Human Rights Watch has urged the Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to deploy international police in southern Kyrgyszstan. This follows a similar request made last week by the Kyrgyzstan government itself for police support. The situation in the region remains worryingly volatile after the civil conflict which erupted in the first half of June, when around 300 were killed, 2,000 houses burned and up to 400,000 people displaced. Some 46,000 ethnic Uzbeks, mostly women and children, crossed the border into Uzbekistan to escape the violence.
The women and children have been returning over the last couple of weeks, many severely traumatized by the loss of loved ones or their experiences of the violence, which included beatings and rape. It is estimated that there are still around 560,000 people in need of food, water, shelter or medical care in Kyrgyzstan.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has just visited the south. The UNHCR organized hundreds of tons of emergency aid relief for the refugees, but now the focus is shifting to the southern Kyrgyzstan towns of Osh and Jalalabad, where many of the displaced have returned. The Commissioner has appealed for further aid from the international community to help communities rebuild and avoid any further losses of life, leading to fresh grievances. The situation in these towns remains tense. Following the atrocities, the ethnic Uzbek community is extremely distrustful of the state military, since there are many allegations that ethnic Kyrgz officers took part in the violence. ACT Alliance has called for an international independent investigation into the conflict, though so far the Krygyzstan government has not agreed to this.
There is at least relief among the international community that the country’s referendum held on June 27th went peacefully, with almost 70% of those eligible turning out to vote and endorsing a new constitution to establish a parliamentary republic, where the president will have no powers. Full elections are scheduled for October and Roza Otunbayeva, the current interim president will stay on for 18 months before standing for re-election next year. Even in the battered south, officials say at least 50% of the population voted and endorsed the new constitution. When asked, most said they were voting for “peace and stability”. But this will only be achieved if the new government, with the help of the international community, can ensure security at this critical time and help the Krygyz and Uzbek people start on the long road to rebuilding trust.