UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wesnesday 23 March 2005
KYRGYZSTAN: Second city firmly under opposition control
OSH, 23 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - The southern city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second largest, was being run by a so-called peoples' government on Wednesday, elected by protesters who have been in de facto control since Monday. The new "governor", Anvar Artykov, an ethnic Uzbek and a prominent opposition leader, has replaced the official governor, Kubanych Joldoshev.
For the first time since the city's takeover, most government offices, schools and police stations were back at work. Shops, cafes and bazaars have also re-opened and food prices reverted to normal, while Osh international airport, under opposition occupation, remained closed.
Police officers, who earlier had been afraid to appear in public wearing their uniforms, were slowly seen returning to the streets but their authority appeared weak. Some have taken to forming joint brigades with protesters in order to patrol the city in search of looters and robbers who have taken advantage of the lack of law and order of the past few days.
Kasym Talipov, owner of a small shop in Osh, did not take part in the protests but he sympathised with the new government. "Over the past few days they managed to take the city under control and restore order. I appreciate the fact that the new governor is a local person. The previous one was not from the south, so he could not understand our mentality. Now for the first time we got a chance to select the person we like ourselves," he told IRIN.
According to Aziza Abdirasulova, a human rights activist from the capital Bishkek, the new administration in Osh is successfully coping with its responsibilities: "There is no chaos. Under the new rules, for the first time in years people in Osh can enjoy free media. Local TV stations that had been heavily controlled by the state are now freely reporting without censorship, organising live transmissions from the main square and live talk shows."
The state-appointed officials who were ousted by the protesters were not being persecuted, although they were keeping a low profile, Abdirasulova maintained, adding: "They avoid appearing in public because no one knows how people might act."
The estimated 200 protesters on the city's main square in front of the provincial administration office were less than the day before, their number depleted by the departure of six buses full of demonstrators heading for the capital in the morning. By late Wednesday, some of the protest buses had reportedly been stopped from getting to the capital, 12 hours north over the mountains, by authorities keen to stop the disturbances spreading. But protesters in Osh continued to sign up for a proposed march to Bishkek and more buses were expected to leave carrying demonstrators overnight to Bishkek.
Activists have expanded their grip on other parts of the south, seizing the headquarters of the Kadamjay district administration in the Batken region town of Pulgon. In Jalal-Abad, where unrest has also rocked the city, about 1,000 opposition supporters rallied on Wednesday outside the regional administration headquarters, which they control, shouting "Akayev, out!" and holding banners calling for his resignation.