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.
Bishkek court 17 April handed lengthy prison sentences to three opposition politicians and shorter sentence for a fourth after finding them guilty of plotting to seize power by force in March 2016. Russian investigators identified 22-year-old ethnic Uzbek from Osh Akbarjon Djalilov as suicide bomber who killed fourteen and injured 60 in attack on St. Petersburg metro 3 April; Djalilov became naturalised Russian citizen in 2011; Russian security services 17 April arrested another Kyrgyz national, Abror Azimov, who they said may have supervised Djalilov, in addition to several other suspects of Central Asian origin.
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.