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Osh Concert Seeks To Heal Ethnic Rift In Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks got together this weekend for a rare concert in Osh, almost three years after deadly ethnic clashes ravaged this city in southern Kyrgyzstan.

The concert was organized by a local radio station, Yntymak, the Kyrgyz word for concord or harmony.

The radio station was set up last year to help heal ethnic rifts following the June 2010 clashes in Osh and the nearby city of Jalalabad that killed more than 400 people and left tens of thousand displaced.

Yntymak's director, Kaarmanbek Kuluev, says the concert was the first in Osh to feature songs in Uzbek since the violence.

"It has been some time since our ethnic Uzbek citizens went to any concerts. They have rarely left their homes, that's what the situation was like," Kuluev says. "Now, they are gradually going back to concerts and getting involved in cultural events. The goal of our concert was to encourage them to return to a normal peaceful life, to go to such concerts, to sing, to dance, to go to theaters."

Packing Them In

Yntymak is a joint project by the Kyrgyz government and Internews, an international nonprofit organization working on empowering local media worldwide.

Yntymak broadcasts in Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Russian, and seeks to promote positive images of both communities.

The February 10 concert was played to a packed audience, with many spectators standing up and dancing.

Khadicha Tashmatova, a 56-year-old ethnic Uzbek, says the concert inspired all residents of Kyrgyzstan to put their differences behind them and make peace.

"I came with my six grandchildren. We paid 700 Kyrgyz soms [about $15] for our tickets," Tashmatova says. "What has happened is now in the past. All we want is peace and for such concerts to take place. We wish all our people peace and reconciliation. I thank the concert's organizers."

One of the songs performed at the concert was "Yntymak," a song about peace in Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Russian.

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Osh remains deeply scarred by the June 2010 violence. Efforts to promote reconciliation have been undermined by what some human rights groups denounce as the Kyrgyz government's foot-dragging in punishing those responsible for attacks against ethnic Uzbeks.

Written by Claire Bigg, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
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