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Opposition Party Urges Fairness For Uzbeks In Kyrgyzstan

Vasila Inoyatova
Vasila Inoyatova
Uzbekistan's opposition Birlik (Unity) party has called for the "fair treatment" of ethnic Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The call was made in a statement by Birlik at a Tashkent conference marking the party's 22nd anniversary on May 7.

Although many of the unregistered party's members are living in exile, Birlik still operates in Uzbekistan despite harassment from officials.

With a handful of Birlik activists still living in Uzbekistan in attendance and exiled party leader Abdurahim Polatov on the phone from the United States, a discussion was held about problems regarding human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan.

Another main topic was the aftermath of the ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan, where nearly 500 people were killed in June during clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

Birlik members discussed the recent report by the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), the independent international group that conducted an investigation into the ethnic unrest, which took place in the Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Jalalabad last summer.

The conference participants adopted a statement calling on their "Kyrgyz brother nation" to stop persecuting ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.

The statement noted the findings in the KIC report issued on May 3, in which it stated that some 75 percent of the casualties were suffered by ethnic Uzbeks but 80 percent of the criminal cases in connection with the June clashes are against Uzbeks.

Vasila Inoyatova, Birlik's secretary-general in Tashkent, told RFE/RL that party members plan to hold a rally in front of the Kyrgyz Embassy to demand the fair and just treatment of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.

"No one can guarantee that the violence will not occur again tomorrow," she said. "Because today in Kyrgyzstan activities are being held that have nationalist slogans. In the media and among people a message is being sent that Kyrgyzstan is only for Kyrgyz. This means that tomorrow, again, Uzbeks could be massacred, driven away from their homes. That's why, in order to try to prevent such events, we plan to conduct certain activities."

Birlik was the first-ever opposition movement formed in Soviet Uzbekistan, being officially established in May 1989 by members of the Uzbek intelligentsia.