OSH, Kyrgyzstan, July 18 (TCA) -- A lot has been said about the inter-ethnic conflict that broke out in the south of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. However, life goes on and time gradually heals the bleeding wounds.
According to Dastanbek Khodjayev, the vice-mayor of Osh city, various types of peace-building activities were carried out in Kyrgyzstan, but the activities conducted by 15 ‘yntymak jarchylary’ (‘messengers of peace’) groups have proven to be the most effective. The name clearly reflects the purpose of the "messengers" – to participate effectively in the prevention and containment of various conflict situations. The Osh municipality manages the ‘messengers of peace’ activity.
Abdumalik Orozov, deputy chief of police department of the Aravan district, said that "People understand that nobody wants confrontation between the two largest ethnic groups in southern Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. This conflict affects all the other nations living here. There are no obvious tensions here, but there is also no guarantee that even the domestic violence would not be the basis of conflicts and would not turn into aggression. According to statistics, the main causes of conflicts are the issues of water management, division of territories, and environmental issues. In these situations, the role of ‘messengers of peace’ can not be overestimated.”
According to Anders Troedsson, Acting Head of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Centre in Bishkek, a three-way memorandum of cooperation to reduce conflicts in society between the Osh regional administration, the local OSCE Office and the IRET Public Fund was signed in 2011. Within this cooperation, the project “Capacity building of members of public-private ‘yntymak jarchylary’ network” is being successfully implemented in Osh city, as well as in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions.
Ulan Tilenov, a project advisor, said that beginning from 2011, 330 leaders from 22 pilot communities in Osh and neighboring villages entered the groups. The groups were selected together with representatives of local authorities, the OSCE and people who have an authority in their communities, and 50% of groups consisted of the representatives of local administration.
Martin Schuster, a political officer at OSCE, believes that these people are well-respected and regarded as an authority in their communities by 90% in different force majeure conditions. "The OSCE helps them only to 10% through organizing the training sessions. First, the coaches with the help of external consultants learn how to perform long-term preventive measures and assess the situation from the perspective of the potential long-term conflicts, and then apply the knowledge in practical exercises in collaboration with the law enforcement agencies. Upon returning home, the trained coaches share their knowledge and skills with other members of their groups. It aims to make the ‘messengers of peace’ activity stable -- that is to continue their important work even when the OSCE will stop providing help.”
"Today, different ethnic groups do not have enough direct contact, which would have significantly contributed to the introduction of tolerance into the society,” said the coach Turusbek Torgombayev. “Thanks to the emerging friendship between the ‘messengers of peace’, the possibility of conflicts during the joint activities reduces, and the peacekeeping network is being built.”
"Only two years ago it was impossible to imagine that the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz would be sitting together at one table. Last year there were even talks that they could not share one bus, saying that the other nation ‘poisons the air’," said Zulfira Temirbulatova from the Sharq rural district of Kara-Suu region. “Today, 550 ‘messengers of peace’ became friends and they will gradually change the mindset of the members of their communities.”
Anders Troedsson told that trainings organized by the international non-governmental Organization (NGO) International Alert are scheduled for 2012.
Another 198 ‘messengers of peace’ are planned to be selected in the northern Chui region. Exercises for them are scheduled for 2013.
A demonstration exercise with the aim to check the capacity of the ‘messengers of peace’ groups in preventing potential conflicts and building peace by simulating the source of tension was held on July 12 on the premise of the Police School in Osh.
The exercise was attended by representatives from the regional administration and law enforcement agencies of the Osh city, the OSCE and international journalists.
Environmental situations, which are often created in the villages with highways lying across them, were selected as a cause of the conflict. In particular, the Bishkek-Osh highway is running through the village of Kochkor-Ata of the Osh region right next to the main bazaar and the area where the building materials are sold. During the season, people sell watermelons and melons there. There are incessant clouds of dust, and everybody – young and old -- have to breathe it.
"Down with the cars", "Cars undermine our children’s health”, "We are for healthy environment" – these were the slogans of the exercise’s participants. When the conflict breaks out, the interethnic tension is rising. Then, the trained mediators are trying to liquidate the conflict.
A coach and the head of the Nariman village Ashirbek Khalikov said that "We have already learned how to recognize what is going on, exactly and clearly convey information and clearly respond to the situation. Ethnic tensions in cities mainly occur because of instigators. It is necessary to timely reveal them and distract people’s attention from them.”
"This training for the ‘messengers of peace’ is an important component for the overall preparation of peacekeeping training groups to effectively resolve various conflicts," said the acting head of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, Anders Troedsson.
On July 12, representatives of the OSCE in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the representatives of the Osh city municipality and NGOs of Osh city visited a monumental composition ‘Peace Bell’ and a memorial ‘Tears of the mothers’ in Osh. They expressed their approval to the government’s intention to struggle for the development of democracy and tolerance, and for the introduction of peace ideas into the society.
Clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz began on June 10, 2010. According to the Prosecutor General's Office, during the confrontation 438 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured. Over 1,000 of houses, administrative and other buildings were burned down or destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people became refugees.
According to Dastanbek Khodjayev, the vice-mayor of Osh city, both monuments were installed in honor of the second anniversary since the tragic events in June. There is an inscription on a 50-kilogram bell, saying "In the name of peace in the whole world” in English, Kyrgyz and Russian.
The sculpture "The tears of mothers" that depicts two representatives of the Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic groups, who are crying and hugging each other, is a symbol of grief and loss.
Khodjayev noted that the bell’s ringing will urge people for peace and friendship, and a monument will remind all the living people of the past tragic events.