Rayhan Demytrie: At the crossing, they beg to go home. But there is no room for them

Eyewitness: on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border
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The Independent Online

The charred streets of Osh show the material damage wreaked by the past days of riots and pogroms, but the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan has become the epicentre of the human suffering.

Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have crossed over into Uzbekistan, but authorities there have said that they will not let through any more refugees, as the country cannot cope. At the border the wounded and the desperate beg to be let in, though few were successful today.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people are stranded here, mostly women and children, too scared to go back to their homes but unable to cross into Uzbekistan. Every time people see an Uzbek border guard, desperate pleas go up among the crowd, but to no avail. This is a well-guarded border, lined with barbed wire and heavily manned, so there have been no attempts to cross illegally.

One woman with a head wound was trying to cross to get medical attention. She told me she had been beaten repeatedly over the head by a group of youths wielding sticks. "Women have been raped, children have been killed," she wailed. "Who is going to help us? Where are we going to go?"

A lot of people are voicing the shocking accusation that Kyrgyz military units took part in the riots. People speak of shooting coming from armoured vehicles, which were then followed by marauding gangs of youths, though there is no way to verify whether these were military vehicles seized by protesters or still in the control of soldiers.

With whole neighbourhoods burned to the ground it will be a long time before these people can return to living any kind of normal life back inside Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, many are wondering if they will ever be back.

Rayhan Demytrie is Central Asia correspondent for the BBC

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