Currently, every Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan is safe. I want to reassure family and friends, we remain abreast of the situation, avoid crowds, demonstrations, and stay in touch with one another through cell phone text messages, emails, and telephones. For those volunteers located in remote villages, Peace Corps can, will, and does actually send PC personnel or messengers to relay information. Moreover, in times of political crisis, those who are located in remote villages are almost universally known by the villagers and respected amongst their colleagues, friends, and neighbors. In short, they are safe.
We are on "Regional Standfast". Standfast is the initial alert given by Peace Corps when political tensions or natural disasters take place. We are to remain at our sites and use discretion when venturing outside our homes. We are a smart group of volunteers. We are alert. We have many local friends. Nuff-said.
Now, the juicy stuff. Yesterday was a holiday in Kyrgyzstan. One of the largest holidays of the year, Nooruz. You can imagine the contrast of parents promenading their rosy cheeked children through Osh’s central park, only to bump into club wielding rioters ready for a revolution.
Malatov cocktails were thrown. Buildings were taken over. Police and Military personnel dropped their batons, their shields and even their helmets in retreat. A Niva (miniature Russian SUV) rolled around Osh for several hours with roof mounted loud speakers blaring out something to the effect of, “the opposition has taken over the city and set up a new government.”
Leaders of Opposition parties from all over Kyrgyzstan are convening in Bishkek today, Tuesday, March 22nd.
As far as I can tell, there were no deaths in Osh, though I did hear that there were approximately 30 injuries—again, this is not fact just rumor at this point. Reports from Jalalabad remain mixed. Some say 4 policemen were killed. Some say that there were no fatalities. Russian and Turkish news sources seem to be unreliable…so choose your sources carefully.
Nobody knows how to handle what is happening in Kyrgyzstan and fear lays awake in the bed of the unknown. Questions: How will Akayev handle the political unrest? In the wake of Aksyy a few years ago—Akayev appears afraid to assert an iron fist. Yet his indecision, also makes him and his government appear weak during a time that calls for decisive action. Akayev has made very few appearances and spoken very few words to his country’s men and women.
One intelligent gentlemen whom I know and respect, believes that Akayev will likely resign before realizing his full term (presidential elections will be held on October 27th). But who would fill his shoes?
One news source says the opposition is calling for Akayev’s resignation and for the old parliament to stay in power until new elections can be held.
Still others believe that Russia, which is bound by a security treaty with Kyrgyzstan, may step in an “implement order”. Still others think that Akayev will send troops down from the north (who would be less sympathetic and less likely to lay down their arms in retreat).
Still others think that the revolution, will eventually make it’s way north, to Bishkek and that if does, their will be greater strife. Politicians and Policemen in the north have much more to lose in the event of a successful revolution and turn-over of power.
Other ideas…stasis, at least temporarily. New opposition governments in the south could face any number of difficulties…eg. No funding from the north. Or, lack of knowledge of administrative necessities. Who knows? Opposition parties, now united, would likely bump heads over new power configurations.
More than likely a combination of these will take place in some form or another—which basically means, nobody knows what is going to happen. We will wait and see.
Communication is intermittent during times of unrest. For those worrying, this can be very frustrating. I will try and blog as often as I can. My ears are connected to friends all over the country.