstani interim government and local authorities ensure adequate protection for all Kyrgyzstani citizens and restore peace and order to the region.

The Kyrgyzstani law enforcement is failing to effectively provide human security to its population, in particular to the Uzbek community. Immediate action is needed to prevent a further deterioration of the situation. The security forces, in their attempts to restore law and order in the city of Osh and the surrounding areas, must respect fundamental human rights – Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty International’s expert on Central Asia.

The clashes in Osh and the surrounding area have had a considerable impact on the Uzbek community. Eyewitnesses have reported that groups of armed civilians, mostly young men claiming to be Kyrgyz, were roaming the streets of Osh, targeting districts of the city inhabited mainly by Uzbeks shooting at civilians, setting shops and houses on fire and looting private property.

Local law enforcement sources in Osh reportedly told journalists that they were unable to control the situation and protect the civilian population. In some instances armed men were said to have overwhelmed security forces and hijacked armored vehicles. Some district council representatives also reported snipers firing at civilians.

The unrest has already spread to the city of Jalal-Abad and other towns and villages in the surrounding areas where a state of emergency has also been declared.

With thousands of people on the move seeking safety, the authorities of neighboring countries, and of Uzbekistan in particular, must keep their borders open and allow entry to all those fleeing the escalating violence in Kyrgyzstan, regardless of their ethnic origin and offer them protection until security is restored in Kyrgyzstan – Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty International’s expert on Central Asia.

The deadly violence is said to have started with clashes between rival gangs of mostly Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths on 10 June which quickly escalated into large-scale arson, looting and violent attacks on mainly Uzbek-populated districts in Osh, including killings.  Although violent clashes between Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks have occurred in the past, this recent showdown implies political motivations. The south of Kyrgyzstan is home to a large ethnic Uzbek community and was the power base of former president Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was overthrown in April and presently exiled in Belarus. While the cause of the clashes is unclear the interim government and other observers have blamed the violence on supporters of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev and the intent of criminal groups to destabilize the situation in the country prior to elections.