Uzbeks In Limbo As Misery Grows In Kyrgyzstan

  • Local citizens run to catch a bus to leave the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh for the airport in Kyrgyzstan, June 17. Hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks fled their homes seeking refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan after deadly rampages by mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz.
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    Local citizens run to catch a bus to leave the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh for the airport in Kyrgyzstan, June 17. Hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks fled their homes seeking refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan after deadly rampages by mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz.
    Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
  • Kyrgyz children look out the window of a Bishkek-bound bus before it departs from Osh.
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    Kyrgyz children look out the window of a Bishkek-bound bus before it departs from Osh.
    VIiktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images
  • Ethnic Uzbeks who had fled southern Kyrgyzstan cross the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border as they return. A handful of Uzbek refugees displaced by the ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan returned to their wrecked homes in Osh, desperate for food and water that aid agencies have had trouble delivering to the thousands camped out on the border.
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    Ethnic Uzbeks who had fled southern Kyrgyzstan cross the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border as they return. A handful of Uzbek refugees displaced by the ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan returned to their wrecked homes in Osh, desperate for food and water that aid agencies have had trouble delivering to the thousands camped out on the border.
    Sergei Grits/AP
  • Uzbek men push a truck as they build a barricade in the Uzbek district of Osh.
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    Uzbek men push a truck as they build a barricade in the Uzbek district of Osh.
    Sergei Grits/AP
  • The head of local police, Col. Kursan Asanov (right), leads a prayer for peace after negotiations in which he called on ethnic Uzbeks to pull down a barricade between Uzbek and Kyrgyz districts in Osh.
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    The head of local police, Col. Kursan Asanov (right), leads a prayer for peace after negotiations in which he called on ethnic Uzbeks to pull down a barricade between Uzbek and Kyrgyz districts in Osh.
    Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
  • A Kyrgyz special forces officer holds sticks and Molotov cocktails seized during a search operation in the Dustuk neighborhood in Osh, June 16. Kyrgyzstan's weak and undersupplied military attempted Wednesday to regain control of the city, a major transit point for Afghan heroin and the center of brutal rampages that have driven much of the ethnic Uzbek population from Kyrgyzstan's poor, rural ...
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    A Kyrgyz special forces officer holds sticks and Molotov cocktails seized during a search operation in the Dustuk neighborhood in Osh, June 16. Kyrgyzstan's weak and undersupplied military attempted Wednesday to regain control of the city, a major transit point for Afghan heroin and the center of brutal rampages that have driven much of the ethnic Uzbek population from Kyrgyzstan's poor, rural south.
    Sergei Grits/AP
  • The Kyrgyz national flag flies at half-staff in front of the statue of Vladimir Lenin in a central square in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on June 16, marking the third national day of mourning after violence in Osh and Jalal Abad.
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    The Kyrgyz national flag flies at half-staff in front of the statue of Vladimir Lenin in a central square in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on June 16, marking the third national day of mourning after violence in Osh and Jalal Abad.
    Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
  • Uzbek refugees group near the border in hopes of crossing into Uzbekistan at a refugee camp in Nariman on June 15. The previous day, Uzbekistan ordered its borders closed to tens of thousands of refugees fleeing clashes between rival groups in Kyrgyzstan, where government forces were accused of helping the slaughter of ethnic Uzbeks.
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    Uzbek refugees group near the border in hopes of crossing into Uzbekistan at a refugee camp in Nariman on June 15. The previous day, Uzbekistan ordered its borders closed to tens of thousands of refugees fleeing clashes between rival groups in Kyrgyzstan, where government forces were accused of helping the slaughter of ethnic Uzbeks.
    Oxana Onipko/AFP/Getty Images
  • A woman walks in a refugee camp in Yorkishlok on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees remain stranded in Kyrgyzstan, unable to enter Uzbekistan and unwilling to return to their homes in Kyrgyzstan after days of deadly conflict raging across the south of the ex-Soviet state.
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    A woman walks in a refugee camp in Yorkishlok on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees remain stranded in Kyrgyzstan, unable to enter Uzbekistan and unwilling to return to their homes in Kyrgyzstan after days of deadly conflict raging across the south of the ex-Soviet state.
    AFP/Getty Images
  • Uzbek refugee men take bread passed from Uzbekistan through the barbed-wire fence to their refugee camp in Nariman.
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    Uzbek refugee men take bread passed from Uzbekistan through the barbed-wire fence to their refugee camp in Nariman.
    Oxana Onipko/AFP/Getty Images
  • A boy rides a donkey along a highway, as the first Kyrgyz Emergency Situation Ministry motorcade passes by with 70 tons of flour bags for the hungry in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
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    A boy rides a donkey along a highway, as the first Kyrgyz Emergency Situation Ministry motorcade passes by with 70 tons of flour bags for the hungry in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
    Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
  • Uzbek men pray during the funeral of a victim who was killed during the riots in Osh.
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    Uzbek men pray during the funeral of a victim who was killed during the riots in Osh.
    Sergei Grits/AP
  • Ethnic Uzbek women, crying, plead for help at a refugee camp in Nariman on the border with Uzbekistan.
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    Ethnic Uzbek women, crying, plead for help at a refugee camp in Nariman on the border with Uzbekistan.
    Oxana Onipko/AFP/Getty Images
  • An elderly ethnic Uzbek man sits in front of his burned-out house in Osh on June 15. Uzbekistan closed its border to refugees fleeing the deadly violence in Kyrgyzstan, some of whom have accused government forces of helping armed gangs slaughter ethnic Uzbeks.
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    An elderly ethnic Uzbek man sits in front of his burned-out house in Osh on June 15. Uzbekistan closed its border to refugees fleeing the deadly violence in Kyrgyzstan, some of whom have accused government forces of helping armed gangs slaughter ethnic Uzbeks.
    Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images
  • An officer of the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry forces conducts house-to-house searches in the Anoshin neighborhood in Osh.
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    An officer of the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry forces conducts house-to-house searches in the Anoshin neighborhood in Osh.
    Alexander Merkushev/AP
  • Ethnic Uzbeks rest after crossing the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as they fled violence in southern Kyrgyzstan on June 13.
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    Ethnic Uzbeks rest after crossing the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as they fled violence in southern Kyrgyzstan on June 13.
    AFP/Getty Images
  • Matluba (center), an Uzbek woman who says she fled from Osh after her family was killed, weeps as she stands in line waiting for permission to cross into Uzbekistan.
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    Matluba (center), an Uzbek woman who says she fled from Osh after her family was killed, weeps as she stands in line waiting for permission to cross into Uzbekistan.
    Anvar Ilyasov/AP
  • An Uzbek man injured in ethnic violence rests in an Uzbek neighborhood in Osh.
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    An Uzbek man injured in ethnic violence rests in an Uzbek neighborhood in Osh.
    Victor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images
  • Uzbek residents sit in front of the bodies of victims on June 13. The Kyrgyz government put the death toll from the violence at 117, but officials in neighboring Uzbekistan say the actual number is much higher.
    Hide caption
    Uzbek residents sit in front of the bodies of victims on June 13. The Kyrgyz government put the death toll from the violence at 117, but officials in neighboring Uzbekistan say the actual number is much higher.
    Andrey Steinin/AFP/Getty Images
  • Armed with sticks and hunting rifles, members of the ethnic Uzbek community guard the road to an Uzbek residence near Osh on June 12.
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    Armed with sticks and hunting rifles, members of the ethnic Uzbek community guard the road to an Uzbek residence near Osh on June 12.
    D. Dalton Bennett/AP
  • Smoke rises from Uzbek villages burned by Kyrgyz attackers near Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan. The country's second-largest city, Osh, slid into chaos Friday when gangs of young Kyrgyz men armed with firearms and metal rods marched on Uzbek neighborhoods and set their homes on fire.
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    Smoke rises from Uzbek villages burned by Kyrgyz attackers near Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan. The country's second-largest city, Osh, slid into chaos Friday when gangs of young Kyrgyz men armed with firearms and metal rods marched on Uzbek neighborhoods and set their homes on fire.
    D. Dalton Bennett/AP

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The humanitarian crisis is worsening by the day in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, where ethnic violence in the country's south last week sent tens of thousands of minority Uzbeks fleeing. Many made it across the border to crowded refugee camps in Uzbekistan.

But then Uzbekistan's government announced it had taken in all the people it could handle. That has left thousands more refugees waiting at the border, in villages such as Suradash.

The sound of desperation greets visitors as soon as they step out of a car.

Ethnic Uzbek women at a refugee camp in Nariman, Kyrgyzstan i i

hide captionEthnic Uzbek women from Kyrgyzstan plead for help at a refugee camp in Nariman on the border with Uzbekistan. Tens of thousands of minority Uzbeks have fled their homes in the wake of ethnic violence last week in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Oxana Onipko/AFP/Getty Images
Ethnic Uzbek women at a refugee camp in Nariman, Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic Uzbek women from Kyrgyzstan plead for help at a refugee camp in Nariman on the border with Uzbekistan. Tens of thousands of minority Uzbeks have fled their homes in the wake of ethnic violence last week in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Oxana Onipko/AFP/Getty Images

A crowd of ethnic Uzbek women surrounds the visitors. Our stories of pain must not be reaching the outside world, many of them say, or else why would it take so long to get food and aid here?

A Family Forced To Flee

Nergiza Anvarova, 16, is one of the voices in the crowd. Last Thursday night, she says, her house in the city of Osh was set on fire. She saw 16 neighbors dead in the street.

"There were some people who begin this, I think, war. It can be called war," she says.

Anvarova, her family and friends raced for the Uzbek border. They ended up in this village, 20 minutes away from Osh. They immediately delivered their neighbors' bodies to the village mosque, then looked for people to take them in.

Anvarova's story is familiar along this border. She came with her mother and two brothers, and they're crowded in a bedroom with a dozen other people. Anvarova's father stayed behind to defend their Uzbek neighborhood. She says her father doesn't want them to come back.

And Nergiza isn't convinced she will ever go back. Much of her neighborhood is destroyed. She is worried she'll never be able to return to her beloved language institute, where she has been perfecting her English for six years, in a classroom full of Uzbek and Kyrgyz students.

But where does Nergiza go? Not Uzbekistan like so many others. She says she has no connection to that country.

Refugee taken by ambulance to Uzbek hospital

hide captionIn the Kyrgyz village of Suradash, a woman peers across a fence into Uzbekistan as a fellow Uzbek refugee is loaded into an ambulance. While the border is officially closed, Uzbek border guards have quietly allowed medical teams to evacuate some of the most injured out of southern Kyrgyzstan.

David Greene/NPR

We were born in Kyrgyzstan, one of these women shouts, and we'll die here. So, it's not safe to assume the refugees pressed against the Uzbek border are trying to get in.

The truth is, many don't know where they will end up. They came this way in the rush, and it's turned out to be safe, especially with Uzbekistan border guards so close.

Quiet Acts Of Mercy Amid Privation

But Suradash, a village of normally a few thousand, has been overwhelmed. There is not enough fresh water; the refugees say they haven't bathed or washed clothes since arriving.

There is also no hospital for the injured. Medical students have been treating people inside the mosque, until things get too serious.

Uzbekistan's border guards sometimes help. Just footsteps from the mosque, across a barbed-wire fence, the guards stand in front of a wall, staring into this Kyrgyzstan village like it's a sad movie.

One patient at the makeshift hospital is an elderly man who was stabbed in the navel and shot during the violence. He desperately needed to have blood and fluid drained, a procedure the medical student couldn't perform.

So the border guards quietly allowed an ambulance from the Uzbek side to drive up to the border. They helped the medical team through the barbed wire into Kyrgyzstan.

A nurse inserted a tube into the man's stomach and drained the fluid into an empty water bottle. Meanwhile, the border guards allowed two more injured refugees to be quietly carried across, to the ambulance, and on to a hospital in Uzbekistan.

Perhaps times won't be quite as desperate soon. Slowly, international aid is arriving to the border area.

The arrival of an International Red Cross team was welcome news to Saudat Amanova, a 38-year-old kindergarten teacher and now a refugee.

"If the international community doesn't come help, it will be a disgrace to the whole world," she says, "which seems to be busy only with soccer."

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