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Uzbek Women Hide In Osh Basement As Humanitarian Disaster Looms On Border

An ethnic Uzbek woman on June 16 carries her child past homes destroyed during the clashes in her village, Kyr-Aryk in the Osh region.
An ethnic Uzbek woman on June 16 carries her child past homes destroyed during the clashes in her village, Kyr-Aryk in the Osh region.
By Hakimjan Husanov and Ron Synovitz
Nigora and three of her friends -- all women from Uzbekistan in their 20s -- have been hiding in the Osh basement of a Kyrgyz friend for days as ethnic violence raged around them in southern Kyrgyzstan.

After a sleepless night of explosions outside and a morning punctuated by the clatter of automatic gunfire, they told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that they are still too frightened to go outside -- even for food.

The women, who asked that their real names not be published, fled their homes in Uzbekistan last year amid a heightened crackdown there against devout Muslims. Now they want to go back to Uzbekistan.

Nigora said that neither the embassy of Uzbekistan nor the United Nations is able to help them. She said UN workers have offered to inform Kyrgyz soldiers about their location. But the women have declined that offer.

Nigora told RFE/RL that they are most afraid of the Kyrgyz soldiers with whom they have spoken by telephone. She said that those soldiers had insisted that safe passage would only come at a high price.

"To take us out of here and safely to the border, they have asked for $2,000 each," Nigora said, adding that she has friends from Tajikistan who've paid $500 each for such unofficial escorts. "They explained the high price by the fact that we are all women and [our friends] were men. Because all Uzbek girls are being raped at the moment, they explained that for this price they will guarantee that not only we will not be killed, but we will be taken to the border safely."

Dozens of ethnic Uzbeks related similar stories to RFE/RL about trying to reach the relative safety of the border area -- including a group that had asked local authorities to organize safe passage for them on June 15.

Two buses eventually arrived with men in Kyrgyz military uniforms pledging to take women, children, and the injured to the Dostlik border crossing.

But instead of taking those people to the border, the bus drove them to Kurmanjan Dodhoh, a village near Osh, where they were locked up in a building "as hostages," according to relatives. Ethnic Uzbek men who sent their wives and children on those buses are now being told that they must pay thousands of dollars for their release.

RFE/RL could not confirm whether the alleged hostage takers were Kyrgyz army troops. But in one case, an ethnic Uzbek girl was freed after her family paid $500 to the same uniformed men who had promised to take her safely to the border.

'Piles Of Corpses'

Thousands of ethnic Uzbek families in southern Kyrgyzstan have fled into neighboring Uzbekistan since clashes erupted there last week. Kyrgyzstan's south straddles the densely populated Ferghana Valley, which includes large numbers of ethnic Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks.

The area has been unstable since a violent revolt toppled Kyrgyzstan's president, whose support base was in the south, in April. Ethnic tensions, which date back centuries, have flared on several occasions since 1990, when hundreds were killed in clashes between the ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities over land-ownership disputes.

UN workers and authorities in Uzbekistan say that more than 100,000 refugees -- mostly women and children -- crossed into Uzbekistan this month before Uzbek authorities closed the border late on June 14 to all except those with fresh injuries.

Three border checkpoints were reopened late on June 13 to let more than 60 wounded people cross. But thousands are still stranded on the Kyrgyz side.

They include Gulchekhra Emirova -- an ethnic Uzbek woman who described the situation to a Reuters camera crew by talking through the barbed-wire border fence.

Humanitarian aid is distributed in the Osh region on June 14.
"People are suffering from dysentery. People have fever. Everybody is sick," Emirova told the agency. "Some old people had veins bursting or suffered a heart attack. There is not enough medicine."

Pasim, an ethnic Uzbek man from southern Kyrgyzstan, says the humanitarian disaster now being faced in the makeshift camps along both sides of the border is far better than the situation he left behind in Osh, where the homes and businesses of ethnic Uzbeks were being set alight by marauding gangs of gunmen.

"People are either lying dead on the street or they are locked up in their houses and basements," Pasim said. "There are piles of corpses. Who will help us? Everyone is watching, please forgive me."

Relief Efforts

On Uzbekistan's side of the border fence, women refugees hold up photographs of children they say they had to leave behind in Kyrgyzstan. One ethnic Uzbek woman, too frightened to give her name, said gunmen were shooting at anybody who ventured outside.

"They told us this is Kyrgyzstan and only Kyrgyz will live here," she said. "This is what they told me. They prepared for this in advance."

According to the latest official casualty toll, at least 179 people have been killed and some 2,000 injured in interethnic violence across southern Kyrgyzstan this month. The country's Health Ministry says the death toll could be higher, as many families were bypassing official morgues to bury their dead.

Reports say there are signs of some relief for refugees who have managed to cross into Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek authorities have been delivering aid from trucks and some rudimentary refugee facilities have been set up.

A plane carrying the first foreign aid for refugees arrived in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon today. Those UNHCR supplies include 800 tents. Two more flights from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees were expected to arrive in Andijon later in the day with more supplies.

written by Ron Synovitz in Prague based on reporting by RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent Hakimjan Husanov. With additional contributions by Uzbek Service correspondents Farruh Yusupov and Zamiri Eshanova in Prague
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: One Kyrgyz from: Europe
June 17, 2010 15:33
RADIO LIBERTY - YOU ARE DISAPPOINTING US, YOUR READERS AND LISTENERS! WHY DON'T YOU CONTROL YOUR UZBEK RADIO??? THEY ARE PASTING VIDEOS FROM YOUTUBE WHERE UZBEKS ARE LAYING DEAD. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS? IF YOU DON'T, IT MEANS THAT THIS 'WAR" IS NOT GOING TO STOP. THEY EVEN POST COMMENTS WHERE UZBEKS CALL OTHER UZBEKS TO ATTACK ANY KYRGYZ!!! THEY ARE CURSING AND CALLING KYGYZ PEOPLE AS "DOGS"!!! HELLO! WHAT IS IT? WHY KYRGYZ-AZATTYK IS NOT POSTING ANYTHING LIKE THIS? DO YOU ALSO BELIEVE THAT THERE NO DEAD AMONG KYRGYZ LIKE OTHER WORLDWIDE MEDIA? AZATTYK SAID THAT THEY CAN'T POST ANYTHING LIKE THIS TO PREVENT THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE FIGHTS!

PLEASE, DO SMTH WITH THE UZBEKS! THEY SHOULD BAN SUCH COMMENTS! UZBEK RADIOS HEAD AND SOME JOURNALISTS WHO ARE POSTING SUCH THINGS SHOULD BE FIRED!!!
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 19, 2010 04:29
Hey one kyrgyz from Europe. I think you should spend your energy and time on finding those killers of Uzbek instead of lecturing media on what it should post.
I think it is so immoral to deny those atrocious killings and try to prevent those stories to go out. I think Uzbeks have suffered enough and have all rights to tell their stories. No kyrgyz official or ducated person has written or declared formal apologies to uzbek victims. You want to take the last hope and chance of uzbek to tell their stories. Your government is already doing that.
In Response

by: Julqunboy from: Toshkent
June 19, 2010 04:44
You have to be not only disappointed, but also ashamed of your fellow Kyrgyz for carrying out ethnic cleansing against Uzbeks. The world media is showing what happened and nothing else. If Kyrgyz had video where Uzbeks are cutting throats of Kyrgyz group-raping Kyrgyz girls (from 5-12 years), burning them alive, writing graffiti reading "Death to Kyrgyz" all over the city, then you would have posted them on Youtube and media would have shown them too. All the above barbarities happened against Uzbeks and luckily there is evidence of that too.
This war is not going to stop as long as Kyrgyz remain racists. You committed ethnic cleaning back in 1990 and you repeated the same thing now with more barbarity.
Don't be silly and call upon RadioFree Europe to ban comments. You claim to be "the only democrats" in Central Asia and forget about the basics of free press.
Finally, even after committing so much horrible crimes which have consistent evidence you keep blaming the other side, i.e. Uzbeks. It is time that you as a nation and your Interim Government failed to protect their own citizens just because they were Uzbeks. It is time to admit your crimes and take firm steps towards responsibility and reconciliation.
In Response

by: UZBEK from: USA
June 19, 2010 06:01
BECAUSE OF THESE VIDEOS AND ARTICLES WORLD AND OTHER UZBEKS AROUND THE WORLD ARE BEING INFORMED WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON. THERE IS NO DOUBT ABOUT DEATH AMONG KYRGYZ PEOPLE AS WELL. HOWEVER IT WASN'T UZBEK WHO ATTACKED FIRST.
I GREW UP IN TASHKENT AND NEVER BEEN OUTSIDE THE CITY(EXCEPT SCHOOL TRIPS TO ANCIENT CITIES LIKE SAMARKAND AND BUKHARA) BEFORE TRAVELING TO US, SO I DIDN'T REALLY KNEW MUCH ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS. HOWEVER I THERE ARE A LOT OF KYRGYZ PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN UZBEKISTAN AND I WENT TO SCHOOL WITH THEM, AND THEY WERE ALLOWED TO GO TO UNIVERSITIES AND HAD RIGHT TO WORK LIKE OTHER UZBEKS. I WAS REALLY DISAPPOINTED WITH KYRGYZ PEOPLE AND IT'S GOVERNMENT. ONLY COWARD WILL ATTACK PEOPLE IN THEIR HOMES AND KILL THEIR FAMILIES, RAPE THEIR DAUGHTERS. I WAS SO PROUD WITH UZBEK MEN WHO SENT WOMEN, CHILDREN AND ELDERLY TO UZBEKISTAN AND STAY BEHIND TO PROTECT THEIR HOMES AND HONOR. THERE HAD BEEN NEW UZBEK COMMUNITIES MADE ALL AROUND THE WORLD TO MAKE DONATIONS AND UZBEKS OPENED FOCAL POINTS IN USA AND OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES TO GATHER HUMANITARIAN HELP FOR UZBEK PEOPLE.

SO FAR I HAVEN'T SEEN ANY COMMENTS ABOUT ATTACKING KRGYZ, I READ ABOUT CURSING THOUGH. WELL THEY CURSE WHO DID THAT MESS, IF YOU DIDN'T KILL ANYONE IT SHOULDN'T BOTHER YOU.

NOW YOU WANT PEOPLE TO DO SMTH WITH UZBEKS? WHY DON'T YOU DO SMTH WITH KYRGYZ AND FIND A WAY TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH CITIZENS OF YOUR COUNTRY. YOU ARE SUGGESTING TO FIRE UZBEK RADIO HEADS AND SOME JOURNALISTS FOR POSTING THE TRUTH. JOURNALISTS IN CENTRAL ASIA ARE ALREADY BEING DISCRIMINATED BY ALL THOSE CORRUPTED GOVERNMENTS OF OURS. I SAY OURS BECAUSE I KNOW MY GOVERNMENT ISN'T BETTER THEN YOURS. MAYBE KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT AND ALL THEIR HEAD SHOULD FIRED FOR BEING SO INCOMPETENT. HOW DO YOU THINK THE OTHER KYRGYZ PEOPLE WILL BE TREATED WHO LIVE IN OTHER NEIGHBOR COUNTRIES??? IN SUCH TIMES PEOPLE SHOULD BE CALLING EACH OTHER FOR PEACE AND FIND A WAY TO WORK THINGS OUT. RIGHT NOW AS UZBEK I'LL DO AS MUCH AS I CAN TO SUPPORT THOSE WOMEN AND CHILDREN WHO ARE IN REFUGEE TENTS AND PRAY FOR BROTHERS WHO ARE LEFT BEHIND.
I AM REALLY SICK OF THIS DISCRIMINATION AMONG PEOPLE IN CENTRAL ASIA. DO WE HAVE TO KILL EACH OTHER AND BECAME ONE OF THE EXTINCT NATIONS OF THE WORLD? I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT I AM INTEND TO LIVE, PROSPER AND CALL MYSELF CENTRAL ASIAN.
In Response

by: boy from China from: china
June 22, 2010 06:50
if you are an Uzbek,What whould you say?and it is not the first time

by: Aisalkyn Botoeva
June 18, 2010 19:30
I can understand the frustration of the previous commentator. Although, I don't think it would be a great idea to respond to such actions the same way - this would only instigate further violence.
However, if you find certain youtube videos you can report them as violent/harmful and what not. Let's contribute to restoration of peace through civil ways!

by: Uzbek from: USA
June 18, 2010 21:52
Kyrgyz from Europe, you should have shut the mouth of your government and spoken out against your troops' atrocities. You are all barbarians.

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