Osh- It is somewhat of a hackneyed term to call a place like the Ferghana valley an ethnic “tinderbox” but in the case of this month’s staggering disturbances in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, that type of description could not be more apt. Touring the majority Uzbek neighborhood of Cheremushki yesterday evening, a warm sunlight washed over the ruins of hundreds of dwellings as refugees who returned (likely by coercion by Uzbek and/or Kyrgyz authorities) from their very temporary refugee camps in neighboring Uzbekistan ahead of Sunday’s referednum vote on the legitimacy of the interim government of Roza Otunbayeva. Nothing in the ruins of Osh is clear.
No one knows precisely who started the violence, perpetrated the subsequent attrocities, or what the motivation was behind all of this. Amidst all of the speculation and innuendo are the undeniable results. Rumors of Tajik mercenaries, stone throwing Uzbek youths, and particpation in the violenece by local members of the state securoty forces float against the backdrop of a rising tide of Kyrgyz nationalism in a laregy destitute nation-state that some analysts direly say is on the verge of failing should more clashes ensue. Not everyone who had their home razed to the ground was an ethnic Uzbek but the overwhelming majority of them defintiely were. Homes that had painted things like, “Kyrgyz patriot” and “Tatar” on their facades and gates sit completely untouched next to piles of ash and rubble. The scale of the destruction is absolutely immense. Kyrgyzstan’s swath of the Ferghana is made of of many more groups that just Uzbek and Kyrgyz. Tatars (Turkic Muslims from the Volga region of Russia), Uighurs (Turkic Muslims who inhabit China’s western Xiniang province), ethnic Russians who have called Kyrgyzstan their home for generations, Meskhetian Turks and many others live in this region. In fact, if it were for the graffiti whereby families attempted to proclaim their innocence by spray painting their ethnicity on their property as a means of protecting it (which appears to have been an effective measure in most cases), an outside observer like myself might not know what to make of things. But when you see a lone home in near perfect condition that says “KG” (Kyrgyz) next to 10 with only cinders and scrap marking where they once stood, it looks very much like ethnic cleansing.