This is my last day in Osh on this latest trip. When I was here last month, I wrote about the wonderful memories I have of this city over 18 years and my sadness at seeing what happened in June. I also wrote about the wish that one can make from the top of Suleymen's Hill, in the center of Osh. Only one wish and you are supposed to keep it to yourself.
I'm going to break tradition.
Last month, I did climb the hill
. And as I looked down into the Uzbek neighborhood of Cheremushky, at the burned-out buildings, the makeshift barricades that were still partially blocking entry to Cheremushky, and the "SOS" messages painted on the streets, I couldn't think of anything to wish for. Probably 20 ascents up Suleyman's Hill since 1992, and for the first time I didn't know what I wanted. So I didn't make any wish.
I know what I'm wishing for today.
This past week I went to more burned-out neighborhoods, and heard more gruesome stories about rape, torture, and murder. An Uzbek woman told the story of a disabled teenage boy pounced on by a group of Kyrgyz; the woman said they opened the boy's mouth, poured gasoline into it, and lit him on fire. The boy died, the woman said. Dramatic? Maybe. But no more dramatic than the mobile-phone video a group of three young Kyrgyz men showed me in which a group of people, whom the Kyrgyz identified as Uzbeks, were using broomsticks to bat the severed head of a Kyrgyz man back and forth as they screamed and whistled. There are actually worse stories people tell me and worse videos they've shown me. Much worse.
It's disappointing to see that the situation here actually seems worse now than it was a month ago. In June, people in both the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities seemed to be in shock, as if they hoped the violence had all been a nightmare. Now, in late July, the shock is gone and animosity has taken over. The gap between the two peoples has widened; a darkness has settled over them. I've been hearing it in their voices and seeing it in their eyes all week long.
So, Suleyman's Hill and another wish. It's easy this time. I wish I never see the hatred I've seen here in Osh this past week, never again for the rest of my life.
-- Bruce Pannier