Recent political protests in Kyrgyzstan signal the possibility of deeper trouble ahead of presidential elections in November. For the first time in the country’s pro-independence history, there is real competition for leadership in Central Asia’s only semi-functioning democracy.
Security services 6 June detained alleged member of unnamed terrorist group in Bishkek on suspicion of plotting suicide attack; 14 June detained another man suspected of fighting in Syria. Kyrgyz language videos calling for jihad in Kyrgyzstan posted on social media same week. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu 8 June told Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana that due to security situation in Afghanistan, Russia will strengthen its bases in Kyrgyzstan. Delegates from EU, all five Central Asian states and Afghanistan met in Bishkek 8 June to discuss regional security challenges. Russian security official 23 June told UN Security Council that Islamic State (ISIS) seeking to shift focus to Central Asia due to losses in Iraq and Syria. Kyrgyz and Chinese border forces held joint exercises late month. EU Council published 19 June its conclusions on 2007 EU strategy for Central Asia; next strategy due 2019, with focus so far on strengthening dialogue on human rights and emerging security challenges.
The rapid rise of alternative interpretations of Islam, often at odds with the state’s concept of traditional identity, are being fueled in part by endemic corruption and perceptions of incompetency. The government must end economic marginalisation and improve inadequate institutions, or risk not just threats to internal security but also the resurfacing of ethnic tensions.
Kyrgyzstan’s relative stability belies the country’s brittle Central Asian neighbourhood, simmering ethnic tensions, religious extremism and political frustration. Russia, the West and China share interests here, creating a unique opportunity to work together for Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development during and after the upcoming 4 October parliamentary elections.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
Kyrgyzstan’s disregard for its Uzbek community is pushing the ethnic minority to a breaking point.
Without prompt, genuine and exhaustive measures to address the damage done by the pogroms, Kyrgyzstan risks another round of terrible violence.
Crisis Group’s Publications Officer Julie David de Lossy, formerly a freelance photographer of Central Asia, travels to Kyrgyzstan to take a look through her camera lens at the context of our conflict-prevention work.