(Washington, DC--March 4, 2002) A leading dissident from Kyrgyzstan warns that applying double standards to the regimes in Central Asia presents a real danger to both the citizens of those countries and even the United States. Topchubek Turgunaliev, a Kyrgyz human rights activist, spoke recently to an audience at RFE/RL on the importance of "external pressure" to help internal reformers bring about a peaceful transition of power in Kyrgyzstan and the other Central Asian post-Soviet states.
In light of the September 11 attacks in the United States, Turgunaliev said, democratically-minded people support the war on terrorism. However, the U.S. needs to be careful not to abandon those fighting for human and civic rights in Kyrgyzstan and the rest of Central Asia while providing millions of dollars to the region's authoritarian regimes. According to Turgunaliev, "Our presidents, like the 'khans' of old, have used this situation to increase their power."
Turgunaliev, an author of Kyrgyzstan's declaration of independence in 1990, said that President Askar Akaev was clinging to power much like other former communist party bosses in neighboring countries. Turgunaliev called the Akaev regime's attempts to instill fear among the citizenry by jailing thousands of critics of his government's policies "state terrorism," noting that he had personally spent 1,184 days in Akaev's jails and prisons.
Turgunaliev said that the current cycle of protests and government response in Kyrgyzstan is tied to the January 2002 imprisonment of parliament member Azimbek Beknazarov. Beknazarov, the chairman of the parliament's Committee on Judicial Reform, called for President Akaev's impeachment last spring, on the grounds that Akaev had given away Kyrgyz territory to China in a previously secret border agreement -- an action that Turgunaliev called "unconstitutional." Turgunaliev said that the opposition had met in a "Peoples' Congress" in November and agreed to field a coalition candidate whenever presidential elections are held.