Uzbek Refugees "Abandoned"
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||17 December 2010|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Uzbek Refugees "Abandoned", 17 December 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d1047c6c.html [accessed 1 March 2015]|
Some of the ethnic Uzbek refugees who fled over the border from Kyrgyzstan to escape mass violence there in June are still in Uzbekistan, saying they remain too fearful to go back.
NBCentralAsia interviewed one of the refugees, Muhammadqodir Qoraboev, who agreed to speak about the conditions people were living in and why they were not ready to go back to Kyrgyzstan just yet.
Muhammadqodir Qoraboev: We estimate that there are some 2,000 refugees distributed among friends and relatives in the Andijan, Namangan and Fergana regions [of Uzbekistan]. These people were among the 100,000 Uzbeks who fled to Uzbekistan after the ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan's Osh and Jalalabad regions in June and July. They also include some Uzbeks from other parts of Kyrgyzstan.
NBCentralAsia: What's the position of these people now?
Qoraboev: It's a mixed group of refugees. There are healthy people, and others in urgent need of medical care. Many of them are living with relatives, while others are renting apartments and trying to get by. We've managed to send some of them to Russia.
NBCentralAsia: In the summer, the Kyrgyz authorities said the refugees had returned home, and were being given assistance. Temporary housing is being built for them. Why won't the people now in Uzbekistan go back home?
Qoraboev: They're scared to return to southern Kyrgyzstan, where their houses were burnt down and their relatives were killed, because it's still unstable there and no one can guarantee they will be safe. You may recall that in July, some women and children tried to go back, but the violence against ethnic Uzbeks kept escalating, abductions carried on happening, so many of them decided to come back to Uzbekistan because things were calm there. Those who stayed on in Kyrgyzstan thought the authorities would protect them, but they've been left in the lurch.
NBCentralAsia: What does your community plan to do, given that they are effectively in Uzbekistan illegally?
Qoraboev: For a long time we were hoping that everything would become OK back home in Kyrgyzstan. But now we don't trust the authorities there, as we've heard that organised crime groups are operating freely and alarming the ethnic Uzbeks. We're aware of the prosecutions taking place, and cases of discrimination.
We were counting on the [December 1-2] OSCE summit, as human rights activists from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were there. But we were told that even rights activists in Kyrgyzstan are unable to do anything, as their afraid they'll face reprisals if they raise concerns about Uzbeks.
The [December 14] summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation has generated some hope. The Kyrgyz authorities have begun taking action, and they even have emissaries who are offering to meet us. But the problem is that they've lost our trust. They might promise one thing and do another.
NBCentralAsia: Under what conditions would refugees go back?
Qoraboev: That's hard to say, since no one can give us any guarantees in the current circumstances. After the tragic events of June, Jalalabad governor Bektur Asanov, came to Andijan where he had a meeting with the local governor and the refugees [July 22], at which he promised that the Uzbeks would not come to harm in Kyrgyzstan and insisted everything was under control. However, the information we have is that there's no control there – many Uzbeks are suspects, arrests are taking place, and even the police there say they're under covert instructions to "drive out" the Uzbeks.
In addition, although hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks were killed when the riots were suppressed using armoured vehicles, automatic rifles and grenade launchers, none of the perpetrators has been punished. Yet Uzbeks are being convicted of participation in rioting. They've been swiftly rounded up and labeled murderers for defending their homes and children from attack, while those who orchestrated the unrest are still at large.
NBCentralAsia: How are the authorities in Uzbekistan responding to the presence of a group of refugees on their territory?
Qoraboev: The authorities here aren't assisting us in any way. We recently applied to the international Red Crescent mission in Tashkent for medicine, food and warm clothing to be distributed among the refugees. We've also applied to all the other international organisations like the United Nations, the OSCE and the European Union.
We have had several meetings with representatives of foreign organisations and told them about our problems. But things are not being resolved. We don't know what to do.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.