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Saturday, December 03, 2005

 

Kazakhstan shuts Kyrgyz border

From the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor:

On November 29 Kazakhstan imposed new restrictions along the state border with Kyrgyzstan "to prevent possible penetration into Kazakhstan of unwanted elements" ahead of presidential elections on December 4 (Kazinform, November 30). Dozens of Kyrgyz traders were not able to cross the busy Kyrgyz-Kazakh Qordai customs point, and some 230 Kyrgyz citizens were arrested and deported from Almaty, according to Kubanychbek Isabekov, head of the Kyrgyz parliamentary committee on labor migration (Akipress, November 30). Besides the economic implications of tightened control on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border, the move also carries strong symbolic undertones.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had persistently declared that a democratic "color revolution" is not possible in Kazakhstan, hinting that the March 24, 2005, Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan brought instability and chaos to that country. The Kazakh media have focused solely on negative events such as looting in Bishkek, the numerous demonstrations, and political assassinations in the wake of the new political regime in Kyrgyzstan.

The closure of the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border and deportation of migrants had no advance warning. The first explanation was the alleged involvement of Kyrgyz citizens in setting fires at four large bazaars in Almaty last week. The fires caused an estimated loss of $5,000-$400,000 per stall and overall damage ran into millions of dollars. But the Kazakh Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Umurzak Uzbekov, rejected this version of events, saying that different security reasons had guided the border shutdown and noted that Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik migrants were deported as well (Akipress, November 30). However, it was clear that Kyrgyz citizens were the main targets.

The Kazakh border will remain closed to Kyrgyz citizens until around December 8-10. The International Organization for Migration is providing the deported migrants, who come from different parts of Kyrgyzstan, with shelter in northern Kyrgyz cities and small sums of money (Akipress, November 30).

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