Kyrgyzstan Erupts In a Ball of Fire And Chaos
Another one of the “Stans” is in extremely hot water. And no, it isn’t a major Taliban counterattack in Afghanistan or another deadly suicide-bombing in Pakistan. Nor is it another government-sponsored suppression of protests in Uzbekistan. No, this national development is occurring in Kyrgyzstan, a semi-isolated Central Asian nation of a meager 5 million citizens.
So what’s the big news? Well, take a look at any twitter feed (especially this one) or blog out there and you will come to the conclusion; ordinary Kyrgyz residents have taken to the streets and have beaten back Kyrgyzstan’s formidable security and intelligence services in the capital city. I guess people are sick and tired of living in a desolate a corrupt environment with no economic opportunity; an astounding 33 percent of the Kyrgyz population is under the poverty line.
I personally have no in-depth knowledge or understanding of Kyrgyzstan…or Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan for that matter. Central Asia is largely a blur to me, but thanks to the good folks over at registan.net, this ignorance is starting to go down considerably (over time, I’ve come to appreciate the unique political culture of these ex-Soviet republics). But I do know a few things.
For one, the pictures of the riots are much more violent than I ever imagined. When I heard of this supposed coup-attempt, I quickly jumped to the conclusion that it was yet another branch of the existing government trying to pressure a current president to resign. But this could not be further from the truth; people are dying on the streets, the security forces are firing their guns towards large crowds without a slice of concern over casualties, and people are picking up arms themselves and firing in return. 74 people have been killed so far, and that figure is sure to rise as the night progresses.
But with the violence escalating, and with rumors of the government collapsing under the weight of the protesters, you have to wonder what’s next for Kyrgyzstan.
I’m always a little skeptical of street protests, regardless of where they occur. On the one hand, the people of Kyrgyzstan are exercising what should be their democratic rights in denouncing and protesting the government’s corruption and ineptitude. On the other hand, dozens of people are being killed. There are so many things going on up-to-the-minute that it’s downright impossible to say that the opposition has won.
The ironic thing is that street protests haven’t really been all that useful for the Kyrgyz’s before. The administration being driven out today is the same administration that was brought to power by protests in 2005.
Check out the #freekg twitter feed and registan.net for up-to-the-second news, because the situation is getting interesting. The United States may even be shaking in its boots. After all, a large sum of NATO’s supplies trickles into Afghanistan from Kyrgyzstan.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of Nathan Hamm at Registan.net**