Istanbul- Kyrgyzstan held its presidential election today (Oct. 30). The event is being described as Central Asia’s first relatively democratic election.
I ventured to Kyrgyzstan earlier this year and published a series of articles from a region I hope to continue covering.
Following June 2010 violence in the southern city of Osh, there is hope that the election will usher in a period of greater peace and freedom for the country. This will be difficult to achieve. Nationalism is on the rise in the country and the tensions remain high between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.
Here is one of articles I wrote from Kyrgyzstan:
Kyrgyz and Uzbeks offer starkly different versions of how the “events,” or the “war” – as last year’s violence is known locally – unfolded. While they differ on many points about the causes and the effects of the violence, the two groups tend to agree on one point: the Kyrgyz “won.” In an atmosphere of rising Kyrgyz nationalism, Kyrgyz-language newspapers have printed racist attacks on minorities, offering justifications for harsh measures aimed at defending their “ancestral lands.” Kyrgyz politicians, meanwhile, have demanded “respect” from minorities. Azamat Temirkulov, a professor of political science at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, confirmed that nationalist sentiment has intensified over the past year, especially in Osh. “After the events last year, Kyrgyz have this trend to dominate culturally, and, maybe, also dominate economically,” he told EurasiaNet.org. “There is nationalism, there are some nationalist groups. They are present not only in the street, but also in official institutions.”
With only best wishes for the country, here is a random assortment of photos taken during the weeks I was in Kyrgyzstan.