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Kyrgyzstan Said Moving Toward Totalitarianism

(Washington, DC--January 26, 2001) A Kyrgyz human rights activist who has been forced into exile told an RFE/RL briefing today that the government of President Askar Akaev in which the West earlier placed so many hopes is moving backward toward totalitarianism.

Ramazan Dyryldaev, who heads the Kyrgyzstan Committee for Human Rights and who last spoke at RFE/RL a year ago, said that his country's drift toward ever more authoritarian rule reflects the desire of Akaev to remain president for life and the president's willingness to suppress the media and his political opponents.

Dyryldaev himself decided to remain in the West after Kyrgyz authorities raided the headquarters of his organization last July and arrested and beat his son. Moreover, he said, Akaev's moves against other political opponents suggest that he--Dyryldaev--would soon not be in a position to speak out if he returned home. Currently based in Vienna, Dyryldaev is working to get observer status for his group at the United Nations.

He said that he and his movement currently face three obstacles to focusing international attention on the abuses taking place in his country. First of all, he said, many in the West continue to believe that the optimism they had about Kyrgyzstan in the early 1990s will yet prove justified. Indeed, many of these observers note that the situation in Kyrgyzstan is not nearly as bad as it is elsewhere in Central Asia.

Second, Western reporting about Kyrgyzstan remains minimal, Dyryldaev said, making it difficult even for those who want to know to find out what is taking place there. And third, this is compounded by Akaev's own effort to misrepresent the situation, the human rights activist said.

Because international financial institutions are less likely to give obviously undemocratic governments assistance, Dyryldaev pointed out, President Akayev has organized a new human rights public relations campaign to convince people that conditions in his country are better than they in fact are.

Akaev apparently reasons, Dyryldaev said, that after he gets the money, the international lenders will pay less attention to what is taking place and he can crack down on the Kyrgyz people even more thoroughly than he has up to now.