2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots

2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots
2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots
Part of 2010 Kyrgyzstan crisis
Location  Kyrgyzstan: Osh, Jalal-Abad
 Uzbekistan: Sokh, Sogment(Uzbekistani enclaves in Kyrgyzstan) and bordering areas in Kyrgyzstan
Result Uzbek minority expulsion, Bishkek government regains partial control over southern provinces
Kyrgyzistani Kyrgyz gangs

Other pro- Bakiyev forces

Uzbekistani Kyrgyz1

Flag of Jihad.svg Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (alleged)[11]

Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks

Uzbekistani Uzbek civilians1

 Uzbekistan[16] (limited involv.)2[18][19]

 Kyrgyz provisional government

Supported by:
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan[2]
United States USA[3]
China PRC[4]
Turkey Turkey[5]

Casualties and losses
official figures: 893 killed,[20][21] 1,900 injured, 100,000 - 250,000 refugees (to Uzbekistan)[22][23][24]

unofficial figures: more than 2,000 killed[25][26][27]
275 000 refugees and displaced[28][29]

1 Involved in Kyrgyz-Uzbek clashes within Uzbekistani enclave of Sokh and in minor skirmishes amongst Kyrgyzstani Kyrgyz on bordering areas.
2 Involved only briefly in defense of Uzbek population in Uzbekistani enclave of Sokh within Kyrgyzstan.

The 2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots were clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, primarily in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, in the aftermath of the ouster of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on April 7. It is part of the larger 2010 Kyrgyzstan crisis. Violence that started between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks on 19 May in Jalal-Abad continued on 9 June in Osh. The spreading of the violence required the Russian-endorsed interim government led by Roza Otunbayeva to declare a state of emergency on June 12, in an attempt to take control of the situation. Uzbekistan launched a limited troop incursion early on, but withdrew and opened its borders to Uzbek refugees. The clashes killed up to 2,000 people, mostly Uzbeks, and another 100,000 were displaced.

The incidents allegedly came forth out of three main national divisions in Kyrgyzstan – state-citizens, North-South and Kyrgyz-Uzbek.[30]



The Central Asians used to be divided between sedentary (Uzbeks) and nomadic (Kyrgyz) peoples.[31] Between 1917 and the mid-1930s, the Soviet government drew national borders in Central Asia which had a rough correspondence with the main ethnic areas in the region. At the time, distinct ethnic divisions between countries and ethnic groups were not pronounced, and residents tended to view themselves as Central Asians rather than Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, or Turkmens.[31][32][33] Ethnic tensions existed but were suppressed by the central Soviet government, which promoted ideas of common citizenship and internationalism. A resurgence of nationalist feelings took place in late 1980s and the younger generations are much more likely to identify themselves as Kyrgyz or Uzbek.[31]

The relationship between the ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in southern Kyrgyzstan has been historically difficult. In June 1990, a violent land dispute between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks erupted in the city of Osh. A group of Kyrgyz demanded that a predominantly Uzbek kolkhoz be given to them. Uzbek activists objected and violent clashes between the two ethnic groups ensued. Until groups of Kyrgyz came from the surrounding villages, the Uzbeks had the upper hand. A state of emergency and curfew were introduced and the border between the Uzbek and Kirghiz republics was closed. Soviet troops were deployed to stop the violence. Order was not restored until August. According to official reports 230 people died, but unofficial figures range up to more than 1,000. (See Osh riots (1990)) The Uzbeks play a leading role in the local economy, especially in trade and services, and more recently also in agriculture (the proportion of Uzbeks in the rural population is growing due to the influx of migrants from the overpopulated Fergana valley). At the same time, the cities of the republic have received a mass influx of young Kyrgyz people from rural areas who, having difficulty finding work and permanent housing, are likely to become involved in criminal gangs. Decisions about ethnic problems are not taking place at the government level, as their very existence is not recognized and, moreover, virtually all administrative positions are held by ethnic Kyrgyz.[34] Many Uzbeks say ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev favored Kyrgyz people.[31] Many Kyrgyz in the south supported Bakiyev. Bakiyev himself is in exile in Belarus.

Bakyt Beshimov noted that after April 7 Revolution interim government was unable to control the situation in Kyrgyzstan, paving the way for major disturbances.[35] "Ruthless" struggle for power was noted by him as a major cause.[36]


In late May 2010, hundreds of residents of the Uzbek enclave of Sokh in Kyrgyzstan blocked a main highway leading to Uzbekistan, demanding greater security after several of their cars were allegedly vandalized. Uzbekistan then deployed limited military and police forces into the enclave, but they withdrew on June 3.[37] During the political chaos that followed the ouster of Kurmanbek Bakiyev tensions between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks increased. Violence erupted in the evening of June 10 in Osh. According to most accounts, a dispute in a casino between young Uzbeks and Kyrgyz was a watershed in the violence. Both groups called friends to come to help and clashes continued throughout the night. Crowds of Kyrgyz from the countryside flocked to Osh, Jalal-Abad, and other towns to join the local Kyrgyz crowds to attack Uzbek neighborhoods. From June 11 through June 14, groups of Kyrgyz killed and tortured Uzbeks, looting and setting fire to Uzbek homes and businesses.

Course of events

Between 9 June and 10 June 2010, rioting in the city of Osh between ethnic Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbek population resulted in at least 46 people dead and 637 injured, many seriously. Gunfire was reported throughout the day in the southern cities and a state of emergency was declared, resulting in the deployment of military units to restore law and order.[38]

On 12 June, Kyrgyzstan's interim government asked Russia to help quell ethnic fighting, claiming the army and police had lost control. Moscow said it cannot get involved at this stage because the crisis is an internal affair of Kyrgyzstan.[39] President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia and President Hu Jintao of China vowed to support Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government in restoring order.[40][41] According to the United Nations, 400,000 refugees were displaced by the pogroms and over 100,000 people fled across the border to Uzbekistan. One child was crushed to death at the border. The exact number of people killed remains uncertain. Unofficial sources report thousands killed. The Ministry of Health reports 418 deaths. The Office of the Prosecutor General reports 426 deaths. Official figures severely understate the actual number of casualties, as authorities count only those who were formally buried during the days of the violence. Many people buried their dead relatives immediately without registering them. In January 2010, a National Commission composed of local experts reported 426 people died in the violence, among them 276 Uzbeks and 105 ethnic Kyrgyz. [42]

The Kyrgyz interim government passed a decree declaring a partial mobilization of the civilian reservists. On 13 June, Kyrgyz recruitment offices began registering the reservists.[43] The Kyrgyz government also authorized security forces to shoot to kill.[44]

June 12 and 13, the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed its deep concern about the worsening humanitarian situation and called on the Kyrgyz authorities to do everything in their power to protect their citizens, restore order and ensure respect for the rule of law.[45][46]

In the morning of June 15 the national security board chairman Alik Orozov described the situation in southern provinces as "People went insane, confront one another. The situation became uncontrollable, it's a true chaos".[47]

On 16 June, the Washington Post reported that the violence began to subside in Jalal-Abad. However, it reported that "when residents were asked about what had happened – about why neighbors had turned against each other so suddenly and in such brutal fashion – the simmering anger between the Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbeks quickly surfaced, hinting at the continuing volatility of the situation". It also reported that Uzbek and Kyrgyz residents blame each other for the violence.[48] Kyrgyz soldiers and police officers set up roadblocks and began patrols after the worst of the violence was over.

Kyrgyz Security Forces’ Hand in the Violence

A great number of witnesses and international organization have suspected the Kyrgyz authorities’ hand in the pogroms. Human Rights Watch conducted an extensive investigation into the violence and published a report entitled “Where is the Justice?”Interethnic Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan and its Aftermath.[49] The report seriously questioned the claim that the attacks were spontaneous, citing witnesses who saw firsthand how people in uniforms jumped out of armored personnel carriers and fired automatic weapons shouting anti-Uzbek slurs. The attacks on Osh’s Uzbek neighborhoods of Cheremushki, Shait-Tepe, Shark, and others, described to Human Rights Watch independently by dozens of witnesses, show a consistent pattern. In many accounts, individuals in camouflage uniforms on armored military vehicles entered the neighborhoods first, removing the makeshift barricades that Uzbek residents had erected. They were followed by armed men who shot and chased away any remaining residents, and cleared the way for the looters. The authorities claim that Kyrgyz mobs stole the military uniforms, weapons, and vehicles that were used in the attacks. This, if true, raises a separate set of questions regarding the military’s loss of control over weapons and equipment that ended up in the hands of mobs attacking ethnic Uzbeks and their property.

The interim government granted shoot-to-kill powers to its security forces in the south of Kyrgyzstan, which was criticized by human rights organizations. The interim government’s shoot-to-kill orders resulted in indiscriminate killing of many ethnic Uzbeks. Different sources suspected the Kyrgyz security forces’ hand in the violence. On May 3, 2011, in the article “Kyrgyzstan's Army Implicated in Ethnic Bloodshed,” the Associated Press reported that an international investigation into the causes of the ethnic conflict had concluded that Kyrgyz security forces’ handing out weapons to mobs during the violence was an indication of the military’s complicity in the violence.[50] Human Rights Watch also reported some government forces’ involvement in the attacks on Uzbek neighborhoods:

… the security forces seemed to respond differently to acts of violence depending on the ethnicity of the perpetrators, raising concerns that capacity was not the only reason for the failure to protect ethnic Uzbeks. The security forces seemed to focus resources on addressing the danger presented by Uzbeks, but not by Kyrgyz, even after it became clear that Kyrgyz mobs posed an imminent threat; and the forces took very limited, if any, operational measures to protect the Uzbek population.[51]

The police and local authorities failed to stop the spread of the pogroms, which was proof of the total ineffectiveness of the interim government headed by Roza Otunbayeva. Although the current Kyrgyz government that failed to establish law and order during the violence blames external forces for the bloody clashes, it has not provided a scintilla of evidence to support this claim. Human rights violations were committed by security forces not only during the June events, but also in their aftermath. After the violence stopped, Kyrgyz law enforcement officers carried out arbitrary arrests, ill-treated detainees, beat and insulted residents, and in some cases even killed people. The Kyrgyz security forces carried out sweep operations, ostensibly to confiscate illegal weapons. Investigations carried out by international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International revealed that law enforcement agencies conducted arbitrary raids mainly in Uzbek neighborhoods:

After the initial violence subsided security forces started to carry out search operations in villages and homes, ostensibly to seize weapons and detain those responsible for committing violent crimes. These large scale operations were carried out over a couple of weeks until the end of June. There were numerous reports that security forces were using excessive force during these operations and that they were targeting Uzbek neighbourhoods. Human rights organizations, journalists and community leaders reported that hundreds of men, the majority of them Uzbek, were arbitrarily detained and beaten or otherwise ill-treated and tortured during such raids and subsequently during their detention. [52]

Human Rights Watch received dozens of reports of police officials asking for exorbitant bribes of up to $10, 000 for the release of detainees. Security officers demanded money from the families of detainees to free their relatives or prevent others from being arrested. The overwhelming majority of detainees have been Uzbeks. Many detainees were ill-treated, intimidated, brutally beaten. Security forces raided predominantly Uzbek neighborhoods supposedly to seize weapons. Human rights organizations reported that the security forces planted evidence, beat people with rifles, destroyed documents, stole possessions, and ill-treated detainees. “Many reported being held incommunicado in police or national security custody, beaten, or otherwise ill-treated and tortured to force them to confess to a crime or to incriminate a relative, a neighbour, an employer or a friend.”[53] Kyrgyz Security forces injured 39 people, two of whom died in hospital, in the village of Nariman. Authorities harassed and attacked lawyers representing clients, predominantly ethnic Uzbeks, with regard to the ethnic violence. Lawyers reported that local authorities prevented them from seeing their clients, yet alone help them.[54] Officials insulted and threatened lawyers defending ethnic Uzbeks on repeated occasions. Ethnically-motivated attacks continued in the South of Kyrgyzstan after the large-scale violence diminished in intensity. The authorities did little to halt the attacks, either because they were unable to or unwilling to stop them. Human Rights Watch reported a dozen of people, mostly women, were attacked and brutally beaten in front of the Osh City Police Department, while a large number of armed policemen did nothing to stop the attacks. Local authorities did not investigate ill-treatment in custody. The chief military prosecutor told Human Rights Watch that the sweep operation in Nariman would not be investigated because he regarded the actions of the law enforcement agencies—including shooting and brutal beatings that resulted in two deaths—as “lawful and adequate.” [55]


Unofficial sources report "thousands" killed, several thousands wounded and tens of thousands of refugees.[25][26][56] These figures are higher than official data as authorities count only those who died in hospitals.[57][58] According to sources from the ethnic Uzbek community, at least 700 ethnic Uzbeks were killed in Jalal-Abad, where clashes were less intense than in Osh.[59] In Osh the clashes, according to local sources, resulted from 1526[60] to more than 2000 deaths.[61] Non-state media report at least 2000 killed total.[27] Uzbek edition of Radio Freedom 15 June reports 2608 Uzbeks were killed since the beginning of clashes.[62] In the city of Osh locals tell that there were 1170 killed Uzbeks whose bodies were taken from streets and ruins and buried by members of the Uzbek community.[63] The killings were performed with fearsome cruelty—many victims were raped and burned alive.[64][65] (Dead link)[66][67] Armed gangs tried to prevent wounded to receive any first aid; in Jalal-Abad the crowd attacked the hospital where the wounded received treatment.[68] The violence was facilitated by neglect from local police and military; some sources even claim that the local military actively participated in ethnic clashes and looting.[63][69] At least five policemen were reported to have been killed during the clashes.[70]

It was reported that local authorities have arrested a number of Uzbek activists who were trying to make photo and video evidence of violence.[71]

Possible instigators

Many sources, including the UN, have claimed the riots were orchestrated from outside forces.[72] There were multiple reports of organized groups of gunmen in ski masks, believed to be from neighboring Tajikistan, shooting both Uzbeks and Kyrgyz to ignite the riots.[73] However the head of Kyrgystan security forces has denied such claims of media.[74]

The interim government has all along claimed that the former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and his connections were behind the riots, although it did not present any proof of their claim. Kyrgyz deputy Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev has also claimed that the riots were paid for with $10 million from Bakiyev’s son, Maxim Bakiyev.[75]

Some have also claimed possible Russian involvement, but the Kremlin refused to get involved with forces even at the request of the interim government.[76]

According to Human Rights Watch report "[the] violence in southern Kyrgyzstan began on June 10, when a large crowd of ethnic Uzbeks gathered in response to a minor fight between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in a casino in the center of Osh. Several violent attacks during the night of June 10 against ethnic Kyrgyz and the torching of several buildings enraged ethnic Kyrgyz from Osh and outside villages, thousands of whom filed into the city."[77]

On May 14 media outlets broadcast a tapped telephone conversation between Communist Party leader Iskhak Masaliev and other politicians. They discussed organizing mass protests in southern Kyrgyzstan. The people included Bakiyev's adviser Usen Sydykov, one of the most powerful politicians in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyzstan security forces arrested the two. Masaliev had just arrived from Moscow. The arrest fueled speculation that the Kremlin is working to produce instability.[78][79]

Elmira Nogoybayeva, the head of the Kyrgyz Polis Asia Analytic Center, noted in May that Russia and its ally Kazakhstan launched a consistent mass media campaign to discredit the image of Kyrgyzstan.[80] On June 14, Eurasian expert Giorgi Kvelashvili stated that Moscow's actions appeared to be part of a larger calculated plan.[81]

Uzbekistan is concerned that Russia is using the events to consolidate its power over Central Asia, including Uzbekistan.[82] Stratfor reported on June 13 that "the crisis has moved from being an internal Kyrgyz emergency to a confrontation between Uzbekistan and Russia. Russia has proven this past year that it is on a path of consolidation in Central Asia — of which Uzbekistan could be the toughest link in the chain to control".[82]

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry (KIC) into the Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry (KIC) into the events in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 published a report in early May 2011.[83] The findings of the report are based on interviews of nearly 750 witnesses, 700 documents, about 5,000 photographs and 1,000 video extracts. The panel of the commission includes seven prominent members from Finland, Australia, Estonia, France, Russia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The KIC reported that it found serious violations of international law, some of which could amount to crimes against humanity. The findings of the KIC infuriated the Kyrgyz government and the members of the Kyrgyz parliament declared the commission’s chair Dr. Kimmo Kiljunen, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's special representative for Central Asia, persona non grata [84].

The KIC qualified the violations under international law.

"It is the view of the KIC that the violence of June does not qualify as either war crimes or genocide. However, if the evidence of some acts committed during certain attacks against the mahallas in Osh on 11, 12 and 13 June was proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, those acts would amount to crimes against humanity. These are murder, rape, other forms of sexual violence, physical violence (as another inhumane act) and persecution against an identifiable group on ethnic grounds."[85]

The KIC states that if the security forces had been properly instructed and deployed, the violence would possibly have been prevented or stopped. “The failure of members of the security forces to protect their equipment raises questions of complicity in the events, either directly or indirectly. Further, some members of the military were involved in some of the attacks on the mahallas.” The KIC recommends Kyrgyzstan to take a strong stand against nationalism and ethnic exclusivity. It also calls for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and international follow-up to carry out the recommendations of the report. However, this seems unlikely to happen in the light of the Kyrgyz government’s fury over the findings of the report. This very government had supported the creation of the KIC in the first place. The KIC was formed by the Nordic countries’ initiative for an independent international inquiry and was accepted by the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Roza Otunbayeva.


In the Kyrgyzstani parliamentary election, 2010, the southern Ata-Zhurt party won a plurality as it campaigned to roll back the new constitution and bring Bakiyev back exile from Belarus.

Dozens of prominent Uzbek religious and community leaders were arrested by security forces following the riots, including journalist and human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov.[86] Following a trial criticized by several international human rights organizations, Askarov was given a life sentence charges including creating mass disturbances, incitement of ethnic hatred, and complicity in murder.[87] Various human rights organizations stated that they believe the charges against him and his co-defendants to be politically motivated,[88] and Amnesty International considers Askarov to be a prisoner of conscience.[89]

See also


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Coordinates: 40°56′00″N 73°00′00″E / 40.933333°N 73°E / 40.933333; 73

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