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[JTW Interview] Bakyt Beshimov: “Kyrgyzstan-How Political Success Justified Violence and Who Incited the Kyrgyz-Uzbek Conflict?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

This inverview is conducted by Ryskeldi Satke. Mr.Bakyt Beshimov,political expert on Central Asia and Kyrgyz politician, is a Visiting Scholar at MIT's Center for International Studies (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

Ryskeldi Satke - June conflict in the city of Osh has been foretold by authorities of Uzbekistan back in 2009. In particular, Tashkent opposed the initiative of Russian military base presence in Osh and continues to express concern over issue. Uzbekistan’s Government reaction is well described by Turkish analyst Turgut Demirtepe (USAK) in the article "Last Tango in Bishkek" published by Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey) in August 2009. According to analyst, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group linked to Russian Intelligence Service, instigated ethnic conflict in Osh that Uzbekistan had seen coming. Your opinion on Professor Demirtepe's assessment?

Bakyt Beshimov - Bloody conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks has a complex nature and deep causes that are tied to social-economic situation beginning with Kyrgyzstan's independence. However,failure of political elite to transcend ethnocentric policy triggered deadly clashes. A coups,North-South divisive line and various regional clans competition opened the door for external forces to execute “divide and influence” strategy in Kyrgyzstan by provoking ethnic conflict.

There is no conclusive data on prediction of June events by Uzbek authorities as far back as 2009. But there have been quite direct statements by senior Uzbek State officials at the time of the conflict. On June 15 2010, Deputy Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, voiced a concern:"The impression is that these events are organized by outsiders. I do not doubt that a third party is behind bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan,as proven by the facts of large number of weapons and groups of mercenaries,skilled sniper-shooters on the ground.”

A similar view was expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who said: "there was "compelling evidence that events in Kyrgyzstan were well planned." The UN High Commission representative for Human Rights,Rupert Colville made a following statement: "We have compelling evidence that these events were not spontaneous ethnic clashes. In some ways they were organized and well planned."

This brings up a question: Who planned and organized the massacre?

It should be noted that a number of countries including Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, United States, China, Germany did not support Kyrgyzstan's official version that IMU,Union of Islamic Jihad (UIJ), and other extremist organizations instigated violence. It is well known ,these countries gather comprehensive intelligence in Central Asia and pay thorough attention to situation in the region.On specific note of Collective Security Treaty Organization, I quote Nikolai Bordyuzha's evaluation of April 2010 unrest in Kyrgyzstan: "I know exactly who took over Presidential palace,weapons cache and TV station but such developments were not projected by Opposition Movement." Kazakhstan Intelligence Services have more than enough information about all terrorist threats in the region.In 2009 Kazakhs bolstered own activities by establishing Foreign Service.

How can we assume that Russians and Kazakhs know nothing about the organizers of ethnic clashes when they have solid intelligence capacity in Central Asia?

Therefore,there is something out of ordinary with Uzbekistan which announced involvement of a"third force" but not supportive of version proclaiming IMU role, its bitter enemy.In contrast,a number of politicians and organizations in Uzbekistan directly accused Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) of provoking a conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan.

On June 13 2010,”The Youth Movement of Uzbekistan" came out with "Urgent statement on violence in Osh, killings of ethnic Uzbeks and political provocation by Russian Federation in Central Asia" which stated:"It appears,Russia threatens to destabilize Uzbekistan and Ferghana Valley in the event of Uzbekistan's intervention in ethnic conflict on Kyrgyzstan territory."

Uzbek reporter Sergei Yezhkov wrote:"Recent instability gives Russia a chance to reassert its influence in this part of the former Soviet Union." The same opinion was expressed by Kyrgyz expert Sapar Orozbakov.

"Russia wants to have influence in Kyrgyzstan at any price,"-says Alexander Rondeli, President of Strategic and International Studies Foundation in Georgia."Kyrgyzstan does not border with Russia so it may be harder to do it which is why so-called soft power, propaganda and fifth column were utilized."

Official Tashkent and many experts believe that organizers of conflict were aiming at Uzbekistan."Karimov was masterfully put in stalemate with acceptance of refugee waves and deteriorating "hard-canned" situation in the region“,-wrote expert Sergey Gradirovsky.”

“Escalation of violence in Kyrgyzstan ... it is reasonable to consider it as part of a long-term large-scale operation by a greater State looking for points of contact with little ones. Tactical and strategic objectives are on the surface.In the first stage-throw at least three Central Asian countries in the fire/chaos and the second-line them under full and absolute control”,-assumed Sergey Ezhkov."

What meant by "greater State"? Mr.Ezhkov reckons it is Russia.

On June 17 2010, according to RIAN news agency, Russian military made a statement:"Russian law enforcement agencies have put together a team to help Secret Services of Kyrgyzstan in the investigation of June riots."A team of professionals was formed under auspices of CSTO to carry task of "identification,in collaboration with other intelligence agencies of CSTO, groups and individuals involved in organizing riots in Kyrgyzstan. CSTO’s Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha was in charge of the mission.

Now,it has been more than six months but no results presented from a group packed with Russian intelligence officers.Meanwhile,literally all Kyrgyz officials have forgotten their own words mentioning caught sniper-shooters and foreigners during June.

We can assume obvious link between these developments.

In addition,Uzbekistan's public immediately reacted warily to the actions of Vladimir Rushailo,appointed on May 13, 2010,Kremlin's envoy in Kyrgyzstan and vague statements to CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha."Unfortunately,our assumption is where Vladimir Rushailo is,must wait for war which was confirmed in full."-Uzbek experts said.

There could be another link between Russia's obstruction of OSCE,Police presence in Kyrgyzstan,initiative and sudden emergence of various groups,in Kyrgyzstan itself,protesting possible OSCE peacekeeping mission. It’s no accident that on May 19,2010 citing situation in Kyrgyzstan,head of the Russian Foreign Ministry warned E.U. and NATO not to intervene in the internal affairs of CIS countries.

Indeed,Uzbekistan opposed to deployment of Russian military bases in the Ferghana Valley, believing it will only exacerbate tensions in the region. In the opinion of Tashkent, Moscow's actions in the region are extremely contradictory,purely mercantile and promote discord among players in Central Asia.Similar views do exist in Tajikistan as well. For example,in an interview to "Nigoh" newspaper in July 2010,Tajik journalist Abdulaziz Vose confirmed an opinion of Kremlin's stand.According to Mr. A.Vose, Russia feels that “Tajikistan does not recognize Moscow as strategic partner and wants to have a variety of ways to exert pressure on Tajik Government."

So several other experts,in addition to Mr.Turgut Demirtepe,have noticed a strange connection between Russian Intelligence Service and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,IMU’s redeployment in Tajikistan,IMU’s involvement in the Tajik Civil War in the 1990s and establishment drug trafficking corridor from Afghanistan.Konstantin Preobrazhensky,a former KGB Lt.Colonel had presented relevant information on the subject:“Long before Islamic terrorism became a global threat,KGB used terrorism to facilitate victory of Communism worldwide.Thus,there is a logic between Russian Intelligence and Islamic terrorism.Alexander Litvinenko,poisoned in London in November 2006, told me that his former FSB colleagues had trained famous Al-Qaeda terrorist Ayman Al-Zawahiri and IMU's Juma Namangony during 1980s-90s. Juma Namangony attended KGB's Saboteur Training Center (First Chief Directorate) in 1989-91. Particular school was notorious for international terrorists training who matriculated from it.Nowadays,Training Center run by FSB and since KGB officers were strictly allowed to study there,Juma Namangony's presence clearly suggests he was much more than a civil collaborator.”

It is useful to read Andrei Soldatov's and Irina Borogan's book: "The New Nobility-The Restoration of Russia's Security State and Enduring Legacy of KGB” to better understand extremely dangerous and negative impact of Russian Intelligence Services on public policy.

The countries of Central Asia would not survive without economic and political integration as it happened in the European Union,for instance.Russia,unfortunately,reinforces divisive politics between Central Asian countries.That's where the problem is.

Ryskeldi Satke - President Otunbayeva and ex-members of Provisional Government of Kyrgyz Republic accused IMU and Bakiyev clan for organizing mass murders in Osh and Jalalabad.Former Commandant of Jalalabad city, K. Baibolov, officially announced in June the arrests of mercenaries and sniper-shooters (Tajik nationals) from Republic of Tajikistan.Later, Otunbayeva’s Government ceased to mention any presence of captured foreigners,operated in the south. Your view of Kyrgyz Government's behavior?

Bakyt Beshimov - Up to this point we have not seen any credible evidence in support of Kyrgyz Government's official version. Here is a press release by Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service dated June 24,2010 that states:"Destructive forces directly involved in the outbreak of tragedy in Osh and Jalalabad identified.They are international terrorist organizations "Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) together with members of Bakiyev family.In April 2010,Maxim Bakiyev held a meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates,with IMU emissaries.In early May 2010,at a meeting with Taliban warlords,IMU,UTO (United Tajik Opposition) represented by Mullah Abdullah and two members of Bakiyev family in the village of Bahorak in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, agreed to assist IMU groups in destabilizing situation in Kyrgyzstan.For this purpose Bakiyevs planned to spend 30 million USD."

Bakiyevs meeting with IMU leaders in the UAE should have been confirmed with concrete data on issue in cooperation with appropriate Governments in the Middle East.As we know, there is no credible evidence of that.We need to ask,have Kyrgyz authorities cooperated with the Government of UAE in this case?

Afghan officials,NATO and U.S. organizations didn't have records of terrorists gathering in Badakhshan.Event like this would not have passed unnoticed by the intelligence services of above countries and if meeting indeed took place then Bakiyevs would have landed on the watch list of counter-terrorist divisions. But that's not the case. Why? Perhaps,there was no meeting whatsoever.

Interpol recently refused to cooperate with the Government of Kyrgyzstan to catch responsible for violence. Belarus is clearly non-cooperative with Kyrgyz authorities on Bakiyev's extradition. Latvia’s Attorney General Office stated that Kyrgyz Government's documents on matter are “contradictory and unclear”. Reaction of foreign countries and organizations suggests a complete incompetency and inefficiency of investigation efforts by Kyrgyz State Law Enforcement agencies. Similar characteristics can be used to describe Kyrgyz State Security Service's final report on unrest dated October 24, 2010.

Moreover,not a single prominent expert in the field of security in Central Asia confirms Bishkek's official version nor claims IMU's and Bakiyevs connection to ethnic violence. As analyst Sergey Gradirovsky noted:"Feels like footprints belong to professionals. It’s clear from judging quantity and quality of shooters, sudden appearances of mercenaries in mobile units on SUVs (well-armed men in masks, professional killings, artificial spread of fear and hatred among civilians) as well as quick distribution of weapons to both sides of conflict and skillfully conducted provocations."

Police chief of Osh city,Mr.Suvanaliev highlighted possible role of ex-President's nephew as mastermind:"Sanjar Bakiyev has been seen taking part in June violence."

But it's highly unlikely that Bakiyev's nephew could organize a large-scale conflict. In this sense, Sergey Gordievsky's take on Bakiyevs trace in the conflict underlines following:"There is no doubt that Bakiyevs as well as their friends and loyalists might have been used in masterfully played out story in South Kyrgyzstan."

Now, let's go through discrepant statements of Kyrgyz officials. According to head of State National Security Service, Dushebaev, there were about two dozen of sniper-shooters detained. Seven of them have been closely involved in the tragic events in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. "The detainees are mostly foreign nationals," said Duishebayev, “their guilt must be proved in court. For this reason, I cannot disclose their identities." A further report says:"Yesterday, Payzulla Rakhmonov ,ex-president's associate (according to some reports, his cousin) was arrested and under interrogation at the moment."

And after all reports,presently,Kyrgyzstan officials do not recall any sniper-shooters and arrested Rakhmonov. What does this mean?

K. Baibolov, while being Kyrgyz Security Service’s first deputy and Russian political expert Arkady Dubnov sought to establish a role of "hired guns" from Tajikistan and Russia in Osh. Baibolov said they had "irrefutable evidence and testimonies from detained foreigners of Tajik origin." According to analyst Dubnov, "these gangs of people (mercenaries) operated in Osh city, earlier fought in the civil war of Tajikistan in the 1990s – on both sides,"Popular Front" and Tajik opposition". Somehow,"irrefutable evidence" by now has vanished. Why?

Interim President Otunbayeva in an interview with Ekho Moskvy Radio made a comment on Bakiyevs: "They had a clearly developed plan. Unfortunately, it was executed with help from Moscow." What's in Moscow and who's helping them? As always there is no answer.

The political situation in Kyrgyzstan needs total clarification of numerous chaotic Government reports made by State figures with concern to conflict in the south. Inconsistency of Kyrgyz officials is becoming a serious source of trouble. If Kyrgyzstan's public is not going to be convinced by officials, there is a certain chance for escalation of violence, once again. All members of Kyrgyz Government investigating causes of ethnic riots should pay close attention to that. Not surprisingly, a Parliamentary Commission (looking into Osh conflict) was established on the first day of newly elected Parliament. At this stage, it is obvious that Provisional Government and heads of law enforcement agencies must have comprehensible results on all points of their previous statements. This should be reflected in the National Commission's Report of the Kyrgyz Republic as well as in the outcome of the International Commission headed by Kimmo Kiljunen.

Ryskeldi Satke - Shall we expect more violence in the south in the near future given the fact of disturbing reports coming out of Osh city indicating number of recent abduction incidents and rape cases, including a pattern of growing tensions between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz caused as a result of Kyrgyzstan's authorities unfair actions towards ethnic Uzbek population?

Bakyt Beshimov - Unfortunately,mistrust between two ethnic communities, inadequate actions of law enforcement and judicial authorities, forced migrations in the absence of responsible leaders on both sides created conditions for ethnic terrorism. Kyrgyz/Uzbek political leaders have missed a historic chance of full-fledged entry of ethnic Uzbeks into the emerging Kyrgyzstan's society.

The President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov,in reference to first ethnic clashes in 1990 (Kyrgyz/Uzbek) in Kyrgyzstan,said:"They are your Uzbeks and we will not interfere in Kyrgyzstan affairs." Ethnic Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan,dissatisfied with policy of official Tashkent during a course of the last decade, have taken greater efforts to integrate with Kyrgyz and other ethnic groups,strengthen our multi-ethnic state. Public expression of pride "Kyrgyzstan - My Motherland" was popular among young ethnic Uzbeks. Kyrgyz politicians in the early 2000s flatly rejected poly-ethnic platform development insisting on ethnocentrism instead of deep appreciation for inter-ethnic society.

Ethnic Uzbek political leaders,unfortunately,carry their own share of blame,exploiting and sacrificing population to pursue selfish narrow interests. They advanced their political and commercial interests by manipulating a consciousness of ordinary ethnic Uzbeks.

Issues of ethnic Uzbek's such as language and culture could have been resolved without hawkish politics.However,both communities had no luck with good, not to say outstanding, leaders. Ethnocentrism has created poisonous nationalism, discrimination and hostility that divided people. If there is no fair justice,masterminds of conflict aren't going to be punished and discrimination of ethnic Uzbeks and other minorities isn't going be stopped, Kyrgyz Republic is going to be under stress of armed disturbance and state collapse.

It is still important to understand that only consent through reconciliation,respect for human rights and dignity of each other is a more stable platform for Kyrgyzstan. Our country can take place as a modern state but without nationalism, discrimination based on race and ethnicity. Current ideology keeps Kyrgyzstan in the state of tribal nationalism which is a clear path for chaos. We already saw it last year.

Ryskeldi Satke – What is your reaction to ethnic Uzbek leader Batyrov's comments claiming Kyrgyz Provisional Government's members pro-active role, including President Otunbayeva, Tekebaev, Atambayev, Beknazarov and Sariev, in creating instability in the south of the country in May 2010?

Bakyt Beshimov - Preliminary analysis of June tragedy based on material from the ground, views of various politicians and experts, evaluations of international organizations, suggests that ethnic violence was provoked by politicians fighting for power. It is a sign that, despite two regime changes in the past five years, nature of ruling class in Kyrgyzstan remains largely unchanged – its interests,survival and enrichment remain far above the interests of general population.

Blame for loss of life in such terrible tragedy lays on irresponsible politicians greedy for wealth and power. Many celebrities and ordinary citizens of Kyrgyzstan have this kind of opinion. In the spring of 2010, a month prior to escalation of bloodshed,there have been reports of deteriorating peace balance between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks due to power struggle within local politics in both communities. On April 12, leaders of nearly 30 NGOs in Osh city made an appeal to acting Governor Jeenbekov and Osh City Mayor, Myrzakmatov, expressing concern over fairness of political appointments in the local administration. Representatives of public organizations in the south of the country were alarmed in the aftermath of the April 7 coup, saying:"Criminals took over the South." Why have these disturbing and timely reports remained unanswered? Who profited from the bloody standoff?

At a press conference on April 22, 2010,ethnic Uzbek leader Batyrov announced a "full mutual understanding" with the Interim Government of Kyrgyzstan. What kind of “understanding" Batyrov did mean? There are still a lot of questions.

However,exact answer to question - who is responsible? - can only be found through transparent investigation to which all principal actors -- members of the Interim Government and ethnic Uzbek leaders -- must be brought. The probability of this happening is next to none.A dramatic story of Kyrgyzstan independence is one huge criminal case named: "Crimes of political leadership against people" which is not investigated and unlikely to be.

Outside observers and many Kyrgyz people are still unaware of two existing trends in Kyrgyz opposition. 1) "Revolutionaries" who are willing to use any means, including assistance to foreign Governments and transnational organizations, for violent regime change.On June 18, Russian General Vladislav Achalov asserted Russian Intelligence officers help to ex-President Bakiev in March 2005 when so-called "Tulip revolution" took place He is not alone with such point of view. Indeed,“revolutionaries” organized coups in 2005 and 2010 and now they are still in power.

2)"Evolutionists" are for gradual changes and peaceful pressure to achieve non-violent, legitimate change.They were always in the minority and did not succeed because of inability to compete with two radical forces - authoritarian presidents and revolutionaries. As a result of two "revolutions" a political culture was born in which success justified violence.A victory of "revolutionaries" inevitably led to "degradation” of the Government system, “lumpenization” of society, eerie nationalism and explosion of corruption,tribalism, regionalism and constant conflict possibilities.The country's recent history from March 2005 to present is a striking example of that.

The main problem in Kyrgyzstan is in the contrasts between a need for evolution of the country in line with globalization/modernization and unwilling to change by archaic, tribal and kleptocratic national elite. Despite the fact of presidents and political regimes come and go,economic situation in Kyrgyz Republic is getting worse with the country’s crippling infrastructure now fully going down the drain. The elite's mission is to promote progress. In Kyrgyzstan's case, the elite halts progress. A rich and corrupt margin manipulates poor as it pleases. In such situation, the real culprits of tragedy and crimes are not prosecuted.

Turkish Weekly is an USAK Publication. USAK is the leading Ankara based Turkish think-tank.

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