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MRG calls for protection for minorities as ethnic Uzbeks flee violent attacks in Kyrgyzstan

14 June 2010

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the targeting of ethnic Uzbeks in recent attacks in Kyrgyzstan, and calls on state authorities to guarantee the security of minorities, who face a continued threat of violence.

According to the Kyrgyzstan Health Ministry, 118 people have been killed and 1,609 wounded in the violence between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks, which began on 10 June.

Reports say as many as 100,000 Uzbeks are attempting to flee the country and are awaiting entry into neighbouring Uzbekistan, whilst tens of thousands have already crossed the border.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government, which assumed power after a violent uprising which ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, is struggling to contain the violence in the country's south, which is home to an ethnic Uzbek minority of around one million. Some Uzbeks have accused security forces of failing to stop – or participating in – the attacks.

‘MRG calls on Kyrgyzstan’s government to take all necessary measures to protect its population, including minorities,’ says Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications.

There are also reports that the humanitarian situation in southern Kyrgyzstan is critical, with many ethnic Uzbeks trapped in their houses fearing mob rule on the streets, and unable to access food and supplies in the cities of Osh and Jala-Abad.

‘MRG is particularly worried that the violence could spiral out of control. The authorities must ensure that rule of law is re-established and that perpetrators are brought to justice,’ added Söderbergh.

MRG warned in April that political tension in Kyrgyzstan could take on an ethnic character and called on the interim government to act firmly and prevent an escalation of violence.