Publication: Prism Volume: 8 Issue: 3

By Sadji

A number of countries, headed by the United States, are currently waging a war on terrorism. At the same time, however, little thought is being given to the question of the causes of terrorism. Clearly, if we cannot pinpoint how terrorism arose and develop ways to eliminate it, the war will be in vain. History has shown that fighting the symptoms rather than the cause is ineffective. To understand the chief reasons for the rise of terrorism, it is enough to look at the current political situation in Kyrgyzstan.


Shortly after the turn of the new year, an event occurred in Kyrgyzstan that had widespread political repercussions not only throughout the republic but also abroad. On January 5, everyone was taken by surprise when the chairman of the judicial and legal affairs committee of the legislative assembly of the Jogorku Kenesh (parliament), Azimbek Beknazarov, was arrested in Jalal-Abad Oblast, where he was meeting with voters. He was charged with breaking the laws of the Kyrgyz Republic in 1995, when he was an investigator at the regional prosecutor’s office. It seems that Beknazarov failed to institute legal proceedings against a man who had committed murder. He was accused by the oblast prosecutor of violating articles 177 and 178 of the old Kyrgyz Criminal Code (the 1961 version)–abusing and exceeding his official powers. Here, of course, a question immediately arises: Why did it take almost seven years to bring these charges? The answer is not hard to find.

In 2001 Beknazarov had been harshly critical of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and his government for transferring certain Kyrgyz territories to China. He declared at the time that this might be grounds for impeaching Akaev. In 1996 and 1999 Akaev and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin had signed two agreements in Bishkek, under the terms of which Kyrgyzstan ceded approximately 125,000 hectares of land to China. The Kyrgyz parliament, which found out about this relatively late on, tried to protest, but the government began the process of redrawing the border regardless. According to official government statements, Kyrgyzstan was not in fact ceding any territory to China. The matter was supposedly just a matter of unclaimed land along the border between the two countries, which had never been part of Kyrgyzstan. This claim, however, sharply contradicts what the authorities are actually doing on the ground, given that the territory at issue is still patrolled by Kyrgyz border guards.

Beknazarov was also outspoken in his criticism of the latest agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on the redefinition of their borders, which was signed by the countries’ two presidents, Akaev and Nazarbaev, on December 16 in Astana. According to Beknazarov, the agreement was drawn up in haste. Under its terms Kyrgyzstan has agreed to give Kazakhstan a number of strategically important border territories in exchange for land of poor agricultural quality. Moreover, he claimed, Kazakhstan would be acquiring some potentially gold-bearing mountainous lands. Such criticism was not likely to sit well with Akaev. Many predicted that Beknazarov could or should expect some form of retaliation. In the fall of 2001 a group of deputies in the legislative assembly issued a statement claiming that Kyrgzyz law enforcement agencies were looking for compromising material to use against Beknazarov. They claimed that the agencies were examining with particular care the period he worked as an investigator at the office of the Toktogul regional prosecutor in Jalal-Abad Oblast. The deputies’ fears were not without foundation, and ultimately suitable material was found.

In 1995 a fight had broken out between two brothers and a student at Bishkek’s higher policy academy. One of the brothers was killed. Witnesses said that the brothers, both of whom were drunk, had instigated the fight, and that the student had struck the fatal wound in self-defense. In late 2001, the student, by then a captain in the Jalal-Abad Oblast internal affairs directorate, was arrested and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment by the regional and oblast courts. Beknazarov was held responsible for the long delay in the fulfillment of justice, because he had, as an investigator with the regional prosecutor’s office, had failed to bring any criminal charges against the offender.

The charges made against Beknazarov by the oblast prosecutor are viewed by human rights organizations and the opposition as politically motivated, on the orders of Akaev. And, in the opinion of Beknazarov’s defense team, under Soviet law the prosecutor’s office should have limited itself to obtaining an undertaking that Beknazarov would remain in the area prior to the court case, rather than arresting him.


Immediately after the deputy’s arrest, moves were made in his defense. On January 8 protesters picketed the “White House” and the prosecutor general’s office, and on January 10 activists began a hunger strike on the premises of the human rights movement “Kyrgyzstan.” On January 16 representatives of the “Kyrgyzstan” and Communist parliamentary groups issued an appeal to the U.S. Congress and on the same day handed a copy of their text to Monica Cladakis and Patricia Davis of the U.S. State Department, who were in Bishkek at the time. It is noteworthy that even the communists, who firmly opposed the deployment of the U.S. military contingent to Manas airport, are turning to the U.S. Congress for justice. This shows how not only the Akaev regime but also its implacable opposition have begun to recognize the commanding role of the United States in the region, and it appears that the role of “big brother” is gradually shifting from Russia to the United States. It was probably no coincidence that the prominent oppositionist, Topchubek Turgunaliev, who has more than once been under investigation himself by the Akaev regime, went to Washington rather than to Moscow to report on the political situation in the republic.

On January 25 a meeting in support of Beknazarov was held in the village of Kara-Suu in Jalal-Abad Oblast. The meeting, which lasted some four hours, was addressed by forty-three individuals who demanded Beknazarov’s release and Akaev’s resignation. The speakers declared their support for Beknazarov’s actions as a deputy in defending Kyrgyzstan’s national interests and condemning the two agreements signed by Akaev.

The hunger strikes in Bishkek and Jalal-Abad Oblast are still continuing today. And this is despite the tragic death of one of the protesters. On the morning of February 7, 2002, the twenty-second day of the hunger strike, independent economist and human rights activist Sherali Nazarkulov, aged 51, died. His death has prompted differing responses from the opposition and the authorities.

On February 9, some 400 people took part in a civil funeral for Nazarkulov. The service, lasting about two hours, took place in the square in front of the office of the “Kyrgyzstan” human rights movement and was attended by parliamentary deputies, colleagues of the deceased, journalists and ordinary citizens. Deputy Adakham Madumarov, president of the Institute for Human Rights Topchubek Turgunaliev and other speakers maintained that Nazarkulov’s death was wholly on the conscience of President Akaev, and called for his resignation. The speakers also accused the government of disregarding public protests against the authorities’ violation of both the Constitution and human rights.

More recently, activists have found a new form for their protest. On February 18, Tursunbek Akunov, chairman of the public committee for the defense of deputy Beknazarov, told a correspondent at Radio Azattyk (“Freedom”) that five schools in Jalal-Abad oblast have closed because parents are refusing to send their children to school in protest against Beknazarov’s detention. According to Akunov, middle schools in the villages of Kojo-Ata, Kopyuro-Bashty, Kyzyl-Kol and Chaldybar are closed, as is the primary school in the village of Chat. According to preliminary estimates, between 200 and 600 pupils are affected at each school.

For their part, the authorities have rushed to give their own version of the reason for Nazarkulov’s death. A special commission set up by the authorities announced on February 7 that his death was unconnected with the hunger strike. Despite this claim, the authorities still prevented either Nazarkulov’s wife, Nazgul Abdykarimova, and relatives living in Bishkek, or any human rights activists from accompanying him on his last journey and burying him in the capital. Instead, distant relatives from the Kara-Kul region of Osh oblast were hastily identified and brought to Bishkek, and on the night of February 8 Nazarkulov’s body was sent back with them to the village of Ylai-Talaa. Tight security cordons formed by personnel from the President’s National Security service prevented anyone from approaching the body. The uncharacteristic efficiency of the authorities and their efforts to shroud the tragedy in secrecy emphasizes just how alarmed the authorities were by the turn of events. In addition, the government-controlled media began to insinuate that Nazarkulov had actually been a fervent supporter of Akayev. In response, twelve of Nazarkulov’s relatives and close friends began a new hunger strike on February 18 in the southern capital, Osh. They are making three demands of the authorities:

–an end to the dissemination of defamatory information about Nazarkulov;