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Anti-Kyrgyz Rap Song Has Community Leaders Concerned

Osh still has divisions.
Osh still has divisions.
Two years since ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan claimed the lives of more than 400 people and left tens of thousands of people displaced, an anti-Kyrgyz rap song circulating among ethnic Uzbek youth has community leaders concerned.

The Uzbek-language rap song claims that Uzbeks are superior to Kyrgyz people and declares Osh to be an Uzbek area.
"Listen to us now,
This is the Uzbek version,
Did you want this?
Our rap is a war,
Only Uzbeks, Uzbek guys live in Osh,
We were born here, and we will die in Osh,
Kyrgyz should go to their mountains in Alai."

Osh city police have said that they have identified the song's author. He is an ethnic Uzbek, originally from Kyrgyzstan and now a Russian citizen. He has not been named.

Human rights activists and community leaders in Osh have appealed for calm.

Izatullo Rahmatillaev, from the Osh-based NGO Law and Order, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that leaders of the Uzbek community were concerned that the song is being widely spread among young people. He said that already the song had provoked a few minor incidents between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh.

The Osh city police have said there have been no official complaints regarding the song.

(Global Voices has a good round-up of reactions to the song, ranging from a sense of exhaustion to suspicions that someone must be behind it.)

With much attention paid to the positive role the Internet had in promoting democracy and activism in the Arab Spring, the June 2010 events in Kyrgyzstan demonstrated how the Internet -- and more importantly mobile phones -- could be used to stoke ethnic tensions.

Videos were widely shared of alleged atrocities on people's mobile phones; on Internet forums and discussion boards there were comment wars that descended into ethnic nationalism; and rumors were spread on social networks.

The latest rap song has a precedent. In 2010, Akram, an underground rapper from Tashkent, released an anti-Kyrgyz song on YouTube. Set against a backdrop of photos depicting the violence in Osh, sample lyrics include: "The whole world sees who you are…the whole world hates you."

A hugely popular Uzbek singer, Yulduz Usmanova, also became embroiled in controversy after her song "To The Kyrgyz" was criticized for its ethnic slurs. Exiled to Turkey after a fallout with the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Usmanova said afterward that the song was from the bottom of her heart, but was released by mistake.

A popular Kyrgyz singer, Aaly Tutkuchev, responded by song to Usmanova, saying that she was provoking hatred among ordinary people and perhaps that's why she was forced from her homeland. Tutkuchev's song was titled, "Don't Spit into the Well That You Drink Water From."

Rap is hugely popular among Uzbek youth, both those living in Uzbekistan and in other parts of Central Asia. The Uzbek authorities have taken a hard line, with state television calling rap and rock 'n' roll "satanic music" created by "evil forces." Especially fearing the power of underground rap in leading disaffected youth astray, the Uzbek government has set up a special body to censor rap music.

There have been attempts at reconciliation and bridge-building by both the Kyrgyz authorities and international aid groups. The Kyrgyz government has spent some 6 billion soms ($130 million) on reconstruction in Osh and Jalal-Abad. A new radio station, Yntymak, was launched, broadcasting in both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek languages. At a grassroots level, religious leaders have been active in calling for tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

But many wounds are proving hard to heal in southern Kyrgyzstan. People from both ethnic groups in Osh talk of a segregated city and thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have left to seek work in Russia and Turkey. Some of the Uzbeks who have stayed complain of discrimination and say they live in fear of being attacked. Others just want to rebuild their lives in their hometown.

-- Luke Allnutt

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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