Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)
Bishkek Protest Erupts in Violence
A mass protest rally taking place on the main Bishkek square for several days
was broken up on the evening of April 19th by forces of Kyrgyz law enforcement
bodies. Dispersal of demonstration was preceded by a crowd of up to 100 young
men throwing stones and bottles at militiamen, guarding the Government House. In
response militiamen started dispersing young men, applying noise grenades and
tear gas. About 100 young men - participants of protest rally were arrested in
The largest opposition newspaper Agyim has been stopped in Kyrgyzstan. General
Prosecutor's office suspended the edition's publication at an independent
print-shop Freedom House, took away printout plates, and also withdrew advance
copies; and destroyed the electronic version. The newspaper was closed at night
under the order of Kyrgyz General Prosecutor. The issue comprised materials on
protest rally dispersal, press conferences of opposition leaders, Prime Minister
Almazbekh Atambaev and Minister of Internal Affairs Bolotbekh Nogoybayev.
The most popular Kyrgyz news agency IA 24.kg web site has remained silent since
that night. Another popular news agency AKI-press web site loads so slowly that
receiving information from it is quite impossible.
To state that total censorship was introduced in the country is probably
premature. However system-administrators of independent Internet-editions inform
of mass hacker attacks at their web-servers, which is the more obvious
Kyrgyz authorities have declared that they are not inclined to introduce a state
of emergency or forbid the carrying out of peaceful demonstrations.
Street demos strengthen the government
Opposition leader Feliks Kulov promised that April 19 would be a decisive
day in his campaign to bring early presidential elections and constitutional
reform to Kyrgyzstan via street protest. The day indeed proved pivotal, but not
in the way that Kulov had anticipated. Instead of ending in President Kurmanbek
Bakiyev's demise, the day's events culminated with the incumbent chief executive
in position to reassert control over the Kyrgyzstan's political system.
After unruly anti-government protesters began hurling stones and other
projectiles outside the presidential compound on April 19, security forces moved
quickly to disperse the demonstrators and dismantle the opposition's
headquarters on Ala-Too Square. By daybreak on April 20, the square had been
cleansed of nearly all signs of protest, with the exception of a few shop owners
repairing shattered windows.
The rioting on April 19 "untied the hands" of Bakiyev, political
commentator Orozbek Moldaliyev wrote in an analysis published by the 24.kg.news
agency. "He [Bakiyev] can say, 'I put up with [protests] for a long time,
but now retaliatory measures must be taken.'"
"That the protest took on a violent nature is a vexing fact for the
opposition," Moldaliyev continued. "The strict actions of the law
enforcement bodies gained legitimacy."
The sudden turn of events left opposition supporters chastened. Leaders of
“For Reforms,” one of the two main opposition movements that spearheaded the
anti-administration demonstrations, announced that they were halting all protest
actions. They left open the possibility, however, of reviving the protest tactic
in the future.
Bakiyev appeared to waste little time in pressing his political advantage.
First, the Interior Ministry announced that it had opened a criminal
investigation into the cause of the mass unrest. Then, in an indication that
Bakiyev intends to conduct a broad crackdown against his opponents,
law-enforcement agents seized the entire print runs of the opposition newspapers
Agym and Kyrgyz Rukhu.
"Between 4 and 5 a.m. guys from the militia and state security services
came to our office; there were about 30 people, armed," said an employee of
the foreign-funded printing press that produces the newspapers. "They took
printed press runs of Agym and Kyrgyz Rukhu, the plates, and even demanded that
we delete the files [off our computers]." He added, "they said these
papers were part of that case [against the] organizers of the mass
Later, authorities raided the United Front headquarters and the main office of
Kulov's Ar-Namys party, seizing computers and files, according to local reports.
Ata-Meken party leader Omurbek Tekebayev told AKIpress that investigators had
approached his office with the same intent, but that his staff had refused them
access because they lacked proper documentation.
Several members of Kulov's United Front were brought to the headquarters of the
State Committee on National Security for questioning on April 20. Human rights
defenders who visited the party activities said the detainees were being
deprived of several basic rights, including access to legal counsel, the
AKIpress news agency reported.
Kulov himself was scheduled to appear before the committee on April 21. Many of
“For Reforms” and the United Front's top leaders are members of parliament,
and therefore enjoy immunity from prosecution. Asiya Sasykbayeva -- director of
the nongovernmental group Interbilim and a member of “For Reforms,” told
EurasiaNet that the authorities were now targeting politically active civic
Appearing before a special parliamentary session on April 20, General Prosecutor
Elmurza Satybaldiyev said that he did not know the reasons behind the seizures
and other investigative tactics, the 24.kg news agency reported. "The
General Prosecutor has many other duties beyond issuing warrants,"
Satybaldiyev said. He added that investigators' moves to question United Front
members were "within the boundaries of the law," and that the
newspaper seizures must have had "some justification."
Washington objects to press crackdown
The United States protested a raid by Kyrgyz security forces on a facility
where opposition newspapers are printed. The police action in the capital
Bishkek on April 20 followed several days of protests against the government of
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
The State Department is expressing disappointment over the action by Kyrgyz
authorities, and it is calling on the government in Bishkek to respect the right
of the media to report and publish information and opinions on recent events
there without interference. The written statement by State Department Spokesman
Sean McCormack followed an early-morning police raid on a printing facility -
supported by the U.S. non-government organization Freedom House - where two
opposition newspapers are published.
Freedom House, which appealed for U.S. officials to speak out on the case, said
the police confiscated all copies of the latest press run of the two papers, as
well as the printing plates, and demanded that the newspapers' electronic files
be deleted. Freedom House said the Kyrgyz security officers at the site said the
raid was in response to anti-government demonstrations that have been underway
since April 11th.
Spokesman McCormack said the act of censorship by the Kyrgyz government, which
he said has benefited from a free press and publicly declared its support for
independent journalism, is disappointing. He also said political disagreements
in Kyrgyzstan must be resolved by the Kyrgyz people in a lawful, peaceful and
The Washington-based Freedom House sent a letter to Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice on April 20, calling the raid a serious violation of press
freedom and urging her to take up the matter with the Kyrgyz government.
The private organization's advocacy director, Paula Schriefer, told VOA human
rights conditions in the country have been mixed, since the Bakiyev government
was swept into power in a street revolt in 2005, promising democratic and
"Certainly you have seen on-going issues of censorship in regards to the
press, you have seen things like the demonstrations being broken up yesterday,
in perhaps not the kindest way possible. So it is really been a mixed picture,
and the feeling at Freedom House is that now is really the time to make sure the
U.S. increases its emphasis on supporting human rights and free press in
Kyrgyzstan, as it is undergone a lot of change with the new government,"
The newspaper facility raided by the authorities, called the Media Support
Centre Foundation, contains the only independent printing press in the country.
The two papers based there have been critical of the Kyrgyz government and its
handling of the latest demonstrations, which turned violent and were broken up
by police using teargas and stun grenades.
Protestors accuse the Bakiyev government of corruption and failing to live up to
Freedom House, which monitors and evaluates respect for human rights in
countries world wide, rated Kyrgyzstan partly free this year in its annual
survey, Freedom in the World. The Central Asian state was given medium-to-low
ratings on civil liberties and political rights, and the organization said the
overall trend there was downward, because of renewed authoritarianism on the
part of the president.
Economy grows 7.3% to 21.1bn som in Q1
Kyrgyzstan's GDP grew tentatively 7.3 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter
of 2007 to 21.119 billion som, the National Statistics Committee said, Interfax
News Agency reported on April 10th.
GDP minus the Kumtor gold mining project would have been 19.965 billion som, up
9.5 percent. Inflation was two per cent.
Industrial output grew by 1.1 per cent to 13.23 billion som or, minus Kumtor, by
9.9 per cent to 10.112 billion som.
Extractive industry output fell 3.5 per cent year-on-year to 226.4 million som,
and manufacturing output fell 2.1 per cent to 8.9 billion som. Output by the
utilities sector (power, gas and water) rose by seven per cent to 4.104 billion
Output grew 2.1 per cent to 7.004 billion som in agriculture and forestry, 45.7
per cent to 1.418 billion som in the construction sector, 6.2 per cent to 6.067
billion som in freight and 24.3 per cent to 1.406 billion som in communications.
Capex rose 64.8 per cent in the quarter to 1.827 billion som.
Kyrgyzstan had a foreign trade deficit of US$179.6 million som in
January-February 2007. Imports came to US$331.6 million and exports to US$152
Kyrgyzstan to seek 61% stake in Centerra Gold
Kyrgyzstan will look to increase its interest in Centerra Gold, which is
developing the Kumtor gold deposit, to 61 per cent. Kyrgyz Prime Minister, Azim
Isabekov, said that the government and parliament were ready for a new round of
talks with Canada's regarding increasing Kyrgyzstan's interest in Centerra Gold,
currently 16.66 per cent, to 61 per cent, Interfax News Agency reported.
The first two rounds of talks took place behind closed doors in Istanbul and
Moscow. Cameco owns 52.6 per cent of Centerra Gold. Isabekov said a special
commission of government and parliament representatives had been set up.
"We don't like the terms by which Centerra Gold's 100 per cent-subsidiary
Kumtor Gold Company has been operating lately, so we are initiating talks,"
Isabekov said. "We've calculated that during the course of the Kumtor
project Cameco has earned about 150 million Euro and has capitalized its
interest in Kumtor by 975 million Euro. Cameco has made 1.125 billion Euro from
the project in total, while Kyrgyzstan has received 610 million Euro, or half as
much, taking taxes, dividends and the value of shares on the stock market into
consideration," Almazbek Dzhakypov, the head of KyrgyzAltyn, the company
that represents the Kyrgyz government in Centerra Gold, said at a parliament
Visa Relaxation to boost tourism
Turusbek Mamashev, director of the State Agency for Tourism, announced that his
organisation and the Kyrgyz foreign ministry will soon be putting forward a
proposal to the government to allow citizens from 28 wealthier developed nations
to visit Kyrgyzstan without a visa, Interfax News Agency reported.
Observers stated that allowing foreigners from the wealthier nations to enter
Kyrgyzstan without a visa will boost tourism, but the implications for national
security also need to be considered. Since 2002, nationals from these 28
countries have been able to enter Kyrgyzstan more easily by obtaining their
visas on arrival. Sapar Orozbakov, director of the Bishkek-based Centre for
Economic Analysis, thinks the move could increase the threat Kyrgyzstan faces
from extremist organisations, who could abuse the right to come in and out of
the country without a visa.