For IRIN News:
OSH, 26 May 2015 (IRIN) – Zahira doesn’t like to return to the site, a concrete slab which covers the entrance to the cellar where her twin brother Hassan hid.
“Most of us women and children went to camps at the border [with Uzbekistan], but the men stayed behind to protect our homes,” said Zahira*. Hassan was among them.
“I called him around noon and he said they were hiding in the cellar. I called again at 5pm and no one answered.”
Zahira returned the next evening to check the house. It had been burnt to the ground with Hassan and his four children still inside. They were all dead.
Next month it will be five years since that day – the peak of the 2010 ethnic riots in southern Kyrgyzstan known locally as “the war.”
Mobs of Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths clashed for days. The bulk of the damage was done to the Uzbek community, which accounts for only 15 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s national population but represents a near majority in southern cities like Osh and Jalalabad.
At least 418 people died, two-thirds of them Uzbeks, an ethnic group that has straddled the border of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for more than 500 years. Another 400,000 Uzbeks were displaced by the fighting, many of them seeking refuge in Uzbekistan.
Five years on, human rights inquiries have been quashed, those responsible enjoy impunity, while the Uzbek minority is still victimised. There is growing fear that the widening ethnic gap in southern Kyrgyzstan, along with a rise in Kyrgyz nationalism, could fuel another bout of clashes.