Eyewitness: 'Still afraid to leave the house'

Two men carry provisions at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near a village of Nariman outside Osh on June 16, 2010 The first humanitarian aid arrived for tens of thousands who fled the violence

Some aid has started to arrive in the Kyrgyz city of Osh and the surrounding areas after communal violence drove tens of thousands of people away from their homes.

Witnesses in the city of Osh say the situation is quieter, but aid is not reaching many vulnerable people, who are still afraid to leave their homes.

THURSDAY 17 JUNE

NAZIRA, A KYRGYZ WOMAN IN OSH, FEELS THAT KYRGYZ VICTIMS ARE RECEIVING LESS ATTENTION FROM THE MEDIA.

All TV and radio channels are showing only Uzbek victims. There are many victims from both sides. Kyrgyz people have relatives in villages outside Osh, so many have fled the city and the media is not covering what happened to them.

Start Quote

There are many people and whatever little [food] there is - it's not reaching those who need it”

End Quote Nazira

Me and my husband run a supermarket - it was burnt. My sister has a pharmacy - it was burnt. We know many Kyrgyz people whose homes were burnt too.

There's no shooting or violence right now, but the situation remains terrible because there is no food. Well, there is, but it's in Bishkek and at the airport.

There are many people and whatever little there is - it's not reaching those who need it.

Uzbek people are afraid to go to the town centre. Kyrgyz people can't go to certain neighbourhoods because they are barricaded. The road to the airport is not easily accessible - it leads to Uzbek villages and it's dangerous for Kyrgyz people to go there.

I really don't know who organised this. We've lived together for hundreds of years and there's friendship between the two people. I regularly speak to my Uzbek friends to find out what the situation is with them and if there's anything they need.

I know Kyrgyz people who have taken Uzbek friends in their houses to protect them from the violence.

OSH RESIDENT, WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GIVE HIS NAME, AND HAS LEFT HIS UZBEK NEIGHBOURHOOD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE LAST FRIDAY

The situation is better and aid is coming in right now - we had big planes landing last night. That's a good thing, but there's a poor distribution system.

They are giving the food to whoever is able to get to the distribution place. But many Uzbek people are afraid to leave their neighbourhoods, so they are not getting any of the aid.

Start Quote

There are very few people on the streets and most of them are Kyrgyz”

End Quote Anonymous Osh resident

I am on my way to talk to the International Red Cross. I want to tell them about this situation and offer my help with the distribution. I am also going to take some food to my immediate neighbours.

Right now what people need most is flour and cooking oil.

I can see the damage done since last week - many shops and business are burnt. Some shops are open now and there are people selling things on roadsides. We suspect some of the aid is being sold in this way. I also noticed that the prices are double.

There are very few people on the streets and most of them are Kyrgyz. So far I've seen only one or two Uzbeks.

There are checkpoints. Soldiers are stopping cars, going through documents and making sure there are no weapons.

A couple of Uzbek people from my neighbourhood got shot at a checkpoint yesterday. I don't know what happened exactly, they stop at first, but must have got scared and driven off. The soldiers opened fire.

One got hit in the shoulder and is recovering at home, the other is in hospital.

Right now there's a father with a baby in a pushchair in front of me. So, the situation is better, compared to what it was, though Uzbek people are still afraid.

RUSSIAN OLGA KRAYNENKO IS STILL AFRAID TO LEAVE HER HOUSE.

I am alone in my house, sitting here for days without much food and real information about what is going on in my town.

I am scared to leave the house. I don't feel there's any protection and I don't know what to expect from tomorrow, or even the next hour.

My area is quiet, but after what happened, I am too scared. I talk to my friends who live in different parts of Osh and the picture I've been getting from their accounts is that of real war.

I still can't believe that this is happening here and with us. It's like something you hear about some other place, but not your home town.

All of us are just sitting at home, we don't have normal life and we are running out of food.

MONDAY 14 JUNE

NAZIRA IS A KYRGYZ FROM OSH, NOW IN BISHKEK.

I came to [the Kyrgyz capital] Bishkek last week and now I can't return to Osh. All roads are blocked. But here in Bishkek I am more useful to people back home.

I am trying to be a mediator between the government and the Uzbeks in Osh. I have a close Uzbek friend, who is very respected in her community. I also have contacts with the staff working with the emergency situation minister.

Start Quote

There's definitely a third party - my family and friends spoke about people with masks driving cars without number plates”

End Quote Nazira

It's not easy getting the two sides to meet. The Uzbeks are very distrustful. They want humanitarian aid and guarantees for their safety. They also want Russian forces to protect them - they don't believe the Kyrgyz army will do that.

My family fled Osh in the beginning of the violence. There were all kinds of rumours, so my parents took my son and daughter and they fled to a remote village.

The attacks weren't only against Uzbeks. Those were more visible because Uzbeks live in houses made of straw and clay that are built very close to each other. When one house gets burnt - the whole area gets burnt. Kyrgyz people live in blocks of flats - those are more difficult to destroy.

Kyrgyz and Uzbek people are used to living together. This violence didn't happen spontaneously. True, there have been tensions in the past, but nothing like this.

There's definitely a third party. My family and friends spoke about people with masks driving cars without number plates. We don't know who they are, but they are not locals. Osh is not that big, residents know each other.

Many people have left. I have an Uzbek colleague who fled to Uzbekistan. She is now in a camp at the border with her son. She told me they had water and food but that they don't have proper toilets. It's very hot now and if this situation continues for a few more days, there's a danger that disease will spread.

Ethnic Uzbek man by burned houses in Osh, Kyrgyzstan (14 June 2010) Homes have been attacked and burnt

IBRAGIM MERZAKHMEDOV IS AN UZBEK WHO LIVES IN THE CENTRE OF OSH

There was some shooting, but the situation is pretty quiet now. We are still guarding our neighbourhood with our friends. Our area wasn't badly affected by the violence. The hotspot was in a different district, that's where so many houses and businesses were burnt. There are thousands of homeless people there.

On Saturday a group of people approached our roadblock. There were clashes and two people from our side were killed. I wasn't there and didn't see them, but the people who were around say that they looked like people who'd come from the rural areas.

Start Quote

We need help from the outside, whether it's Russia or Nato”

End Quote Ibragim Merzakhmedov

These are all rumours though, nobody knows what happened and why. I came home after graduating from university in Bishkek and this was the last thing I expected to happen. Everyone around me is shocked.

We can't leave the neighbourhood. Everything is closed and we can't get food. My father told me that a few friends of mine who left their homes have been captured as hostages by the other side. The rumour is that both sides are holding hostages, which they exchange. So it's not safe to go anywhere.

There's no doubt that the Uzbeks are being targeted. But I don't think it's normal ethnic tension. This is a very organised plan. There's a group who is sponsoring these people. There were snipers shooting at the people.

The scenario was planned for the referendum. They used the ethnic tension as a tool, to get the two groups to turn on each other. Those same people who started all this, they have fled to Jalalabad.

Now we have troops in Osh, special forces from Bishkek. The interesting thing is that the international community is not doing anything. Our government is not able to deal with the situation, we need help from the outside, whether it's Russia or Nato. Kyrgyzstan is in deadlock.

OSH RESIDENT, WHO PREFERS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS, DESCRIBES THE SITUATION IN HIS UZBEK NEIGHBOURHOOD.

I live in an Uzbek neighbourhood that was attacked on Saturday - we were in the middle of an intense standoff between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

The situation has calmed down since then. We hear some shooting. My neighbours have barricaded the neighbourhood. They've put trees across the streets and even dug up the streets to prevent tanks from coming in.

Start Quote

Uzbek elders have been trying to persuade their young armed men to stop fighting”

End Quote Anonymous Osh resident

Very soon the main issue for us will be food. We haven't left our homes since Friday. Nobody can leave or enter the neighbourhood. We are surrounded by the Kyrgyz military. There have been no food deliveries and we are beginning to run out of supplies.

I've got Kyrgyz friends on the outside and I've been talking to them and trying to arrange a food delivery. I am also trying to get the word out that there might be a delivery and we should stay calm. Hopefully such a food delivery by Kyrgyz people for Uzbeks will be seen as a goodwill gesture.

I know that the elders of the Uzbek community have been trying to persuade the young armed men to drop their weapons and to stop fighting. The people who are most angry are those who have lost family members. They are very upset and many have guns and they can't think clearly.

There are still many innocent people stuck in their houses. I know that two houses are now empty as the women and children have fled to Uzbekistan. The men are still here to guard their houses.

Everyone was surprised by this ethnic violence. I think there's definitely ethnic tension, but people are used to living together.

This was something that was intentionally done. I don't know where they came from, but they seemed well organised, well armed and things exploded very quickly.

SUNDAY 13 JUNE

GULNARA (NOT HER REAL NAME) IS AN ETHNIC UZBEK LIVING IN A MIXED AREA OF OSH

(As translated by her sister for the BBC.) Last night it was quiet, or at least quieter than before. We were hoping the situation had stabilised, but this is not the case, the situation today is a lot worse.

We're hiding in my flat in a mixed area of Osh. My dad's house is in the centre of Osh surrounded by burnt buildings. It has no gas, water or electricity so we had to come here. We have nowhere else to go.

We can hear gangs of Kyrgyz men walking on the streets. They are looking for us, for Uzbeks.

They have been knocking on our neighbours' doors asking where the Uzbeks live. Our neighbours have told them we have all left.

They are threatening to set fire to surrounding buildings and to our block of flats. I've overheard them say that they will burn the buildings and shoot us when we flee.

I don't know what to do, we are running out of food and have no where to go.

HAMID (NOT HIS REAL NAME) IS A PAKISTANI STUDENT LIVING IN OSH

Riots have been going on since Thursday night and they were steadily getting worse. I didn't know who was fighting whom.

There are two big bazaars here and they were set alight, I could even see the flames from my flat. Shops have been looted and gangs have occupied the streets.

I heard that they were cutting people with knives and killing them. I think thousands of people may have been killed in the last few days, not hundreds.

I saw the violence myself yesterday when I decided to go to a friend's flat. On the way back I got caught by a gang. I told them I was a Pakistani student and they let me go.

One Pakistani student was shot dead yesterday. And I've heard there are riots in other cities too. I am scared, I do not feel safe at the moment, but things seem to have calmed a little today.

At our flat, by the grace of Allah, we are safe. Thankfully we have enough food to last another few days, we weren't prepared for this otherwise we would have bought more. There is no gas but we have an electric stove so we can still cook.

I don't know what will happen next. I have spoken to some people and asked them when they think this is going to stop. "Not until the other ethnic group is finished" was the answer.

SATURDAY 12 JUNE

DILIA IS HIDING IN HER IN-LAW'S BASEMENT

"The situation is worse today. The fighting is getting worse. It is very close.

Start Quote

My baby is only three-and-a-half and scared to death. I cannot even describe what it is like to be having to hide down here”

End Quote Dilia

I can hear gunshots.

I can hear people shouting.

They are saying: 'They are coming.' When they say 'they', it is the Kyrgyz people that they are meaning - the ones who are attacking us Uzbek people.

We are still in the basement. We are trying not to go out. If we need something, we shout up to the men from our family, who are out on our street guarding us, to get whatever we need and bring it down to us.

The basement is about seven feet by seven feet. We have blankets because it is very cold down here.

We have no electricity. And no gas. Only water and some food that we were able to cook yesterday.

But we have been informed that something has been added to the water; that the water has been contaminated. We don't know who did this or if it is even true. But we cannot take risks because we have babies and so the men up above have made a fire with wood and are boiling water for us.

I charged my phone last night.

Yesterday there were four of us and five children but now we are six adults and seven children. The extras are my relatives - their house was set on fire. Everything was burnt down but they are alive.

They only saved their lives.

map

We are trying to save our food because we don't really have enough. So, us adults are trying to eat less and save it for our babies - the oldest of our children is only four-years-old.

My baby is only three-and-a-half and scared to death. I cannot even describe what it is like to be having to hide down here.

I haven't heard that Russia has been asked to come and help.

I cannot believe that 50 people have died. It is much more.

More than 150 have died and even more have been injured - around 600 maybe. From what I hear there are many people at the hospital but there is no medicine. Nothing to help.

We need help.

My husband is in the US and he cannot do anything to help.

I don't know what will happen."

This is what Dilia told the BBC News website on Friday 11 June:

"The situation is unstable, we can hear shots everywhere. Right now I am in the basement of the house of my parents-in-law. It's very scary here, I can't describe it. It's the first time I've heard gunshots. My cousin got shot in his leg and he is in the hospital right now.

Start Quote

My hands are shaking, I can't describe my fear”

End Quote Dilia

Two houses belonging to our relatives were burnt down yesterday and my relatives are in hospital, but I don't know anything more as we have no way of contacting them.

There are four of us, all women, and there are five children, including my young daughter. Two men from our family are out in the street to watch the area and keep us safe.

It started with gunshots in the middle of the night. We went to the basement straight away. The men have been out since then and we are constantly worrying about them.

I am also worried about my parents whose house is very close to where the shooting is taking place. I can't talk to them because phones are not working.

The gunshots won't stop and they seem to be coming closer and closer. We feel very vulnerable.

I came back home to Kyrgyzstan on 25 May. My husband and I have been living in California for the last five years. Things were calm after the April violence, but it seems the situation is getting very unstable now.

There's always been tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbek people. They say Kyrgyzstan should be for Kyrgyz people and that Uzbeks should get out. But this is our home, our roots are here, we have the right to live here.

My hands are shaking, I can't describe my fear."

Soldiers ride on an armoured vehicle along a street in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan [11 June 2010] The streets of Osh are filled with soldiers, tanks and roadblocks

FRIDAY 11 JUNE

ZOYA, ETHNIC RUSSIAN, LIVING IN AN UZBEK AREA

"We were woken up by gunfire around midnight. When I left the house in the morning I saw about a dozen helicopters flying over our neighbourhood. The street leading to our neighbourhood had been blocked with a barbed wire, stones and big tree branches.

Start Quote

I am afraid that if they keep telling us from TV screens that it's an ethnically - based clash, people will start believing it and react accordingly”

End Quote Zoya

A few men from our street went to that roadblock, I guess to guard it. I heard such roadblocks stand on many roads leading to Uzbek neighbourhoods.

We keep hearing sporadic gunfire. The men are still at the roadblock armed with sticks, some of which have a knife tied to the top. Many people, including children, are outside discussing the events. Children are playing.

I don't think ethnic tension is behind the clashes. I talked to my Uzbek neighbour this morning and she too doesn't think they are purely ethnic. We also have a Kyrgyz family living on our street and no-one has ever had a hostile attitude towards them.

We think that the clashes were provoked by the supporters of the former President Bakiyev in order to destabilise the situation before the referendum.

Around two weeks ago, the Kyrgyz national TV broadcast a recorded conversation between Bakiyev's son and his uncle - the former president's older brother.

The conversation was about stirring unrest before the referendum on 27 June. I believe today's situation and that conversation are connected.

I think the organisers of the clashes - and I think such events can't happen without a well prepared plan - had planned to have an ethnic tinge in order to provoke even greater violence.

I am of the strong opinion that it is a provocation. I am afraid that if they keep telling us from TV screens that's an ethnically - based clash, people will start believing it and react accordingly."

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