KYRGYZSTAN

Bishkek's citizen militias keep looters at bay

The Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek is nursing its wounds after bloody clashes between anti-government rioters and police forces on Wednesday left 76 people dead. According to our Observers in Bishkek, the worst of the violence is now over, in part thanks to citizen vigilante groups. Read more...

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The Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek is nursing its wounds after bloody clashes between anti-government rioters and police forces on Wednesday left 76 people dead. According to our Observers in Bishkek, the worst of the violence is now over, in part thanks to citizen vigilante groups.

“Things should be back to normal on Monday”

Andrey Galkin sent us this account by email from Bishkek on Friday morning.

Things seem to be going back to normal and life is slowly resuming. Small shops have re-opened and public transport is working once more. People are going outside and starting to clean things up.

I don’t think people feel scared anymore: the new government is in control of the situation. Police and voluntary policemen [Editor's note: informal citizen militia groups] are taking care of stopping the looting.

Policemen are also dealing with weapons so people shouldn’t be walking around the street with weapons anymore. I think on Monday people will go back to work as usual and life will resume its normal course.”

The streets of Bishkek on Thursday, April 8.

Courtesy of Vladislav. Originally posted on his blog, lazy-vlad.livejournal.com.

Citizens of Bishkek flock to the White House neighbourhood, where the violent riots took place. Posted by Vladislav on his blog.

Onlookers take pictures of the damage caused by looters. Posted by Vladislav on his blog

Posted by Vladislav on his blog.  

 Some smaller shops remain reopened on Thursday. Larger markets remained closed. Posted by Vladislav on his blog.  

 Posted by Vladislav on his blog.

Posted by Vladislav on his blog.   

“People took it upon themselves to protect their homes and businesses”

Joldosh Osmanov lives in Bishkek, where he works for an international organisation.

The situation on Friday morning was pretty calm – riots and looting appear to be over. There were rumours yesterday that armed groups were getting ready to pillage massively overnight, but it doesn’t look like that happened.

The return to calm is largely due to ordinary citizens, who organised themselves into volunteer police groups. What happened is that at the height of the crisis, state police forces became very demoralised, and many policemen stopped coming into work altogether. So public figures, opposition leaders and news anchors on television called on citizens to help protect the city from vandalism and looting – and people did. I was out in the street last night and in many places could see groups of men standing in front of buildings, shops and banks, sometimes armed with guns, sometimes just with heavy sticks or knives, ready to stop looters from coming in. Basically people took it upon themselves to protect their own homes and businesses, and that seems to have deterred looters.

Today there was a mass funeral for the 76 victims of the riots in the neighbourhood of Ala-Too near the White House [parliament], where the clashes took place. Thousands of people came to pay tribute to the dead; the air was thick with emotion. The victim’s families were there, many were crying. Religious and opposition leaders made speeches in honour of the dead. No representatives from Bakiyev’s government were there, however.

Although the possibility of fresh riots can’t be excluded, I think the situation will calm down in coming days and gradually return to normal, the city should have pretty much recovered in a week. The reconstruction of damaged property will take time, but already new appointments have been made in public offices and some shops and services are open again. It’s a particularity of revolutions in Kyrgyzstan that when an uprising happens, members of the fallen government disappear for a few days, even weeks. They go into hiding because they fear for their lives. Meanwhile the new government takes over. Despite what Bakiyev said to Russian media today, I don’t think he will be able to return to power. The people are too angry at him – everyone saw his troops fire at protesters and kill 75 people. Citizens of Kyrgyzstan will not accept his return.”