Tension Spills Into Streets of Bishkek After Fight Involving Foreigners

Image: СЕЙЧАС KG Telegram, May 13

Police in riot gear deployed in part of Kyrgyzstan’s capital overnight as large crowds gathered in anger over an alleged fight between local and foreign people which was widely circulated on social media. The Kyrgyz government later reported that 28 people, including three foreigners had been injured in the incident, whilst four foreign citizens were arrested for incitement.

The crowds milled around some intersections of Bishkek for hours before dispersing early Saturday, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs said the situation was stable. Riot police cordoned off areas where the mobs had gathered and negotiated with the protesters in order to head off any further confrontations.

The incident appeared to reflect tension over the presence in Kyrgyzstan of migrants. Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs is taking steps to tighten monitoring and penalties for foreigners who violate immigration laws, Kaktus Media reported.

The fight which led to the wider conflagration happened at a hostel on May 13. Rumors spread on social media, and a video showing Kyrgyz students fighting with medical students from Egypt went viral. People started gathering on Friday night to show their dissatisfaction with what they said was the lax treatment of foreigners involved in the fight. However, police said three foreigners were detained on suspicion of hooliganism, the AKIpress news outlet reported. It said the suspects appeared in a video, apologizing for the fight and saying they would accept their punishment.

“All measures were taken in a timely manner, they were detained, legal measures will be taken against them,” said Azamat Toktonaliev, head of Bishkek´s Internal Affairs Directorate. He told AKIpress that Kyrgyz citizens were invited to testify as witnesses and were not detained.

Kyrgyzstan has expressed concern about the plight of some of its own citizens who travel to Russia in search of employment and have faced official scrutiny and sporadic harassment there.

In the wake of the violence, diplomatic delegations from Pakistan and India have advised their students in Bishkek to stay indoors.

Stephen M. Bland

Stephen M. Bland

 Stephen M. Bland is a journalist, author, editor, commentator and researcher specialising in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Prior to joining The Times of Central Asia, he has worked for NGOs, think tanks, as the Central Asia expert on a forthcoming documentary series, for the BBC, The Diplomat, EurasiaNet, and numerous other publications.
Published in 2016, his book on Central Asia was the winner of the Golden Laureate of Eurasian Literature. He is currently putting the finishing touches to a book about the Caucasus.

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