Yesterday saw an ethnically-motivated riot in the small Kyrgyz village Petrovka, some 40 kilometres from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. About 100 people have been arrested following a rampage through the town where they attacked homes of ethnic Kurds. Several homes were destroyed and dozens of cars were smashed.
Authorities are investigating whether or not the rioting had been caused by ‘ethnic, racial, or inter-regional hatred.’ Original reports coming from Petrovka claimed Russian and Kyrgyz villagers were seeking revenge on the Kurdish community for the alleged rape of a young girl by a 21-year old Kurdish man. Authorities now deny the rape took place and are blaming opposition groups for the riots.
There are some 30,000 ethnic Kurds in the Kyrgyz Republic. Most arrived in the late 1930s and early ’40s from Soviet Georgia and Soviet Azerbaijan as part of Stalin’s purges and measures to empty the regions along the external borders of the Soviet Union from populations that potentially might be sympathetically disposed towards the neighbouring states, ie Turkey and Iran. Most of the Kurds in Kyrgyzstan today are Shi’i.
In 1987-88, ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring countries of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan forced many of the Kurds to leave these republics. Most of them settled in Krasnodar (southwestern Russia), where many Kurdish refugees from Armenia were located.
In Petrovka, there are approximately 100 Kurdish families and they have been there since the beginning of the 1990s. Some 200 local Russians and Kyrgyz gathered today in town (photo) to demand that all Kurds leave the village within 24 hours or face violence.
50 arrested after riots, The Straits Times, 27 April 2009, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/World/Story/STIStory_369270.html
Investigators suspect ethnic hatred behind mass fight in Kyrgyz village, Kyiv Post, 27 April 2009, http://www.kyivpost.com/world/40282
Kyrgyzstan Arrests 100 After Anti-Kurdish Riots, EasyBourse, 27 April 2009, http://www.easybourse.com/bourse-actualite/marches/update-kyrgyzstan-arrests-100-after-anti-kurdish-riots-657563
Russian villagers attack Kurdish homes in Central Asia, Reuters, 27 April 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLR94745
van Bruinessen, Martin. The Impact of the Dissolution of the Soviet Union on the Kurds, Paper presented at the international conference on Islam and Ethnicity in Central Asia, St Petersburg, 14-18 October, 1995.