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Kyrgyz President Honors Veteran Rights Activists

BISHKEK -- Two of Kyrgyzstan's leading human rights activists have been awarded the state's highest honor by President Roza Otunbaeva, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Otunbaeva presented the Dank (Glory) medal to Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdrasulova at the presidential office in Bishkek for their contribution to democracy and the improvement of human rights.

President Roza Otunbaeva (right) at the award ceremony with Tolekan Ismailova
Ismailova heads the nongovernmental organization Citizens Against Corruption and Abdrasulova is the director of the Kylym Shamy (Torch of the Century) NGO.

"In general, Roza Otunbaeva understands the nature of human rights, and has been working with NGOs closely," Ismailova told RFE/RL after receiving the award. "Kyrgyzstan and its political system legitimized human rights [with this award presentation]. [Abdrasulova and I] will do everything to keep our country on this path [of protecting human rights]."

Ismailova and Abdrasulova have worked as human rights activists in Kyrgyzstan since the mid-1990s. They have been threatened, beaten up, and detained several times under the regimes of Presidents Askar Akaev and Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was ousted in April.

Both women worked in southern Kyrgyzstan after the violent ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June. Ismailova left the country for several weeks after receiving anonymous threats because of her public statements about the June events.