Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Protests in Kyrgyzstan

The deteriorating human rights conditions in Kyrgyzstan, culminating in the failure to deliver free and fair parliamentary elections this year, has brought out thousands of protestors, blocking roads, occupying administration buildings, and burning police stations in towns all over the country. In March 2002, officers shot and killed five unarmed demonstrators in the town of Aksy in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Jalal Abad province.

In recent years, the Akaev government has grown increasingly hostile to the development of an open political process and a vibrant civil society. This hostility intensified following the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in December 2004 and as elections approached in Kyrgyzstan. Human Rights Watch wrote to President Akaev in advance of the elections cautioning that this period would be a test of whether the Kyrgyz government is willing to meet public demands for responsive government and fair elections. The alternative is violating fundamental rights in order to avoid a repeat of Ukrainian-style “people power.”

Photographs of the street demonstrations show many protestors wearing pink scarves as a sign of unified opposition to the Akaev government. Despite the relatively small size of the crowds that have turned out thus far, this and other parallels have encouraged comparisons to Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.”

Presidential elections scheduled for October 2005 will be a crucial moment. President has already served the two terms allowed for by law and has promised that he will not seek a constitutional amendment to allow him to run again. Protestors are demanding that he step down at the end of his term. If he steps down, he will set a positive precedent for all of the leaders of Central Asian states and the entire former Soviet Union.


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