In South Kirghizia, actions in support of arrested deputy resulted in human victims

On weekend, in several settlements of Zhalal-Abad region, mass disorders took place, as a result of which five people were killed, while dozens of injured got to hospital. In district centre Kerben, the building of district administration was raided, several rooms of internal affairs office were burned. The reason of the disorders is the trial of the member of Zhegorku Kenesha (Kirghiz parliament) legislative assembly, Azimbek Beknazarov, which came to the end one of these days in Toktogul settlement. The deputy’s countrymen went in the streets and demanded to release him and to stop the trial, which was declared to be political. Formally, Azimbek Beknazarov was accused of abuse of power, which took place almost 8 years ago, when the future deputy was investigator of Toktogul district public prosecutor’s office. He is supposed at that time to have illegally released a participant of a drunk scuffle which caused a human death. Beknazarov’s supporters suppose the case had been taken from archives by authorities just to punish the deputy for his political activity. Last years, he has been actively criticizing today’s policy of president Askar Akaev. The greatest object of his critics was so-called “land case.” In short, a group of deputies headed by Azimbek Beknazarov, chairman of Zhegorku Kenesh committee, opposed the government’s decision to hand over so-called disputalbe lots to neighbour states - China, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The deputy declared this step to be “sale of motherland” and demanded to start the impeachment process against the president. An important aspect of the case is the fact that the territories were handed over secretly from the parliament, while violating Kirghiz Constitution. Azimbek Beknazarov’s action stopped the process of the signed agreement’s ratification. Though, the old case of the ex-investigator was found in time. The case was immediately set in motion and the obstinate parliamentarian got to prison. For, already in 1998, Kirghiz deputies were deprived of deputy immunity. This decision was taken by republican referendum initiated personally by Askar Akaev. Just after the arrest on January 5, mass actions of protest started in the deputy’s native land, Aksy district. They fast spread to other districts of Zhalal-Abad region and even to the capital. Hundreds of people participated in meetings and hunger strikes. One of the participants, Sheraly Sydykov, even died as a result of hunger strike. That was practically first victim of opposition between the power and the deputy’s supporters. New victims appeared last week. Dwellers of several settlements of Aksy district decided to go to Toktogul on foot and by horse, where on March 19, Azimbek Beknazarov must be sentenced. Though near to Boz-Piek settlement, the column was met with the police’s pickets. The deputy’s supporters in number of about 500 people tried to break through the picket, though the police started to fire. Several people were wounded and transported to district hospital. As it became known to other settlements’ dwellers, they started to gather in district centre Kerben. Though, they were already expected there. Armed policemen did not allow them to district administration’s building, so the crowd replied with throwing stones. Soon, rifles and ignition compound bottles appeared in the men’s hands. Shots resounded. The crowd vented its anger on district internal affairs office. Several rooms were burned there and windows were broken. Policemen who had arrived from the whole district (about 500 people) managed to stop the massacre and to disperse the crowd. Though, the action resulted in five dead and dozens of injured, while most of them were law-enforcers themselves, who received numerous injures, burns, stab and cut wounds. At Sunday night, police units were raised by alarm in the city of Bishkek. Almost 2,000 armed soldiers were transported by planes to the hot district. In Kerben, order finally was established, though in settlements of mountain region, rebellion centres still remained. Groups of armed horsemen appeared on the ways. One of such groups even blocked the main highway of the republic Bishkek-Osh way. Just after the Kerben events, a briefing for journalists was called in Bishkek, in which prime-minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, internal minister Temirbek Akmataliev, public prosecutor general Chubak Abyshkaev participated. All of them appraised the event unambiguously: mass disorders were provoked by the opposition and human rights organizations to destabilize situation in the republic. The internal minister even said that Kirghiz opposition was on the way of political extremism and had tried to overthrow the existing power. At the same day (Monday, March 18), president Askar Akaev appeared in TV. He condoled with the victims’ families and expressed his concern with the situation in the south of the republic. Though, in general, the president repeated the appraisals of the law-enforcement bodies. He also said that measures would be taken to cut short any attempts to press upon the power and the law-enforcers. A completely other appraisal was given by Zhegorku Kenesh deputies. It should be noticed, that most of the legislative assembly’s deputies considered the arrest of Azimbek Beknazarov to be a political pursuit from the very beginning. This position was most actively shared by Adakhan Madumarov and Omurbek Tekebaev, leaders of the right-wing centre, opposing Askar Akaev. They still regard the bloody conflict in Kerben as a sign of the power’s weakness in solving the most serious social and political problems. Because people, who were meeting in Kerben, demanded not only to release the deputy, but also to replace corrupted functionaries from power and to settle economical troubles, like unemployment and unjust division of lands. Though, anyway, Adan Madumarov supposes, “the power had no right to fire at its people.” While Omurbek Tekebaev expressed his concern that now opposition would be pursued more actively, all the more that the internal minister, while appearing in the parliament, openly said that “organizers of the disorders sit in this hall.” In their talks with journalists, opposition deputies said that Beknazarov’s arrest was only a push for expressing by most of population deep dissatisfaction with the power’s activities. It is not by chance that the action of protest started namely in the south. This region lives now the most heavy life. In this region, the level of unemployment is the highest in the country, while industry is practically ruined. Poor investments which sometimes penetrate into the country accumulate in the north, in the pockets of governmental functionaries, among whom there are not many of the south’s representatives. Therefore, it is understandable why namely the south Kirghiz and their representative to the parliament reacted in such acute way to the government’s intention to “cede” a part of Kirghiz lands to the neighbours. Many citizens of Osh, Zhalal-Abad and Batken districts cannot obtain even a small plot to feed their families, while city functionaries possess the whole plantations of fruitful irrigable lands. Moreover, people see what happens with drag in the south. According to statistics, number of heroin couriers detained by law-enforcers in the south has seriously reduced, while everybody knows that the flow of drag from Afghanistan grows every day. So, the couriers are being detained, while drug is being resold to drag lords. Is it a surprise, that in Osh and Zhalal-Abad casinos and gaming-houses spring up like mushrooms, while most of clients of these houses are local functionaries and law-enforcers, as if earning 50-100 dollars a month? The officials explain the events with undermining activities of the opposition. And they are partly right. For example, transporting of people from remote settlements to the district centre was leaded by well-known human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov. There was gratuitous vodka in Kerben, too. Though, solely these circumstances could not raise people from remote settlements to this action. People are forced to extremist activities by their poverty, unemployment, lack of prospects and the authorities’ absolute indifference to their troubles. Therefore, some analysts’ forecasts of further worsening of the situation in the republic seem to be probable. For, according to the supreme functionaries’ words, they do not intend to react to people’s social demands. For them, the question is only about suppression of the opposition and punishment of the guilty. In the meanwhile, it should be reminded that namely these measures were taken, when people tried to protect Felix Kulov, Ar-Namys party’s leader, ex-vice president, who fell into disgrace because of his political views. At that time, the pressure upon opposition resulted in Kulov’s accusation. Though one year later, people’s dissatisfaction broke in another place - in Azimbek Beknazarov’s native land. The authorities will probably one more time have enough force and resources to neutralize civil disobedience of Zhalal-Abad citizens. Now, police measure are being taken there in full. Today, in Kerben with 10-thousand population, there are two thousand policemen. All ways leading to the district centre are blocked, documents are being checked up on the check points. Though, the situation is still tense. All the more, that the sentence of the disgraces deputy has not been declared yet, while its declaration will most likely cause new actions of protest and disorders.

Yury Razgulaev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kirghizia

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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