Dzirgalbek Sourabaldiyev, a well-known businessman and a member of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, was assassinated in downtown Bishkek on June 10. The deputy was shot five or six times, and his driver was also injured. The Kyrgyz parliament convened an emergency session that same day. According to deputy Kubanichbek Isabekob, the assassination may have both political and commercial reasons behind it. Sourabaldiyev owned the Kudaibergen market, and he backed ousted president Askar Akayev during the March revolution. On the day that protesters seized the central government building, Sourabaldiyev deployed athletes armed with rocks against the protesters.
The murder is one of many indications that the current authorities are not in full control of the situation in Kyrgyzstan. Protesters still control the main entrance and two emergency entrances to the Supreme Court. The protestors have compiled their own access list and refuse to let at least ten judges enter the building. They are demanding the resignation of several key members of the Supreme Court, and they want the results of the February-March parliamentary elections revisited (Vecherny Bishkek, June 11).
In Narynsky district, in northern Kyrgyzstan, Nurlan Motuyev and several hundred of his supporters in the People’s Patriotic Movement of Kyrgyzstan have seized the Kara-Keche coal mines, shutting down the operation and dismissing personnel. Motuyev wants to redistribute ownership, so that 70% of the company is owned by local residents and the other 30% by the state. The agitators say that they intend to take machinery away from the private companies that have been working at the mines. The Kara-Keche coal mines are the largest in Kyrgyzstan, and they produce approximately half of the country’s coal output (fergana.ru, June 13).
The weakness of the current authorities is most evident in southern Kyrgyzstan. On June 13, a shoot-out involving automatic rifles took place in central Osh (see EDM, June 14, 16). At almost the same time, residents of the Kyrgyz city Karasuu, home to the largest market in Central Asia, staged a protest against one of the owners of the market, Bayaman Erkinbayev. Traders accused the businessman of introducing an illegal surcharge for a stall at the market. The picketers shouted, “Bayaman, go away!” Because Erkinbayev is an ethnic Kyrgyz, whereas nearly all the residents of Karasuu are ethnic Uzbeks, the disturbances appear to have ethnic overtones (fergana.ru, June 13).
In the southern city of Jalalabad, a group of about 150 people are demanding the release of members of Adilbek Karimov’s group, which carried out an assault on the municipal and district police departments in May 2003. The protestors are threatening self-immolation if Karimov is not released.
But Adilbek Karimov’s case has nothing to do with politics. In May 2003 Karimov’s gangsters attacked a police station in Jalalabad city, beat up the policemen on duty, and seized a large number of weapons. All of the perpetrators were quickly arrested.
As head of the gang, Karimov was sentenced to 25 years in jail. His relatives and associates believe he did not receive a fair trial under the Akayev regime and therefore the convictions should be overturned. Deputy Governor Zhanish Kurbanov met with the protestors, saying that no one had the right to simply release the prisoners. Rather, the case should be reviewed again according to legal procedure (kirgiz.info, June 10).
Southern Kyrgyzstan is a potentially explosive region. About one-third of the population is comprised of ethnic Uzbeks. So far, resident Uzbeks have generally stayed away from the Kyrgyz political revolution. Almost all the protesters who took part in the March disturbances in southern Kyrgyzstan were ethnic Kyrgyz. However, many poorly educated local Uzbeks suspect that the opposition is also driven by nationalism. According to the fergana.ru website, participants in the Jalalabad demonstration shouted insults against Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. The Uzbeks accused the Kyrgyz of destabilizing the situation in Kyrgyzstan, while the protesters blamed the Uzbeks for supporting the regime of President Akayev.
The mutual verbal accusations soon deteriorated into a brawl. According to witnesses, the special police units and police officers that were guarding the Jalalabad district administration building were in no hurry to intervene (Fergana.ru, March 6). Azimdzhon Askarov, a human-rights activist from the city of Bozor-Kurgan (an Uzbek-dominated district center approximately 30 kilometers west of Jalalabad, the district center of Southern Kyrgyzstan) told Jamestown, “After the March revolution one hears a lot of accusations that Uzbeks were loyal to the Akayev regime.”
A representative on religious affairs in Osh district, Samsabek Zakirov, believes that the situation in Kyrgyzstan has become even more heated after the Andijan tragedy sent more Uzbeks into the region. “Even though there are about 500 people in the refugee camp, the true number of refugees is significantly higher, as most of them were put up by their relatives, and thus have not been registered by the authorities. The influx of refugees may aggravate the difficult socio-economic situation in southern Kyrgyzstan and potentially heighten the tension between local Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.”