In an interview with PBS NewsHour, Fiona Hill discusses the political and humanitarian ramifications of the continued ethnic bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan.
MARGARET WARNER: The Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations have been living together in this valley for, I don’t know, centuries, maybe. Is this ethnic tension run amok, or is there something else going on here in terms of what explains it?
FIONA HILL: I think this is a combination of many things. In your introductory segment, you pointed out that, in 1990, there had been similar clashes in the region over land disputes. This is something quite different.
You also mentioned that, in April, there was the overthrow of the previous government. So, there’s a really strong political component to this. I mean, it’s clearly — from some of the evidence that’s been gathered so far by people on the ground, that, in many respects, this was deliberately instigated, that there were groups of armed men who went into neighborhoods and started to take pot shots, both at Uzbek populations and at Kyrgyz populations.
And it’s easy to spark off something in this region, where there’s — already political tensions are high. And, also, this is a region of high unemployment. Osh is one of these transit areas throughout the whole region, where a lot of people pass through. And you have a lot of ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks from the region who have been seeking employment next door in Kazakhstan, further afield in Russia, sending money back.
And all of these populations have been very hard-hit by the economic downturn. So, this is a lot of — there’s a lot of tensions in the area over the economic situation, over political issues, and everything else.
MARGARET WARNER: So, you already have a — what you’re saying is a volatile situation. And then who has the incentive to light the spark?
FIONA HILL: The problem is that there are multiple people with incentives. There was a reference in the segment to President Bakiyev, who was ousted in April.
MARGARET WARNER: Right. And the current government is accusing him of doing this.
FIONA HILL: Correct. But there’s also a lot of evidence that criminal gangs who operate in the area — this is a trafficking area for drugs, smuggling. It’s an area of just general contraband that goes through the Oshians and the local markets.