Central Asia Theater
A state of emergency has been declared in southern Kyrgyztsan following what authorities are portraying as ethnic violence. On May 19, several thousand ethnic Kyrgyz tried to storm a private university in Jalal-Abad that serves as a center of the minority Uzbek community, sparking a clash that left at least two people dead and more than 70 wounded. Witnesses said gunfire broke out as crowds approached the building encircled by a cordon of special security forces. It was not clear who opened fire, but health officials said most of the injured appeared to be from the crowd. Many see an effort to restore ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev behind the outburst.
Chinese rescue workers are struggling to reach survivors of the devastating earthquake in a remote area of Qinghai province that has left at least 589 dead and thousands injured. The government has dispatched more than 3,000 paramilitary police and disaster response workers to the province's Yushu county on the Tibetan plateau, where 85% of the buildings were said to have collapse.
Former Kyrgyz foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva announced April 8 that she will lead an interim government in Kyrgyzstan after violent protests the previous day apparently ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his administration. Otunbayeva, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, urged Bakiyev to resign and said that her temporary government will rule for six months until the country holds democratic elections. Bakiyev, who has fled the capital Bishkek for the southern city of Osh, said in a statement that he will not resign.
The Chinese Embassy in Switzerland on Jan. 8 warned that the Swiss government would jeopardize relations with China by accepting two Uighur Guantánamo Bay detainees. Switzerland has already agreed to accept an Uzbek Guantánamo detainee, who will be relocated to the canton of Geneva, but authorities from the canton of Jura made a public statement last month expressing willingness to take two Uighur brothers. Since then, the Chinese embassy has issued repeated warnings to Swiss authorities cautioning against accepting the Uighurs. Public reaction in Switzerland is ambivalent, with some calling for Switzerland to stay away from an US-created problem and others appealing to human rights and maintaining a position independent of Chinese pressure.
Kyrgyzstan journalist Gennady Pavlyuk, who was thrown from a sixth-floor window in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 16, died in the hospital Dec. 22. The editor of the online version of the opposition journal Bely Parus was apparently thrown from the window, his hands and feet bound. The attack, this time in a neighboring country, is the third in a week against Kyrgyzstan journalists of Russian origin. Political analyst Alexander Knyazev was attacked in the capital Bishkek on Dec. 9 and the correspondent for the news agency BaltInfo, Alexander Evgrafov, was struck and threatened by uniformed police on Dec. 15. (RSF, Dec. 22)
The Uzbek government is cracking down on rights activists before Dec. 27 parliamentary elections, Human Rights Watch charges—while criticizing the West for staying silent. Uzbekistan this year mended ties with the West that had been all but severed after harsh repression in 2005. HRW charged Dec. 10 that Uzbek authorities in Karshi and Margilan have detained human rights advocates to prevent them from meeting with an HRW researcher. In Karshi, the HRW researcher was also attacked by an unknown assailant, then detained and forced to leave the city. "The attack appeared to be a setup," HRW stated. Additionally, seven human rights and political activists were detained last month, three of whom were also beaten, when they attempted to meet with a political opposition leader.
Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Astana Dec. 13 to unveil the Kazakh section of a 7,000-kilometer (4,300-mile) natural gas pipeline joining Central Asia to China. Hu was joined by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the inauguration, where the two leaders together pressed a symbolic button to open the 1,833-kilometer Kazakh section. Nazarbayev said: "This is a grand construction project that will in time resurrect the ancient Silk Route." Hu is next due to head to a commissioning ceremony in Turkmenistan, where the pipeline actually begins. He is expected to be joined there by President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, the fourth country involved in the project.
From Human Rights Watch, Oct. 20:
The Chinese government should immediately account for all detainees in its custody and allow independent investigations into the July 2009 protests in Urumqi and their aftermath, Human Rights Watch said in a new report on enforced "disappearances" released today.