27 June 2010

Behind the unrest in Kyrgyzstan

When I posted the video of the man being burned alive, I postulated that there was probably more to the unrest in Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan than simply "ethnic strife."  Now I've run across an article at The Nation that offers a more logical basis for the conflict:
Unaddressed stereotypes have allowed tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks to fester ever since the only previously reported conflict between the two groups, in 1990. These typecasts were a breeding ground for the surge of rumors—spread by Internet chat rooms, text messages and word of mouth—that helped provoke the attacks: “Uzbek men raped a group of Kyrgyz girls”; “young men brawled over a restaurant bill”; “Uzbeks, in their efforts to declare autonomy, had armed themselves.”

But frictions between the two groups aren’t the result of some ancient ethnic hatred. They have waxed and waned for only a generation, as local elites, manipulating economic grievances, vie for control of resources. In recent times, that has meant Afghan heroin. In place of a functioning state, southern Kyrgyzstan has become a network of trafficking routes controlled by narco-barons and their extended families...

...the most likely explanation is a mafia power struggle gone horribly wrong. A third of Afghan narcotics pass through Central Asia en route to Russia, and a majority of those through Osh. As weapons and drugs tend to travel along the same routes, lack of government oversight since Bakiyev’s overthrow has prompted widespread fears that the country has become overrun with guns...
And of course it's even more complex than that; more details at the link.

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