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A Sad Anniversary

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 07:05 UK time, Friday, 10 June 2011

It has been a year since the tragic events in southern Kyrgyzstan, when more than 400 people died in the inter-ethnic clashes between Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks.

Houses were set on fire. Thousands of people fled their homes.

I come from Osh - the area where the violence happened. I have relatives there among both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities.

I can tell you that both sides suffered and are still suffering from those events.

The report from the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC) investigated the causes and the chronology of the events of that time: establishing the number of people who were killed, fled, left without homes, were charged with crimes and sentenced.

These figures are available and largely agreed by everyone, including the Kyrgyz President who admitted that the majority of those killed were Uzbeks.

Establishing what happened can help us learn lessons for the future, but looking at the past tragic events I find myself drawn to not to stories of horrific atrocity, but quite the opposite.

Abiddin Shakirov is 76 years old.

He is Kyrgyz.

A year ago, on 10 June, his son Asqar Shakirov - a member of a local government - heard about the clashes and rushed to try to stop them.

Seven Uzbek builders were working at his courtyard, building a new house.

He drove with four of them to Osh city centre to take them back home.

He never returned.

He was killed in the city.

When his father Abiddin learnt about the death of his son and went to the city hospital, his first thought was: "What will happen to those three Uzbeks still left at the house?"

If they were killed too, their parents would have to go through the same anguish that he was experiencing at that moment.

And so he returned to go and get those remaining Uzbek builders and get them to their parents in the Uzbek neighbourhood...

There are also reports of Uzbek hiding their Kyrgyz neighbours too.

Recently I heard a talk by the Dalai Lama called The Power of Forgiveness.

He gave this speech at Limerick University in Ireland, in the presence of his friend Richard Moore who had been blinded at the age of 10 by rubber bullets fired by soldiers in Northern Ireland. He had forgiven them.

There's a saying "blood can't be washed out by blood, only by tears".

Mahatma Ghandi also said: "If everyone follows the eye for eye principle, the world will turn blind'"

So however difficult and painful it is, forgiveness is probably the way forward.

Sometimes those people who have suffered the most - people like Abiddin, who lost his son, or Uzbek women from Cheremushki mahallya who lost their brothers and husbands - can be the most restrained in their sorrow.

But there are also those on both sides, who try to exploit the hatred and distrust that exists - mostly for their own political ends.

They are so intolerant, that appealing for revenge against the other nation, they would also kill everyone on their own side who doesn't agree with them.

I know people who, like me, have relatives on boths sides, but unlike me, have been cursed by both sides: Kyrgyzs denied them as Uzbeks, Uzbeks refused them as Kyrgyzs.

But we also know of many mixed families still living together against all odds.

It must be extremely difficult because of the distrust between two communities.

I don't want to sound optimistic, because many of my Uzbek relatives have fled perhaps forever to Russia and Kazakhstan and my Kyrgyz cousins had to move to Bishkek.

All I want to say is that a human being has got many different clothes to put on: it could be a Kyrgyz hut or an Uzbek cap, a military uniform or a civic suit, a judge wig or a priest's cassock.

Not to lose one's human heart under those garments is what those people can teach us, be they Uzbeks or Kyrgyzs

People who have lived humanly through the hell of the last summer events.

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