Several hundred Kyrgyz rally against OSCE deployment

Several hundred Kyrgyz rally against OSCE deployment
# 12 August 2010 03:00 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Several hundred demonstrators on Wednesday decried plans by Kyrgyzstan’s interim government to admit OSCE police monitors to southern regions of the Central Asian republic ravaged by bloody ethnic clashes two months ago, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
But a prominent human rights official, addressing a crowd of students in the capital Bishkek, said she supported the imminent deployment of the unarmed police force by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"There are three types of citizen who are against the deployment of the OSCE police force: patriots; people who don’t understand what is going on; and people who have something to hide," said activist Dinara Oshurakhunova.
"This last category doesn’t want a third eye watching them."
The interim government in Kyrgyzstan has struggled to impose its authority since the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April and is wary of any sign of public unrest after the June clashes and at least one failed coup attempt.
Acting president Roza Otunbayeva plans elections on October 10 that would make Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic hosting U.S. and Russian military air bases, the first parliamentary democracy in a region otherwise run by presidential strongmen.
The 52-member OSCE police team is scheduled to arrive this month to help keep the peace in the run-up to elections. More than 350 people were killed in June and thousands left homeless during the worst bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan’s modern history.
On Wednesday around 300 demonstrators gathered in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second city and epicenter of the June violence, waving placards in protest against the OSCE deployment. The crowd in Bishkek was much smaller, numbering around 30.
Protesters said they feared the ethnic Uzbek population of southern Kyrgyzstan might break away from Bishkek in the same way as Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade does not recognize the new state.
"This is an internal problem and should be resolved within the country," said Mavlyan Askarbekov, leader of the student protestors outside parliament in the capital.
"The Kyrgyz people are afraid of the consequences, afraid that the Kosovo scenario will be repeated. The people are afraid there will be an autonomous division of the country," he said.
The protests were peaceful. In Osh, a Reuters camera operator saw demonstrators holding banners saying ’We are against the OSCE’ and ’Don’t let them meddle with our state’.
The interim Kyrgyz government believes the deployment has been misunderstood. It said in an August 3 statement it was not a "peacekeeping force" and should be viewed more as a temporary extension of the OSCE’s mission in Bishkek.
However, not everybody within the government agrees.
"Personally, I am against the OSCE police force coming here," said Azimbek Beknazarov, a prominent member of the interim government. "We know what happened with Serbia and Kosovo. We should listen to the opinion of the young people."