The Complexities of Kyrgyzstan
To read Western reports, one would think that Kyrgyzstan is simply another teetering state whose people have harbored for centuries a simmering ethnic hatred for one another (in this case, the majority Kyrgyz and minority ethnic Uzbek populations) and they simply can’t wait to pick up a gun and harm one another.
That would be an oversimplification.
Absent from most U.S. reports is this: The southern part of Kyrgyzstan is home to organized crime and very big trans-border business. They push Afghan opium and heroin that comes through Tajikistan into other countries of the former Soviet Union. At the same time, cheap goods from China are moved into the country and then passed onward to the same customers. There is a lot of money at stake.
Under the ousted president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, these businesses thrived. The interim government says that Bakiyev’s family is stoking the flames of instability, which may be the case. When the new interim government came to power, these businesses, whether directly involved with Bakiyev or not, became concerned that their trade was threatened.
Enter the oldest trick in the political handbook: divide and rule.
It appears to some that Bakiyev’s family, using criminal gangs in the south, is sending a message to the capital, Bishkek, which has so far been spared the looting, burning and killings (by most estimates today, topping 2,000 murders in the past few days).
“The criminals have been saying to Bishkek, ‘You want peace? You let us keep our piece,’” says David Trilling, Central Asia editor of EurasiaNet.org who with his team of locally-based reporters has written extensively on the unrest since it began a month ago.Continued on the next page