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The 'Third Force' And Reconciliation

A Kyrgyz man and an ethnic Uzbek man recover in an Osh hospital from injuries sustained in the ethnic violence in June. They were smoking cigarettes and the Kyrgyz man made a point of calling the Uzbek man his "brother."
The stories of atrocities in Osh are not the only stories that can be told.

I had the opportunity to go between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities just after the major violence had subsided and I spoke with members of both communities at length about what had happened and what they thought would happen next.

The first thing that struck me was that both communities believed there was a “third force” behind the rioting and killing that had just taken place. Exactly who this third force was no one could say for sure. Maybe it was former President Kurmanbek Bakiev and his family. Maybe criminal organizations or Islamic militants or local leaders or businessmen.

No one, not one Kyrgyz and not one Uzbek, ever said that hatred for the other group caused what happened. They called the other group names for what had just happened, but I never heard anyone say the Uzbeks or the Kyrgyz had had it coming.

It was the “third force” that caused the problem.

It was as if they preferred to blame this “third force” rather than themselves for killing their cultural cousins.

Simple denial. Maybe. But I strangely saw a seed of hope in this.

When the Uzbeks or the Kyrgyz were gathered in groups, they vowed there would be no peace. It sent chills down my spine when many predicted that what had happened just days before was only the first round and that worse was coming, and soon.

But several times I managed to escape from the crowds -- just me and one Kyrgyz or one Uzbek -- and what they said individually, in private, was very different from what they said in their groups.

Some were genuinely sorry for what had happened and told me they had lived with the other group all their lives and couldn’t understand what had caused the bloodshed. They said they hoped for some sort of reconciliation and that life could go back to what it had been not so many days earlier.

I think reconciliation between the two communities is possible but will be a long process. I hope I am wrong in this and that the two can move on together very soon.

It may help if they can find this “third force” and blame him or her, or these people, for leading them into madness. It may make forgiveness easier.

-- Bruce Pannier