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Reporter's Notebook: Osh Has Cleaned Up But Uzbeks Trust No One

Most ethnic Uzbeks have now returned to Osh
Most ethnic Uzbeks have now returned to Osh
RFE/RL correspondent and Chaikhana blogger Bruce Pannier is in Osh to see how the situation has changed there since last month's riots killed some 300 people and left another 400,000 homeless.

We arrived in Osh this morning around 9:00 local time, and driving in from the airport, we could see that most of the roadblocks have been removed. There is still one not far from the airport and another on the outskirts of the actual city.

As for most of the damaged and burned-out buildings, they have cleared away the broken glass, they have swept out the gutted restaurants, but they are still in very poor shape. A lot of them don't have roofs. It does, however, look cleaner than it did a month ago.

But that is mostly in the center. Once you get out into some of the Uzbek neighborhoods, on the outskirts, the situation is different. Although the Uzbeks have also cleaned up, they are still not getting a lot of food in. Just a moment ago, we saw someone driving a car through the neighborhood selling produce out of the back of his car. That seems to be one of the main ways for people to get food.

A lot of people have returned and about half of them -- maybe more -- are living with their relatives. The UNHCR has also supplied people with tents, so there is this surreal scene where you have a burned-out building and a gate that is open and then this conical white-and-blue tent, with UNHCR on the side.

The treatment of the Uzbek community doesn't seem to have changed from a month ago. In the Osh neighborhood of Kirpichny this morning, we saw that the NGO Doctors Without Borders were parked outside a house and treating people who say they had been beaten up by Kyrgyz soldiers the night before.

This morning, there was another security operation in the same neighborhood. They arrested a few people, hit a couple of others, and when I talked to locals they said this was practically an every-other-day event.

Allegations Of Torture

That fits with what other international observers have seen here. The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, released a statement today saying she had information that security forces had committed repeated abuses such as torture and arbitrary detention in southern Kyrgyzstan. She said that "large numbers of people -- most of them young men, and virtually all of them Uzbek -- have been arbitrarily detained in ways that not only demonstrate flagrant ethnic bias, but also break many of the fundamental tenets of both Kyrgyz and international law."

When I ask people who is responsible for this and what is going to improve the situation, most Uzbeks blame the local administration, in particular the city's mayor and his immediate inner circle.

But the disconcerting thing that is going on here now is that the Uzbeks are starting to widen the field of blame and some even allege that President Roza Otunbaeva herself had signed off on what happened last month, that she was in on the plot to burn them out of their neighborhoods, and that there was no one they could trust in this country at all. They don't trust Bishkek, they don't trust the local administration in Osh, and they certainly don't trust the soldiers and police down here.

When asked what possible solution there could be to this problem and if they thought it would be helpful if the OSCE did indeed send some kind of police force, even unarmed, everyone I spoke to agreed that that is exactly what is needed.

They said that such a force should be professional -- the more the better -- and should watch over what the soldiers and the police are doing in these neighborhoods and how they are conducting security operations. People really think that if there were OSCE police officers in the city, then a lot of the beatings and arbitrary detentions would end.

-- Bruce Pannier