Several days of ethnically based violence in southern Kyrgyzstan have left hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and nearly 400,000 people displaced from their homes.
International observers have concluded that the attacks appear to have been carefully orchestrated and involved individuals with access to military and police uniforms and equipment. The Interim Government in Bishkek charges that they were hired by the family of recently deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The Kyrgyz security forces were unable to fully control the situation, and there are disturbing reports that some may even have joined in the violence.
Many of the 200,000 ethnic Uzbeks who have fled to or across the border with Uzbekistan have no food, water, or shelter. Those remaining in Osh and their Kyrgyz counterparts are short of food, and there are indications that some food aid has been diverted to the black market.
The Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan has already donated medical and food supplies for victims of the violence. The foundation has released funding for a free hotline for calls from victims that is being operated by a coalition of local NGOs. It has also supported funding for leaflets in Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Russian urging restraint, and for production of public service TV messages for post-conflict peace building. The Open Society Institute is preparing an emergency grant to assist in the international humanitarian aid effort, and will also look to monitor the effectiveness of that effort.
The Open Society Institute is calling on the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the U.S., the EU and its member states, and the Russian Federation to provide immediate assistance to ensure effective containment of violence, prevent further clashes, and organize equitable distribution of medical and humanitarian aid to those in need. Once the immediate humanitarian/security crisis has been addressed, the international community should also support a broad, credible, independent investigation into the violence and its origin, and effective post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.
OSI is also concerned that the Interim Government in Bishkek intends to move ahead with a previously scheduled constitutional referendum on June 27. With international observers unlikely to be deployed in a large part of the country, and large sections of the population unable to vote, we do not believe a referendum would be seen as credible by many within Kyrgyzstan, and thus would not help the Interim Government to establish its legitimacy. If the Interim Government does go ahead, it will need at the very least to make a major effort to give displaced persons the opportunity to vote.