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Muslim Brotherhood and the Violence in Kyrgystan

Comment: The escalating violence in Kyrgystan is occurring in areas in which one finds significant presence of  a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Hizb ut-Tahrir.

An AP article sets forth how the ethnic clashes in the Krygyzstan towns of Osh and Jalal-abad are primary between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbek–both groups primarily sunni.  The Uzbek’s are 14% of the populace of Kyrgyzstan, although they’re closer to 50% of the populace in the towns where the violence is taking place.

Both Osh and Jalal-Abad towns reside in the Ferghana Valley, right in the heart of the heroine trafficking networks. Krgyzstan is also home to a key U.S. base for the war in Afghanistan. And, of course, parts of Central Asia is also rich in fossil fuel resources.

“75,000 Uzbeks Flee Ethnic Riots in Krygystan” by Sasha Merkushev and Yuras Karmanau [Associated Press]; Yahoo.com; 6/13/2010.

Excerpt: Mobs of rioters slaughtered Uzbeks and burned their homes and businesses in Kyrgyzstan’s worst ethnic violence in decades, sending more than 75,000 members of the ethnic minority fleeing the country in attacks that appeared aimed at undermining the Central Asian nation’s new interim government.

More than 100 people were killed in southern Kyrgyzstan and more than 1,200 wounded in days of attacks, according to government estimates Sunday. The true toll may be much higher.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its delegates witnessed about 100 bodies being buried in just one cemetery, and noted that the official toll is unlikely to include bodies still lying in the streets.

Fires set by rioters raged across Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, as triumphant crowds of ethnic-majority Kyrgyz men took control. Police or military troops were nowhere to be seen in the city of 250,000, where food was scarce after widespread looting and the few Uzbeks still left barricaded themselves in their neighborhoods.

The rampages spread quickly to Jalal-Abad, another major southern city 45 miles (70 kilometers) from Osh, and its neighboring villages, as mobs methodically set Uzbek houses, stores and cafes on fire. Rioters seized an armored vehicle and automatic weapons at a local military unit and attacked police stations around the region trying to get more firearms.

Some refugees were fired on as they fled to Uzbekistan. They were mostly elderly people, women and children, with younger men staying behind to defend their property.

Many of the more than 75,000 refugees arrived with gunshot wounds, the Uzbekistan Emergencies Ministry said, according to Russian reports.

“We saw lots of dead. I saw one guy die after being shot in the chest,” said Ziyeda Akhmedova, an Uzbek women in her late 20s at one of several camps hastily set up in Uzbekistan along the border.

She was among the first refugees to reach the border on Friday and said the Uzbek border guards were reluctant to let them in until an approaching Kyrgyz armored personnel carrier began firing. She had little hope of returning home soon.

“Our houses have been burned down. I don’t know how we will live, how we will talk to the people who shot at us,” Akhmedova said.

The United States, Russia and the U.N. chief all expressed alarm about the scale of the violence and discussed how to help the refugees. The U.S. and Russia both have military bases in northern Kyrgyzstan, away from the rioting; Russia sent in an extra battalion to protect its air base.

Kyrgyz residents interviewed by AP Television News in Osh blamed Uzbeks for starting the rioting by attacking students and Kyrgyz women. Ethnic Kyrgyz from neighboring villages then streamed into the city to strike back, they said.

But Maksat Zheinbekov, the acting mayor of Jalal-Abad, told the AP that the true instigators were supporters of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev who attacked both Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, the ethnic majority, to incite broader ethnic violence.

The interim government, which took over after Bakiyev was ousted by a public revolt in April, has been unable to stop the violence and accused Bakiyev’s family of instigating it. Uzbeks have backed the interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south have supported the toppled president. . . .

Comment: These towns are hotbeds of activity by Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization. Just what role that group may be playing in the violence is a subject for speculation. Possible influence on the Afghan war and heroin traffic is one thing to watch.

“The Long War in Central Asia: Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s Caliphate” a Monograph by MAJ Daniel J. Ruder [United States Army]; School of Advanced Military Studies United States Army Command and General Staff College,Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; May/2006.

Excerpt: . . . Jalal-Abad and Osh are considered Hizb-ut-Tahrir strongholds, where they have been persecuted by the Kyrgyz government since the late 1990’s.108 Hizb-ut-Tahrir has only limited support outside this region, and its membership is reportedly comprised of ninety percent ethnic Uzbeks while Kyrgyz make up only five percent.109 These indicators suggest that ethnicity may have a role in the popularity of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan.

The ethnic representation in Kyrgyzstan’s local institutional framework is imbalanced, creating the conditions for discontent and possible civil rights violations. According to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Osh’s Department of Interior is eighty percent ethnic Kyrgyz and ten percent are ethnic Uzbek. The twenty-three provincial and city court judges in Osh are all Kyrgyz, while nine of the ten judges in Jalal Abad province are Kyrgyz. Moreover, Uzbeks hold eleven seats in the Osh City Council compared to nineteen Kyrgyz seats. The prosecutor’s Office in Osh follows a similar make-up. Since ethnic Uzbek’s comprise fifty-two percent of Osh’s population, seventeen percent more than the Kyrgyz, one would expect to see a proportionate balance of representation in these key institutions.110 It is also clear that Uzbeks are aware of this imbalance as they have called for greater representation in law enforcement and judiciary jobs.111
Ethnic disparity in government and judiciary jobs in the region can generate an “us” versus “them” perception between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethic Uzbeks. The issue goes deeper in terms of safeguarding civil and humanitarian rights of a minority group, especially if the Uzbeks are perceived as filling the ranks of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The ethnic imbalance in key institutional positions is a factor for potential instability, such as the human rights violations at Andijan in March 2005. On the other hand, Hizb-ut-Tahrir ideology teaches that the Islamic state would have a caliph of its leader, who is elected by an assembly chosen by the people. . . .

(pp. 34-35.)

Discussion

One comment for “Muslim Brotherhood and the Violence in Kyrgystan”

  1. Regarding your comment on the USA having an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, please review one of the first of the AP articles you include. In it, we learn that Russia also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan, and that they brought in extra military personnel. I read no comments about the USA taking such action.

    One key question I have is about two Islamic groups repeatedly brought up in reports. These are the IMU and HT. Has anyone investigated the involvement of these groups, and one they share a common “brotherhood” with?

    Posted by Paul | June 20, 2010, 7:27 am

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