Kyrgyz authorities try to get Uzbeks to vote

Kyrgyz authorities try to get Uzbeks to vote
# 23 June 2010 22:46 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Kyrgyzstan’s central government pledged to help ethnic Uzbeks vote in a referendum on a new constitution on Sunday, encouraging participation by a minority group that has supported the interim administration, APA reports quoting “Associated Press”.
The impoverished former Soviet nation was thrown into chaos this month when mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz went on rampages across the south, killing hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks and sending hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives. Officials have blamed the violence on supporters of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the country’s former president who was toppled in a bloody uprising in April.
Sunday’s referendum is a key step toward legitimizing the interim government and turning the country into a parliamentary republic. Ethnic Uzbeks have mainly supported those who took power from Bakiyev, and would not oppose a constitution allowing them parliamentary representation.
Nearly half of the ethnic Uzbek population fled after deadly attacks by Kyrgyz mobs. Uzbeks have accused the mostly ethnic Kyrgyz troops and police of collusion in deadly rampages and raids in Uzbek neighborhoods in recent days have heightened their distrust of authorities. Some witnesses reported that government troops ripped their IDs off during those raids.
Human rights activists have blamed Bakiyev’s supporters in the local military and police of being behind the raids.
The country’s Central Elections Commission said that six of its 126 officials in the south had been briefly kidnapped in Osh on Wednesday. It said there would be more details on Thursday.
Kyrgyz officials pledged to work quickly to restore identification papers for the Uzbeks, many of whom lost them in houses torched by Kyrgyz mobs. The violence killed as many as 2,000 people and forced 400,000 to flee for their lives.
On Wednesday the authorities organized a reconciliation meeting of Uzbek and Kyrgyz elders from the Osh region villages of Onadyr and Uzgur. A top government official promised to quickly restore IDs lost in the conflict.
"Many have lost their passports, many of them were burnt because of these sad events," Bolot Junusov, deputy chair of the Kyrgyz registration service, said at a reconcliation meeting of Uzbek and Kyrgyz elders from two Osh region villages of Onadyr and Uzgur.
He said a special working group has been set up to speed up the process of issuing new IDs, but admitted that it was unlikely that the government could issue all the necessary paperwork in time for Sunday’s referendum.
Taking turns, officials addressed the gathering of around 40 elders, some of them wearing the distinctive, tall and white Kyrgyz kolpak hat, while many other donned the square skull cap usually favoured by Uzbeks.
Elders, known locallly as ak-sakal, or white beards, in the crowd nodded with approval as some took turns calling for harmony between the communities.
"We have always lived peacefully here, for example you hear all the time of Uzbeks giving away their daughters to the Kyrgyz, and Kyrgyz giving their daughter away to Uzbeks," said Rasul Akhmedov, 73, an Uzbek neighborhood elder from the village of Onadyr outside Osh.
More than a week after the worst violence subsided, dozens of houses and shops across Osh still bear the daubed signs "KG" or "Kyrgyz," alerting ethnic Kyrgyz marauders not to attack. Despite calls for their removal, other graffiti bearing the slogan "Death to Uzbeks" still stand.