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Shocking First-Hand Experience in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Factions argue in the streets of Osh, Kyrgyzstan (Photo. CNN website)

‘There have been eye-witness accounts of kids being nailed to trees and entire families being raped and then murdered,’ says one Christian

“A combination of clan feuds, corruption and indifference in the west is creating a lethal cocktail in Kyrgyzstan. In one town, 5km from the border, the charred ruins of a school bear witness to the violence unleashed by mobs and the army,” said Luke Harding writing in The Observer.”

The story talked about the Lev Tolstoy high school in Osh as being reduced to a “blackened ruin.”

Harding added, “Bullet holes marked the walls of the kindergarten class, the corridors were full of rubble and the head’s office was a wrecked shell. Sandbags indicated where the Uzbek parents had tried to barricade the front gate against a murderous Kyrgyz mob.”

The paper quoted Gulamov Shakhobiden, 31, a former pupil as saying, “They’re not people, but animals.”

Shakhobiden described how Kyrgyz soldiers arrived at their street at 8:00 pm on Friday June 11, 2010, punching through a makeshift barricade in an armored personnel carrier. The men carried automatic weapons. Behind them came women and boys hurling homemade petrol [gasoline] bombs.

ANS has obtained a disturbing first-hand report from a Western source who we will not identify for security reasons, in which the writer said: “I just had the most terrifying experience of my life. I’m going to let you know so you can get a small picture of what it is like where I live. And I am only letting you know because I am now out of the conflict.

“It was Friday at 1:00 am and I was awoken by a phone call from another friend… who lives in my neighborhood in Osh. He was wondering if I heard any strange noises on the streets. I didn’t at that point, but I got up and looked out my balcony…. What I saw was horrifying.

“I looked to my right and saw a fire burning in the street about a block away and men screaming loudly around it. I thought they were just screaming to put out the fire. I waited a bit and noticed the fire growing and growing. It cast a red glow across the whole street I lived on.

“I then turned to the left and saw a hundred or more local men walking down towards my building carrying axes and shotguns. They were yelling cheers and shooting into the air. They began to set fire to more buildings around me, while breaking the glass and doors of the stores on the first floor of my building and the buildings around me.

“I was scared and had no idea what to do so I called our safety officer … and she had no idea what was going on (I woke her up). More and more men gathered in the red glow of the burning buildings around me (at least 300 by now), and they began to throw rocks at buildings. I was walking towards the bathroom to seek cover (as this is the only room in my apartment that doesn’t have a window facing the street), and a large rock smashed through my window and flew right by my head. I was fortunate to have missed it as it was a fist-sized stone.”

Our contact said that they spent the rest of the night hiding in the bathroom, staying on the phone with a contact, and “sneaking peeks to see if my building was on fire.”

The report added that, “… just as my building was going to get caught by the flames, the fire department came, dispersed the crowd and put out the fire (which I am surprised they put out so much because we don’t have fire hydrants here).

“I can’t even properly describe the terror I felt. I have never felt so trapped in my life. I didn’t know what to do if my building caught on fire because if I ran outside, I would have surely been killed. I am so grateful that the fire stopped when it did. It was also incredibly terrifying because this incident was about two hours long.

“I spent the rest of the night packing my emergency bag and trying to rest in the bathtub, but I was unsuccessful as I was so nervous about men climbing onto my balcony or my apartment being set ablaze. I can’t get the image out of my head of all those men with their guns destroying my neighborhood.

“I spent the whole time praying for dawn because I thought it would get better with light. Well, it didn’t. When 5:00 am hit and Kyrgyz men came with crowbars and started smashing up the stores right across the street from my building. This continued until a crowd of Uzbek men came and chased them away with rocks.

“Yes, if you didn’t know, this whole conflict is about the ethnic tension between the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, possibly started by a third party for political reasons.”

The report continued: “Hundreds of Uzbeks gathered again on my street, but soon scattered into the distant neighborhoods because of police. I was then called by the organization I am working with and told to move about a block away to another volunteer’s house, where many of us would gather to be safe.

“I did so, and it was relatively safe. Six of us spent the rest of that first day trying to rest, conserve our energy (I didn’t get to eat for two days because the gas and electricity were shut off and no stores were open), and hope for the best. We just heard distant fighting and shots the rest of that day and then that night military tanks were roaming the city firing into crowds to disperse them.

“The next day (Saturday), we all woke up and got the four other volunteers in the city to join us (that’s 10 now). We were told by that we were leaving for the airport to catch a flight to the capital, but the roads were blocked and shooting was heavy on the way. We then had to wait for a new plan.

“In the mean time, some local Kyrgyz threw a bottle and rock into our window and smashed it. We had to create an emergency plan because we heard that Molotov cocktails were being thrown into windows, so we needed to do fire prevention. We positioned the bed and cushions against all the windows, hoping that a Molotov would bounce off back into the street. Fortunately this was never tested. We spent the rest of the afternoon in complete silence (all phones were off except for mine to conserve our batteries. I kept mine on for communication… and for getting many different changing plans.

“Finally, at about 6.00 pm we were picked up by five Kyrgyz men (trusted and hired by our organization) who had masks on and guns. They were to escort us to a bus that would take us to helicopter. We left with them, but the bus got lost so we were exposed on the main street for 20 minutes.

“It was so eerie, as all the streets were empty, except for when random cars would drive by with dozens of men and guns in them. One of the cars was stopped on the way by a group of Kyrgyz who pointed their guns at the volunteers in it and screamed, ‘If any of you are Uzbeks we will kill you all.’ We were glad that our drivers were Kyrgyz and we were somewhat ‘safer’ because we were in Kyrgyz territory.

“They went away and we spent the next 20 minutes trying to get the bus to come to us while watching troops of Kyrgyz driving past us with guns. We were so scared of being shot at this point.”

Our eye-witness said that they finally got to the bus that was controlled by the Kyrgyzstan border control that was then to take them to a helicopter in the city.

“We got in and after driving a certain way we were blocked by a crowd of hundreds and hundreds of Kyrgyz men who were demanding the guns from the military tank escorting us,” our correspondent said. “The military refused and started firing guns into the air. We all ducked down, but I saw that more gunshots were being fired around us by the local Kyrgyz and then rocks and sticks were being smashed against our car windows.

“We were in this position for about five minutes and we were all in control, but I truly felt for the first time in my life that I could have died at that moment. So many men screaming — so many shots in my direction — so much anger.

“I just could truly see myself not surviving that moment. Again, I can’t describe how that danger feels. It is beyond numbing.”

Our contact said that the tank eventually decided to plow through the crowd and they followed.

“We made it to the helicopter base and were lifted to the Osh airport where we got a charter flight to Bishkek. We are now safe at the base while our homes and friends burn in the fires of ethnic conflict,” the report continued.

“While we feel grateful to be alive and gone, I personally feel guilty because I am so privileged to have the ability to be lifted out of the danger like that while my local friends and coworkers hide for their lives.

“It is a horrible feeling to have left them to die. Hundreds are dead already, thousands are injured. 150,000 Uzbeks have fled to the Uzbek border; women are handing their babies off to Uzbekistan soldiers at the border so that at least they survive.

“What’s worse is that the Uzbeks are not only blamed for this whole thing (as the ethic and hated minority), but they are being targeted not only by Kyrgyz, but also the military. We hear from our Uzbek friends that police are openly killing defenseless Uzbeks on the street. Entire Uzbek neighborhoods are destroyed in Osh. I will never forget the last image I had, flying away in a helicopter over the city, seeing entire blocks of houses scorched to the ground, with smoke and fire covering the whole city. It will haunt me forever.

“What’s worse is that the Kyrgyz government is only providing humanitarian assistance to the Kyrgyz, and leaving the Uzbek’s out. Please urge your congressperson to push the American government to urge the Kyrgyz government to provide equal aid to all ethnicities. PLEASE. These are my friends and neighbors that are being murdered. Just take a few minutes and call/email. It is an emergency situation, no time to lose.”

Our eye-witness concluded by saying, “The rest of the country is completely stable as Uzbeks are mainly just in the south, so don’t worry about me being in the north now.”

Another ANS contact told me, “At this point most of what I know regarding believers there is by word of mouth. I know that most of the missionaries were evacuated and are reporting witnessing terrible atrocities. One spoke of a Kyrgyz pastor who was beaten for attempting to provide aid and housing to ethnic Uzbek’s. Members of our church had just visited this pastor in Osh this spring.

“It appears that things are much worse than have been reported. It is still very difficult to get an accurate word of what is taking place in southern Kyrgyzstan. Terms like ‘ethnic cleansing’ are being used because of reports that perhaps 2,000 people or more have been killed. There have been eye-witness accounts of kids being nailed to trees and entire families being raped and then murdered. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Although no one really knows who or what instigated this present crisis, the degree of violence associated with it has been horrendous.”

In previous message, the Christian contact said, “Of course the present situation has had an effect upon the churches here. Since the revolution, we have been having prayer meetings at our church every morning at 7:30. It has been amazing to see these people pouring out their hearts to God for their country, their leaders, for revival, and for unity in our body and among the churches. Many people have been without work since the borders were closed until this past week. However, one of the greatest things that I have seen is that the majority of the people view this as an opportunity for ministry rather than as a reason to flee the country or hide out in their homes.

“I would not be surprised if religious persecution breaks out against the few believers who are there, or even in the north. The interim government is having a difficult, if not impossible, time responding to this crisis.”

Dan Wooding, Assist News Service

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