Cahal Milmo: Has the Tulip Revolution wilted?

Kyrgyzstan Notebook

Share
Related Topics

In the wake of its 2005 "Tulip Revolution", Kyrgyzstan was lauded as a beacon for democracy in a region better known for crackpot dictators with a tendency to rename months in their honour and build statues of themselves that rotate to constantly face the sun.

But on the snowy streets of Bishkek, the capital of this former Soviet colony sandwiched between China and the rest of central Asia, there is increasing evidence of a backward slide in the march away from the political repression of the past. A Washington-based human rights watchdog, Freedom House, this month downgraded Kyrgyzstan to the status of "not free".

For the past fortnight, activists have held a "rotating hunger strike" in Bishkek and the southern town of Osh following the imprisonment of Ismail Isakov, a senior opponent of the hero of the Tulip Revolution and current president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Critics say the sentencing of Isakov, a former defence minister, for corruption is part of a steady centralisation of power by Mr Bakiyev, which has taken place amid a spate of bloody attacks on journalists and activists. The EU has expressed particular concern about the murder last month of the Kyrgyz journalist Gennadiy Pavluk, who was thrown from a sixth floor window in neighbouring Kazakhstan with his hands and feet bound together.

The Kazakh authorities implicated three men who they said were members of the Kyrgyz secret services, a claim firmly denied by the President.

In the meantime, Mr Bakiyev has been accused of building a dynasty. His son, Maksim, a wealthy entrepreneur, was recently appointed by his father as head of the powerful state agency which controls all inflows of foreign money as well as Kyrgyzstan's gold and hydroelectric industries. He seems to be a chip off the old block. On a visit to China last month, he expressed an interest in buying surveillance drones to fly over Bishkek.

Shaken, but not stirred

While a few centimetres of snow brings prudent British drivers to a juddering halt, their Kyrgyz counterparts show no such fear in the face of the white stuff.

I learnt the perils of such bravado when, travelling to the airport last weekend, my ride hit a patch of black ice and went into a terrifying spin. After bouncing off the central reservation (twice) and narrowly missing a lamp post, the driver got out, kicked the tyres, nodded his approval and got back in as if nothing had happened.

It is surely no coincidence that the chief of the Kyrgyz state road safety department last week reported a sharp rise in car accidents with five deaths and 52 injuries in the first 19 days of January.

I could eat a horse

Vegetarians beware, the Kyrgyz like their meat. And they love nothing more than a steaming plate of "beshbarmak" – a robust stew of boiled meat served in a broth of noodles. The dish I enjoyed was made with a leg of horse. Delicious. And not a vegetable in sight.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

£12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: Do you have a passion...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Yorkshire Terrier waits to be judged during the Toy and Utility day of the Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham  

There are no winners at Crufts. Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a 'beauty' pageant

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Daily catch-up: how come Ed Miliband’s tuition fee ‘cut’ is so popular, then?

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn