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Bazar-Kurgan returnees pick up the pieces

Uzbek refugees express dismay after violent clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz led to over 250 deaths, thousands of injuries and the displacement of tens of thousands of others UN Photo/EPA
Ethnic Uzbek Nigora Kamalova has been trying to come to terms with the ordeal she lived through over the past three weeks: violence, fear, displacement and the return to a burnt down home and uncertain future.

Clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh erupted on 10 June and a few days later spread to neighbouring Jalal-Abad province, where she lived in the town of Bazar-Kurgan, about 70km north of Osh and just a few kilometres away from the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border.

“When the shooting and looting started we fled to the Uzbek border with just the clothes on our backs. It was terrifying! There was a group of men, all in black masks, shouting, shooting and burning houses and cars – belonging to Kyrgyz and Uzbeks,” a tearful Kamalova said. “It’s been a few days since we came back, but we don’t have a home, it has been burnt down. We don’t know how we will survive - nobody does.”

While ethnic Uzbeks rushed to the border in search of refuge in Uzbekistan, ethnic Kyrgyz went to nearby mountainous areas to stay with relatives.

Read more
 Who's who in Kyrgyz politics?
 Refugees in numbers
 Delicate ethnic balance
“We all, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, fled because of fear,” said Salima Baydobotova, an ethnic Kyrgyz resident of Bazar-Kurgan, which has a population of about 27,000. She said on her return from the mountains she found all her possessions had been looted.

While officials said about 12 people were killed there, local residents said the death toll is much higher as many people are still missing. It is still unknown who those killing and pillaging were, but local residents said they were not from there. “Some of them had blue or green eyes and were almost blond. There are no such people in our province,” Anara Kocherbayeva, a Kyrgyz Bazar-Kurgan resident, said.

According to a 22 June damage assessment by the UN’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), 401 buildings in Bazar-Kurgan were totally destroyed and 32 buildings severely damaged. The report indicated that arson was the probable cause.

Health issues

With the violence over, almost all ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz have returned to Bazar-Kurgan. The focus has turned to treating those affected.

Doctor Salahetdin Jalamov has been treating Bazar-Kurgan’s internally displaced persons (IDPs), some of whom are living in the open because their homes were torched. He said he has attended to more than 1,000 patients over the past 10 days.

“There are more and more patients day by day. You see children and the elderly here suffering from various conditions – high blood pressure, diabetes and so on. And now there is a risk of diarrhoea and dysentery,” he said.

In an effort to stem such outbreaks, the Kyrgyz health ministry has asked the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for assistance.

“The [UN] organization has immediately sent its first plane with medicines from Copenhagen,” Yelena Bayalinova, a spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz health ministry, told IRIN in Bishkek.

The plane had enough medicines for 10,000 cases of diarrhoea. “So at the moment all health facilities in the south have been provided with anti-diarrhoeal medicines,” Bayalinova said, adding that all IDP camps would also receive necessary medicines.

Meanwhile, according to a 1 July situation report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in Osh city there is a shortage of bandages, antiseptics and medicines for chronic diseases.

gm/at/ed

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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