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Kyrgyzstan: Amnesty International Demands Investigation of Dispersion of March 8 Peace Walk

According to experts, provocateurs and the police were together during the dispersion of the March 8 peace walk in Bishkek. No one has claimed responsibility for the things that happened and the response of the authorities is unclear.

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Amnesty International demanded the investigation of the police actions during the March 8 peace walk in support of women’s rights in Bishkek. The statement of the international organisation also notes the failure of the police to protect peace walk participants from the unknown persons.

“Besides, the authorities have to compensate to peaceful protesters for their voluntary detention and for the violation of their freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Moreover, they need to identify the attackers and bring them to justice,” the statement reads.

Also, the UN expressed its concern with the situation.

“It is not only the obligation of the state to offer protection from violence and from threats of violence to all citizens. When the state agencies fail to act against the perpetrators of intimidation and violence, they create the unintended impression in the minds of the public that those masked men and all those perpetuating hate and intolerance have the support of the state,” according to the statement.

However, according to activist Azamat Attokurov, the authorities of Kyrgyzstan were in collusion with the provocateurs. This is why the police officers failed to detain them, but apprehended the participants of the campaign.

“Those people were puppets. They cried out standard canned statements about LGBT, “pro-westerners”, “grant eaters”. These statements have been known for a long time. The authorities do not coordinate their actions. The model of peaceful protest suppression by security agencies has failed, which was witnessed by the world. This is a lesson for the future. The solution of such issues with the help of security agencies is not efficient, but taints the already-tarnished image of the country,” Attokurov said.

Photo: Kloop.kg

The masks are still there

A peaceful walk in support of women’s rights was supposed to take place in Bishkek on March 8. However, it was disrupted by provocateurs first, and then by police officers.

Young men wearing masks and kalpaks met women who took to the Victory Square with banners and placards. As a result, the banners were destroyed, placards were torn to pieces, children who accompanied some participants of the peace walk were scared. Instead of stopping the perpetrators, the police detained the organisers and participants of the peace walk.

One of the walk organisers, artist and activist Altyn Kapalova was injured during the dispersion of the walk and mass detentions and registered the injuries. She and some other journalists claimed that police officers used physical force against the detained.

On the same day, press secretary of the prime minister of Kyrgyzstan Adilet Sultanaliev said to Radio Azattyk that police actions were justified as the mayor’s office did not give permission to the protest of Bishkek Feminist Initiatives Association.

However, the next day, March 9, the General Prosecutor’s Office refuted that fact and said that mayor’s prohibition was illegal because:

According to Article 34 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, everyone shall have a right to freedom of peaceful assembly. […]Prohibition and limitation on conduct of a peaceful assembly shall not be allowed; the same applies to refusal to duly ensure it failing to submit notice on conduct of free assembly.

Candies instead of the Constitution

The March 8 walks were prepared not only in Bishkek, but in Osh and Osh region. For some reasons, these walks were cancelled. The practicing lawyer based in Osh, Mukhayo Abraupova, thinks the events were cancelled because of fear.

“The campaign was organised and planned by a relatively young organisation that does not have a proper support so far. Just before the protest, they received a call warning them to refuse from participation, as the campaign was not allegedly agreed. And they cancelled their event. Had they more support, I think they would hold the event,” Abraupova said.

However, peace walks were held in the south of the country with no detentions and provocations.

In Nookat, police officers supported the peace walk. They accompanied the participants of the campaign, mainly women and adolescents. It is worth mentioning that since the start of the year 20 cases of domestic violence against women, children, old people and even men were registered in Nookat.

“At the highest level, they say that such protests are a violation of traditions and principles, and that it’s a common practice to present candies and flowers to women. They don’t understand that March 8 is a day of solidarity in the struggle for equal rights. In our case, this is an opportunity to be heard and protected,” Abraupova said.

Photo: Igor Kovalenko / EPA / TASS

Reactions to scandal

The reaction of the authorities to the incident that took place on March 8 was ambiguous. According to the press service of Chief Directorate of Internal Affairs of Bishkek, six women activists and five men provocateurs were detained that day. Moreover, it is still unclear on whose behalf the latter acted.

The national patriotic movement “Kyrk choro”, which was against the feminnale earlier, also tried to disrupt the peaceful walk of March 8, 2018. This time, they refuted they were involved in provocations and disruption. The leader of the organisation, Zamirbek Kochorbaev, told to the media that his organisation and he did not have any relation to the actions of young men attacking the women.

“We did not provoke anyone during the walk for women’s rights. We were just standing apart, which is not prohibited. Neither me, nor the members of our movement have nothing to do with those who attacked the women. We do not know them and did not see them among the detained in the Department of Internal Affairs of Sverdlovsky district,” Kochorbaev said (as cited on 24.kg).

The authorities of Kyrgyzstan showed no clear reaction. Two days after the dispersion of the peace walk, the press service of the government reported that the head of the cabinet Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev urged the parties to avoid any conflicts during the campaigns with the participation of citizens.

The ombudsman’s staff demanded to bring police officers to disciplinary action not for the detention of the participants of the peace walk, but for not letting their staff contact the detained.

Some members of parliament wrote some critical posts in social media, and at the session of the Zhogorku Kenesh they discussed whether the protest for women’s rights was a gay pride parade or not.

Azamat Attokurov thinks we should not expect any clear reaction or investigation from the authorities. However, all the affected people should go to courts, GKNB and other agencies.

“The state machine should be filled with such cases, every participant of the March 8 protest should write a statement to make the machine work and see their methods were ineffective. Courts won’t solve anything but the system will understand its actions are asymmetric and improper,” Attokurov said.

The expert in security and ex-deputy chair of GKNB, Artur Medetbekov, noted that officers of Sverdlovsky district interior department who detained the women made gross mistakes. Anyway, it is their chiefs, not regular officers who will be held liable because the latter fulfil their commands and follow the instructions.

“Their task is to work proactively to avoid provocations and to ensure the security of citizens. However, police officers failed to stop an outrage of young men. The regulatory agency, namely the General Prosecutor’s Office, should give legal evaluation of their actions,” Medetbekov said.

In the interview to Elgezit, human rights activist Dinara Oshurakhunova said she was sure that the attackers were police officers in disguise. All their actions were too coordinated and clear.

Member of Parliament Dastan Bekeshev shared her point of view.

 “This group was acting and their actions were coordinated with police officers, who fulfil orders of the ministry of interior affairs. I don’t know if the president knew if everything would happen this way,” Bekeshev said.

The UN in its statement noted that Kyrgyzstan saw lately numerous cases of domestic violence, intolerance, hatred and pressure against individual activists and public organisations protecting women’s rights.  This alarming trend can “undermine the promises in achieving SDGs, restrict the voice and participation of women, space for civil actions in the Kyrgyz Republic.”

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.

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