Ethnic minorities are under-represented in the Kyrgyz government; non-Kyrgyz citizens constitute 35 per cent of the population but only 12 per cent of members of parliament. Women are also under-represented. Non-Kyrgyz speakers complain of a glass ceiling within the civil service, even though the law provides for the preservation and free development of minority languages alongside Kyrgyz as the state language and Russian as an official language.

More positively, in December 2012 President Almazbek Atambaev refused to sign a bill that would introduce fines for public officials who do not have sufficient knowledge of Kyrgyz language.

In January Kamchybek Tashiev, leader of the nationalistic Ata-Jurt party, which holds seats in parliament, called for the then prime minister, Ormunbek Babanov, to resign because his mother was not from Kyrgyzstan. Tashiev said: 'I should say openly, and let people not be offended, that the head of government should be a pure-blooded Kyrgyz, who will actually be rooting for the interests of the country.' The statement sparked debate and media attention, as well as reportedly an investigation by the State Security Service.

Ata-Jurt also supported nationalistic protests in Osh in the run-up to council elections. The poll led to a strengthened position for nationalist mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov, with his supporters almost achieving a majority in the city council.

This is a sign of growing Kyrgyz nationalism in the city. The election results prompted the International Crisis Group (ICG) to warn that Uzbeks are being pushed to breaking point by the discrimination and anger directed towards them, and that Myrzakmatov is largely to blame for this. Too little has been done in the way of inter-ethnic reconciliation, according to ICG.

June 2012 marked the second anniversary of the ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Osh and the neighbouring region of Jalalabad, in which more than 400 people were killed and thousands more displaced. In the run-up to the anniversary, authorities tightened security and carried out passport checks expecting trouble. A National Remembrance Day – 10 June – was instituted and marked by the opening of the country's biggest mosque in Osh city in a bid to instil some unity. However, a bell dedicated to those who lost their lives during the violence was also unveiled in Osh in the summer with 'Peace all over the world' written in Kyrgyz, Russian and English – but not Uzbek.

Ethnic tensions remain high. In June an Uzbek rap song about regional leaders in Osh province offensive to Kyrgyz people started circulating online, where the song had been said to spark several minor ethnicity-based incidents and was promptly banned by the provincial court for inciting ethnic hatred.

The US State Department 2012 human rights report states that trials of ethnic Uzbeks for crimes committed during the 2010 violence continue, with some cases of previously lenient sentences being overturned in favour of harsh ones. Human Rights Watch questioned the fairness of trials for non-Kyrgyz citizens after one ethnic Uzbek and one ethnic Russian were sentenced to death in October for crimes committed during the inter-ethnic violence.

In April 2013, the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported that Uzbeks were the main victims of the June 2010 events but were also the most prosecuted and condemned. The committee recommended that the government investigate the courts' 'biased attitude' and that it review their guilty verdicts. However, Uzbeks continue to report police harassment, and continue to be disproportionately prosecuted and incarcerated.

Throughout 2012 crowds of courtroom spectators, including family members of victims, disrupted trials of ethnic Uzbeks charged with crimes related to the 2010 violence, threatening the security and the safety of defendants, attorneys and judges.

The strength of inter-ethnic feeling can be seen in an incident in September; Kyrgyz residents in Ala-Buka, Jalalabad (another site of violence in 2010), beat up a judge following the exoneration of a local ethnic Uzbek who was found not guilty of assaulting a local Kyrgyz citizen.

In prisons, a disproportionate number of ethnic minority prisoners serve life sentences and so face numerous health risks, including high levels of drug use. UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez noted poor prison conditions, including the use of torture, on his visit to the country in December 2011. In January 2012, prisoners organized a nationwide hunger strike by sewing their mouths shut in protest against poor conditions. The protests, led by an ethnic Uzbek, also aimed to highlight the corruption and criminality rife in the prison system.

Ethnic Uzbek citizens in Osh and Jalalabad face discrimination when looking for work, particularly within public services, according to the 2012 US State Department report on human rights in the country. There have also been multiple reports of seizure of ethnic Uzbek businesses and property.

As 2015 approaches, assessment of how countries have lived up to the Millennium Development Goals has begun. In 2012, research published in The Lancet medical journal showed that Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were the two most equitable countries out of 54 studied in terms of mother and child health interventions. This is not to say that interventions were necessarily good, but that access was not determined according to wealth.[1]

In terms of HIV, 70 new cases in children – 10 in Jalalabad and 60 in Osh, both with large Uzbek populations – were announced in June 2013 and attributed to accidental transmissions in regional hospitals. This follows an incident in 2010 when a large number of women in Osh were infected with HIV. Even though it was accidental, reports following the aftermath of this incident cite a debilitating stigma – within and outside the health service – attached to those with HIV. They also highlight a wider problem of client confidentiality not being observed by health care professionals, as the identities of the women became widely known among their relatives and neighbours.

The Kyrgyzstan government, despite promises, has not reviewed the restrictive 2009 Religion Law, which among other things requires religious groups to undergo a laborious registration process. The government has consulted with external bodies to discuss measures, such as a ban on sending students abroad for religious education without state permission, a ban on foreigners carrying out religious practices without a state licence and amending registration criteria that would require groups to have 200 founders within the same locality; all of which would further restrict religious assembly and freedom.

By early 2012, only 135 Muslim communities and three Russian Orthodox parishes had been registered, leaving hundreds of mosques, Protestant churches, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna communities unregistered, according to the USCIRF 2013 report. Ahmadi Muslims are also affected. In February the South Korean-based Unification Church was banned.

Uzbek imam Khabibullo Sulaimanov faced extradition to Uzbekistan at the beginning of 2013 after his arrest for illegally crossing the border in 2012. In March 2013 the courts decided not to extradite him, partly due to international pressure over the ill-treatment he would probably face in Uzbekistan. However, he is still incarcerated.

The authorities continued to target religious minority groups for 'inciting racial hatred', particularly the banned Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The group calls for the peaceful establishment of an Islamic caliphate, but is seen as a terrorist organization by the government. In August, a Hizb-ut-Tahrir leader was arrested in Jalalabad, allegedly for planning to overthrow the government. Another imam was arrested in October for suspected membership of the group.

In January charges of inciting religious and ethnic hatred were also used against a Tengrist for remarks he made about Islamic mullahs in a radio interview, but he denied trying to stir up religious hatred and says he is being targeted for his Tengristic beliefs. The case drew attention to Tengrism, which is an ancient Central Asian religion incorporating elements of shamanism, animism, totemism and ancestor worship. Although largely tolerated in Kyrgyzstan, some clerics claim that Tengrism proselytizes against Islam.


1. Barros, A.J.D. et al., 'Equity in maternal, newborn, and child health interventions in Countdown to 2015: a retrospective review of survey data from 54 countries', The Lancet, vol. 379, no. 9822, 2012, pp. 1225-33, retrieved July 2013,….

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