Situation of ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan reported to the UN CERD

Expert of the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial” spoke at a meeting, which the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) held with non-governmental organizations within the framework of the 95th session of the UN CERD, and presented a joint report made by the ADC “Memorial” and human rights movement “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan” (BDK) concerning the situation of ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan.

Despite the measures adopted by the Kyrgyzstan authorities in order to stabilize interethnic relations, the consequences of the tragic interethnic conflict that had shaken the country in 2010 remain unresolved.

Currently Kyrgyzstan has neither anti-discrimination legislation, nor any special programs, which aim to provide equal opportunities. The “Concept of Strengthening the Unity of People and Ethnic Relations in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan”, which was adopted in 2013, stated that its goal was to form a civil nation of the “people of Kyrgyzstan”, with the Kyrgyz language playing a unifying role, but in reality these principles were turned into instruments for suppressing minority rights and imposing the leading role of the country’s ethnic majority. Not speaking the state Kyrgyz language becomes a stigma for many, a cause for hate speech and even hate crimes. At the same time, the government has not established conditions for the quality teaching of the Kyrgyz language for children and adults, as well as conditions for studying and using the native languages ​​of ethnic minorities. Representation of ethnic minorities in state bodies, especially in the law enforcement and judicial agencies, is extremely low.

Members of ethnic minority groups often feel “unwanted” in Kyrgyzstan and do not see their future in a country that fails to provide true equality for all its citizens and fails to adequately counteract against the cases of discrimination. This is one of the reasons behind the massive labor migration and emigration of members of ethnic minority groups from Kyrgyzstan. Among the results of this disillusionment there is also growing religious radicalization, while the state’s fight against the so-called “extremism” often features ethnic profiling by the police and the judiciary apparatus. Problems of violations of the rights of children and women in closed ethnic communities, which include early marriages, domestic violence, imposition of religious schooling at the expense of the obligatory secular education, remain without proper attention and due reaction on the part of the state bodies.

Of particular concern is the situation of ethnic Uzbeks, who account for about 15% of the total population of Kyrgyzstan and as much as 28% of the population in the south of the country. The share of Uzbeks in the police force in the south of the country is about 6%, while there is not a single high-level officer among them; there are no Uzbeks in the top positions of the prosecutor’s office, very few ethnic Uzbeks work in the bodies of the judicial system. This becomes one of the reasons for bias in the investigation of criminal cases against Uzbeks and accusatory bias in consideration of such cases in courts. Justice for victims of interethnic conflict has not been restored. In a number of high-profile cases related to the events of 2010, Kyrgyzstan has not complied with the decisions of international bodies. For example, human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek, is still imprisoned. The massive transfer of schools to the Kyrgyz language of instruction, restrictions on the study of the mother tongue in schools and the use of the Uzbek language in public spheres, the abolition of the possibility to pass state examinations in Uzbek was perceived with extreme sensitivity by the Uzbek population of Kyrgyzstan.

Special attention should be paid to the situation of the Mugat (Lyuli) minority, the Central Asian Romani group. There is a large settlement of Mugat in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where several thousand people live. There is still a massive problem of the lack of identity documents among both children and adults there. People who lacked identity documents complained about the actions of police officers, which tried extorting bribes, and difficulties in access to medical assistance. Poverty remains a problem for many families. Begging continues to be a common occupation for women, and for some particularly poor families regular begging with the participation of children is the only means of livelihood. Violations of the rights of women and children do not meet with proper response of public authorities: there are cases of early marriage and polygamy. Police officers, who have regularly confronted the Mugat community, complained about the lack of methods of working with this group of population, which should take into account the specifics of this community.

Failure to receive quality school education for children of the Mugat community remains an acute problem, although the local schools accept children who do not have birth certificates. Schools also help illiterate parents to acquire identity documents for their children. The local school works only with the children of Mugat community, so integration with other children does not take place at all. Mugat speak a dialect of the Tajik language, while in the school all the education is conducted in the Kyrgyz language (until 2010 it was conducted in Uzbek). This constitutes a significant difficulty for children. The school was designed for about 150 pupils, but currently more than 500 children study there in four shifts in grades from 1 to 5. It also appears that not all children of the schooling age have been enrolled. For further education children have to go to a school in a neighboring settlement, but the number of students there has been reduced. Thus, in 2016 only 56 children have graduated after studying for 9 years. Full 11-year education is received by even fewer students, while only several students complete higher education. The school is not sufficiently equipped, there is a problem with even provision of textbooks.

Lack of land for housing and the problem of poverty in the Mugat settlement resulted in construction of houses from improvised materials without appropriate approvals from the local government and the local planning department. This in turn resulted in problems with registering the dwellings and connecting them to electricity and running water supply lines, as well as other communal services.

The most important general recommendations are:

– to develop and adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits all forms of discrimination and provides a clear definition of racial discrimination in accordance with international standards and the documents of the UN CERD;

– to change the existing anti-extremist legislation and the measures to combat extremism in order to make them an effective instrument to combat manifestations of violence motivated by racism and xenophobia and to avoid unreasonable restrictions on basic human rights;

– to take effective measures to counter hate crimes;

– to guarantee the linguistic rights of ethnic minorities.

With regards to all ethnic minorities living in Kyrgyzstan, which include sizeable populations of Uzbeks, Russians, Dungans, Uyghurs, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Azerbaijanis and others, as well as small minority groups, such as Ahiska (Meskhetians) Turks, representatives of the peoples of the Caucasus, Roma and others, it is recommended to protect members of ethnic minority groups from all forms of discrimination in education, employment, social services, from hate crimes and hate speech, including hate speech in the mass media.

Regarding justice for the Uzbek population it is recommended:

– to review the criminal cases related to the conflict in the south of Kyrgyzstan in 2010 and to restore justice and the rule of law;

– to implement the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee concerning the 2010 cases, in particular, to release human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov from detention and to adopt other similar decisions.

Regarding the Mugat minority it is recommended:

– to adopt and implement the state program of integrated support for Mugat aimed at overcoming structural discrimination, which should include positive measures to ensure issue of personal identity documents, the realization of the right to housing, quality education, employment, access to medical and social assistance.

In particular:
– to create and implement a simplified procedure for issuing of personal documents for children and adults of Mugat;
– to protect the right of Mugat children to adequate housing, to take measures to register dwellings and provide them with necessary resources;
– to pay special attention to the formation of Mugat, in particular, to improve the learning conditions for children of Mugat in school; to ensure that all school-age children are enrolled in schools; to ensure the transfer of all Mugat children from primary to secondary school in order to receive at least 9-year education; to encourage the aspiration of the Mugat children for secondary vocational and higher education; to take measures against the segregation of Mugat children in school, to create conditions for pre-school preparation of children, to include in the curriculum of pre-school institutions and junior schools special classes for enhanced language training; to create conditions for the education of adults who did not receive education for various reasons;

The work of Mugat public associations should be supported and educational activities to overcome xenophobia against Mugat minority should be organized.

The Report