Violence Ebbs But Kyrgyz Political Limbo Persists

Kyrgyz woman and boy in Bishkek, the capital, mourn protest victims i i

With a former Soviet Union flag in the background, a Kyrgyz woman, with her son, mourns victims of this week's violent protests. She was among the thousands of grieving and defiant citizens of Kyrgyzstan who gathered in the main square of Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, April 9, 2010, after two days of clashes forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
Kyrgyz woman and boy in Bishkek, the capital, mourn protest victims

With a former Soviet Union flag in the background, a Kyrgyz woman, with her son, mourns victims of this week's violent protests. She was among the thousands of grieving and defiant citizens of Kyrgyzstan who gathered in the main square of Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, April 9, 2010, after two days of clashes forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

In Kyrgyzstan, life is beginning to return to normal after two days of violent protests led the country's president to flee the capital, Bishkek.

But President Kurmanbek Bakiyev continues to refuse to resign, and the self-declared interim government warns there could be more violence.

In Bishkek Friday, 40-year-old business owner Aida Kerimbayeva was among the crowd gathered in the city's main square to mourn the 70 or so people killed during this week's protests.

Kerimbayeva said she was trying to feel optimistic that the worst is over.

"We're beginning to feel confident and calm," she said.

She even brought her 5-year-old daughter out on streets where just Thursday night looters were roaming, firing automatic weapons.

Kerimbayeva wasn't alone. Hundreds of people — children, the elderly, young couples holding hands — ventured out on a sun-splashed day. There were still uncomfortable moments, such as when groups gathered and held heated discussions about their frustrations and the economic hardship of the last few years.

At one point, a gang of people ran into the square and threw rocks at the windows of an empty government building.

The interim government trying to control the capital said supporters of Bakiyev are committing violence wherever they can to disrupt the handover of power.

The president is believed to be in southern Kyrgyzstan, huddling with supporters. He gave interviews Thursday from his undisclosed location, saying he has no plans to step down. On Russian radio, Bakiyev also issued a warning to the interim government.

"In a few days, it will become evident that those who imagined themselves as leaders are unable to lead," he said.

This is why Murat Saryganbayev, who was also among those in Bishkek's main square Friday, thinks the interim government made a mistake.

Saryganbayev, who said he retired from 22 years of military service, said they should have issued an arrest order and gone after the president. Instead, he said, the current uprising might just be a repeat of 2005, when protests toppled a president who was viewed by many as a criminal. But in all the euphoria, Saryganbayev noted, no one from the ousted government went to prison. He said it all feels like an endless cycle.

Hence, the challenge facing this interim government: convincing people in a place where government buildings have been looted and burned that the future really is bright.

Outside the still-smoldering general prosecutor's office Thursday, Azimbek Beknazarov tried to reassure a gathering. He had just been appointed deputy prime minister for internal affairs in the new government.

He insisted that the new government will be in power just six months, after which a free election would be held.

"There's no doubt that we will hold elections. We are working out the new constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, and it will lay out how we hold elections and of course they will be democratic," Beknazarov said. "The task of our interim government is to conduct democratic, honest, transparent elections. Let the people elect who they want, let the people decide."

So far, many people in Kyrgyzstan have decided they need more than words, if they're to believe the country is really back on a democratic path.

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