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Kyrgyzstan's Protesters For Hire


Partly paid for?

Partly paid for?

It didn't take long for protests against the new government in Kyrgyzstan to start, nor should it really come as a surprise: it happened to the last government shortly after it came to power in 2005 as well.

My big question relates to an often overlooked aspect of the protests in 2005 and many of the protests that have followed in Kyrgyzstan since. Just how many of the participants in the protests against the interim government that erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan from May 12 to 14 were paid to be there?

There were numerous allegations that organized criminal groups played a role in the 2005 revolution by paying people to come out and protest -- in some cases for, and in other cases against the government.

There were also allegations that heroes of the Tulip Revolution turned to criminal groups to fund the protests that eventually toppled the last ousted president, Askar Akaev. These accusations were supported by the fact that several deputies in parliament were killed in the months after the revolution in what appeared to be disputes between criminal groups.

After being chased out of Bishkek earlier in April, the latest president-turned-exile, Kurmanbek Bakiev, fled to his home territory in the south to try to regroup and reclaim his presidency. That attempt included the ill-fated journey to Osh on April 15 to gather support in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city.

Word around Jalal-Abad on April 14 and 15 was that the Bakiev team was offering 7,000 Kyrgyz soms ($153) per carload of people who would come to Osh. Officials in the interim government said protesters in the south in mid-May were funded by $1.5 million sent to the country to pay off protesters.

Some, and maybe most, of the people protesting in Kyrgyzstan do so out of personal convictions or loyalty to a political figure. But not all it seems. Stories continue to circulate that some are protesters for hire, and we'd love to find out who their sugar daddy is.

-- Bruce Pannier
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