Political instability in Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan and the roots of it continues to be a subject of discussion among scholars and political analysts in the region and abroad.Dr.John Heathershaw from the University of Exeter in the UK is one of the scholars contributing to the research and analysis of political processes that are taking place in ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia.Mr.Heathershaw shares his opinion on the nature of recent politics in Kyrgyz Republic in an interview with Journal of Turkish Weekly.
Ryskeldi Satke (JTW) - In the article "Beware of meddling in Kyrgyzstan" you expressed an opinion of Kremlinís security services active role in Kyrgyz Republic and some† standing with intelligence on arms trafficking in Ferghana Valley.As we know, massive ethnic violence took place in South Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.Russian analyst in an interview with "Echo Moscow" radio station stated that Tajik mercenaries from UTO (United Tajik Opposition) and other "hired guns" from Russia including North Caucasus were operating in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad during ethnic clashes in June.Dubnovís account has been confirmed by ex-Commandant Baibolov who was in charge of security in Jalalabad but later Baibolov re-tracked from his original statement.The Interim Government of Kyrgyzstan accused Bakiyev family and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in instigating ethnic riots while the rest of world barely mentioned any connection between Bakiyevs and IMU/Taleban.Moreover,Bakiyevís son,Maxim found a refuge in the UK.On the other hand,Kyrgyz State Commission concluded that ethnic Uzbek leader Batyrov was one of the contributing reasons behind violence.Whatís your take on the causes of violence in South Kyrgyzstan?
John Heathershaw - National political instability caused local factional leaders to fight it out.† Clearly the Mayor of Osh and other erstwhile pro-Bakiyev associates in Osh and Jalalabad - in addition to rivals such as Batyrov - wanted to defend their positions and priveleges in the face of a changing political environment.† One of the easiest ways to do this was to play the ethnic card.† On the other hand they would have not been able to do this successfully had it not been for a basis in society for ethnicity-based conflict.† I donít see how it was a matter of Islamism at all.† Perhaps Dubnov is correct that some hired guns were brought in, perhaps not.† I would doubt it can be ascertained but we should await the final report of the international commission.† Either way, we can say that hired guns are not a cause of the violence but were more of a sympton.
Ryskeldi Satke (JTW) †-† Itís already known fact that Moscow has been a crucial force behind Kyrgyz opposition.Such opinion is confirmed by various sources including Russian analysts in Bishkek sponsored by the Kremlin although Vladimir Putin denies it.Evidence of mutual cooperation between Kyrgyz opposition and Moscow can be seen in dynamics of trips made by Kyrgyz politicians to Russiaís capital prior to April 2010 and Roza Otunbayevaís sincere gratitude expressed to Vladimir Putin in April 8 2010.Whatís your view on Kremlinís sporadic support of different competing political factions in Kyrgyzstan?
John Heathershaw - As you say it is sporadic and inconsistent, just as Kyrgyz political machinations are sporadic and inconsistent.† They need to have a relationship with whoever is in power in Kyrgyzstan and they have succeeded to a greater or lesser degree in doing this with all three of Kyrgyzstanís presidents.† Bakiev fell out of favour but Russiaís role in precipitating the April 2010 events has been exaggerated by some.† The precise nature of their relationships with different party leaders in Kyrgyzstan right now is beyond my knowledge.†† My judgment would be that Moscow has the most powerful foreign state involved in Kyrgyzstan since independence and remains so.
Ryskeldi Satke -† Uzbekistan has been quite uneasy with Russiaís growing military presence in Kyrgyzstan.Bright example of Uzbek President Karimovís distaste demonstrated with his reaction to Moscowís initiative on opening CSTO military base in Osh near Uzbekistan border in Ferghana Valley.Turkish analyst Turgut Demirtepe (USAK) wrote an article "The last tango in Bishkek" published in August 2009 by Hurriyet Daily News where Demirtepe highlighted Uzbek Governmentís concern over Russiaís ambitions in Central Asia.Moreover,Uzbek authorities were seriously worried over possible scenario of "controlled instability" in South Kyrgyzstan with ethnic violence.Consequently, a year later widespread killings took place in Osh with Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbek drawn into chaos.Would you give your thoughts on this?
John Heathershaw - You could say that the fears of Karimov and senior people in Uzbekistan say more about their particular perceptions of the international political world than any objective reality.† They have been particularly concerned by the presence of both Russian and US bases, repeatedly stating that it is unnatural and cannot be continued - but it has.† To their mindset, the great fear is always that of Great Powers manipulating small states.† Clearly there has been some of that in Kyrgyzstan but it has also worked the other way. Kyrgyzstani government have extracted quite alot from the US and Russia, financially and even politically.† For the Government of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan is such a weak state that it cannot imagine that, at times, it has had such power over great powers.† For me, as previously mentioned, in the case of Osh violence the primary dynamics were local and national, not international.
Ryskeldi Satke - Since April 2010 Kyrgyzstan public went through a difficult year with new Government and elected Parliament but we already hear new allegations of corruption and money laundering schemes with fuel contracts to US/NATO airbase "Manas" along with President Otunbayevaís son controversial involvement in unofficial fuel talks with Mina Corp. representatives in Turkey.Kyrgyz Republicís economy already hit by year long instability currently highlighted by developing inflation and skyrocketing prices on basic merchandises and services.Your thoughts on possible development of political situation in Kyrgyzstan taking into account upcoming Presidential elections?
John Heathershaw - I am not in a position to say much about this.
Ryskeldi Satke -† Current political establishment in Kyrgyzstan continuously ringing bells on danger of Islamic extremism in Central Asia,particularly in South Kyrgyzstan.Such view actively supported by Moscow as well.Recently,there were highly publicized anti-terror campaign conducted by Kyrgyz security agencies in the country.But,some political activists such as Toktaym Umetalieva,says Government is simply misleading public.She points at the case† of volunteers with whom she has worked in Osh distributing humanitarian aid in affected areas during June violence in 2010.Specifically,Umetalieva highlights fabricated terrorism cases by Kyrgyz GKNB (renamed Kyrgyz KGB).Whatís your opinion on threat of religious extremism in Kyrgyzstan?
John Heathershaw - It is in the interests of the Government of Kyrgyzstan to exaggerate the threat of weak Islamist groups.† We should also not forget that many post-Soviet elites remain militantly secular and they actually believe that these groups present existential threats to the state.† Given the acceptance of the necessaity of íBlack PRí by governments across the region, including Kyrgyzstan, I find Umetalievaís allegation credible but I am in no position to verify it.
*John Heathershaw is a Lecturer in International Relations at University of Exeter (UK) with interests in three broad areas: Central Asian studies including the former Soviet republics and Afghanistan; the inter-disciplinary study of humanitarianism, security assistance and intervention, especially post-conflict peacebuilding; and, in International Relations, methodological issues around the use of discourse analysis and political ethnography in empirical analysis. I have spent several years working for governmental, international non-governmental and academic institutions in and on Central Asia. I am also an associate fellow of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-political Studies (EXCEPS), a research associate of Exeter Turkish Studies and research group on Communism and Post-Communism.Mr.Heathershaw is an author of recently published book: Post-Conflict Tajikistan: the politics of peacebuilding and the emergence of legitimate order (London: Routledge, 2009).