Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Chaos, I mean Cup

The dark living room glowed pulsating green as the World Cup played on TV. Happily pinched on the couch between my roommates, Manu from Tajikistan and Ilhom from Kyrgyzstan, I thought for a moment we had chosen these circumstances.

Our range of nationalities could serve as material for a new line of jokes that start “so a Canadian, Tajik and Kyrgyz man walk into a bar...” however the reason that had us confined to the apartment on a Friday night was no laughing matter.

Southern Kyrgyzstan has been hit with a new round of fighting and without knowing if the violence will spread north we are under self-imposed house arrest. On Friday a burst of riots added yet another round of bloodshed to what has already been a turbulent and trying time for this country since the revolution on April 7th.

The World Cup provided only short jabs of distraction. Typically, when football matches reach halftime, coverage turns to other matches, goals, and discussion about the ensuing half, but the three of us watched as footage of burning buildings and new causality numbers filled the gap in play and never returned to cover the second half.

Ilhom's cellphone is constantly ringing, receiving updates from his friends about the violence. I feel a personal connection to this conflict because of Ilhom. Although he has been working in Bishkek for several months his family, including his wife and two beautiful daughters live in Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, a 10/12 hour drive from Bishkek, and currently the center of fighting. As of now his family is safe.

My questions about why this fighting erupted again in the south are answered with indirect frustration. On several occasions people have alluded to the possibility of young men being paid small amounts of money to essentially “raise hell”. To say who would fund such violence only expands this unsubstantiated argument. However, I have my guess as to who would have the means and desire but that's all it is, a guess.

Regardless of what sparked this renewed surge of violence there are certainly enough underlying issues at play to support this instability for weeks to come. Twenty years of tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. A weak interim government. Hesitation by nations to lend military support to quell the uprising. And few employment opportunities for the young, dejected, drunk, and rebellious.

Far from the football pitch, a world away from the world's game, a different battle is being waged in Kyrgyzstan. Their fight is against senseless violence, corruption, and ethnic fighting. Their goal is for peace not points. They seek an end to the chaos not a gold cup.

Follow up: The baker in the last post, Zahril, is Uzbek. It happened that yesterday I went to pay him a visit. I found his shop locked up like he hadn't been there in years. It was the first time I had seen it closed since arriving in Bishkek. Certainly he feared being targeted as Kyrgyz/Uzbek tensions build.

1 comment:

The Dude said...

um. so it's raining in spokane. that's sucks. i guess. i wonder if my friend's new wakeboard will fit my feet. Did you know that some people spend 22 hours over three days putting up home made wedding lights for a 2hr reception? I do now.

In other news: corn has popped through, pumpkin and squash are in for fall, strawberries have berries; onions amongst them and ants ate my new raspberry shoots. damn.

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