Contagious violence

Kyrgyzstan, June 14, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mary Tam/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The national flag of Kyrgyzstan, which gained independence in 1991. Photo: Mary Tam/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Mary Tam/Mercy Corps  </span>
    An unrepaired window reflects Ala-Too Square, where the people of Bishkek attempt to return to normalcy. Photo: Mary Tam/Mercy Corps

The civil unrest in Osh and Jalalabad brings great sadness to the country. Everyday more lives are lost, houses and businesses are destroyed and optimism is challenged.

And for what? While it’s difficult for me, as a foreigner, to understand and portray the depth of this situation, I can share what I’ve learned from others.

There is a history of underlying tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south, stemming (as tensions so often do) greatly from a question of land ownership. Yet it would appear that tension is being exploited to provoke violence, rather than the being the root cause of the violence, itself.

This conflict is quite likely the product of actions taken to create instability for the interim government in this time leading up to the referendum. Of young men who want to be a part of something important, or like easy money or are loyal to an ousted leader. Of mob mentality spreading like a virus.

For a more detailed account, check out this article by Aidai Masylkanova. It is not my place to say what should happen or try to explain what people here are experiencing. What I can say is that I am disappointed with humanity, in general. I don’t understand why situations like this happen again and again. And I don’t just mean here in Kyrgyzstan. Civil war, ethnic cleansing, gangs, hate crimes, human trafficking...what is it about being human that makes us so destructive? What is it that gives people the need to cause such pain and believe they are justified in doing so? I struggle to resist emotional defeat and remind myself that there are also people out there with good intentions and honest souls.

The last few days in Bishkek have been a bit quieter than when I first arrived a few weeks ago. Some people choose to stay in, not knowing whether or not things will escalate here in the capital. Others are simply trying to live their lives, just having gotten back into a routine after April’s events. Wandering the streets of Bishkek, one might not even know Kyrgyzstan is in the midst of a revolutionary period. People work and run household errands. Flags blow in the wind. Children play. There are many interesting things about this country and it’s a shame that Kyrgyzstan has only been brought to the world’s attention due to the recent violence.

I certainly plan on sharing some of the interesting and wonderful things about this country. For now, my thoughts go out to those who are most affected by this conflict and I am grateful to my family and friends for their concern.