Why Do I Care? (6/15/10)
My morning newspaper on Page 5A has an article about a massacre of Uzbek people in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. It has lesser play than an article above it about the killing of an Israeli officer by Palestinian gunmen. Ordinarily I would scan the article, sigh, and think about something else.
The reason I don’t is that I have a friend who was born in Uzbekistan and immigrated to this country from Russia more than 10 years ago. She phoned me yesterday, very distrait, and told me about e-mails from Uzbek friends telling of old people being slaughtered, little girls being raped and a university, built by Uzbek people out of their own contributions, being razed to the ground. The AP article in my newspaper tells of hundreds of people being killed and 100,000 people being turned back at the border of Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyztan and Uzbekistan are two majority-Muslim countries in central Asia formerly part of the old Soviet Union. It is hard for me as an American to imagine what differences Kyrgyz and Uzbeks could have that would motivate one of them to engage in large-scale killing of the other.
Uzbekistan is ruled by a cruel dictator, Islam Karimov, whose specialty is having his political opponents boiled alive. Uzbeks make up about 15 percent of the population of Kyrgyztan and about half the population in the southern part of the country. Most of them supported the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April. The interim government has accused him of instigating the riots, but he denies it.
It is something that is much worse than what Israelis and Palestinians are doing to each other at the moment, and there are many other situations in the world, for example in Africa, that are just as bad or worse. I think of them much less than I do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because I don’t feel personally connected to those countries. But this seems real to me because I only have two degrees of separation from the victims.
My friend asked me to post something on my web log, which I am doing even though I don’t see how I can help the situation. The United States and the Russian Federation both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan, and they are important to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. The United States is sending humanitarian aid; this doesn’t really address the situation, but I don’t see what else to do. I make annual donations to Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders, but this doesn’t really address the situation either.
Why do I care? (6/19/10)
People in the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan are different from me. They speak a different language. They dress differently. They have a different religion. The very word “Uzbek” has a funny sound to American ears.
The only thing is, they are human beings. They have as much inherent dignity and worth as I do. They have as much right to live peacefully in this world as I do. The killing of an innocent person in Uzbekistan is as great a tragedy in the cosmic scheme of things as my death or the death of someone I love.
Recently I read news accounts of a massacre of Uzbeks in the neighboring central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. It is one of many horrible things going on all over the world, but I happen to have a good friend who was born in that part of the world. She has been in touch with what’s going on by text message and cell-phone. She tells of terrible stories of old people being murdered, young girls behind raped, people being driven out of their homes. News accounts (as of June 19, 2010) tell of 400,000 people being made refugees and more than 2,000 people murdered. My friend Oidin said the number is much higher.
She says this is the latest in a series of killings instigated by the Kyrgyz government, much like the pogroms against Jews under the Tsars of Russia. She blames the present Kyrgyz government’s Russian advisers and also the Obama administration; both the Russian Federation and the United States have strategically important bases in Kyrgyzstan.
Click on the following links for continuously updated information on central Asia.