(Washington, DC--December 18, 2002) A long-time human rights leader in Kyrgyzstan told a RFE/RL audience last week that Kyrgyzstan has a chance to regain its reputation as an "island of democracy" because the country now has "all the prerequisites" for the regime to collapse and a new government to emerge.
Topchubek Turgunaliev, a former political prisoner and leader of the Erkindik Party, one of the first democratic movements in Kyrgyzstan, said that "[President Askar] Akayev and his cronies are clinging to power" and may survive for another year. But, his focus was on the growing strength of the democratic opposition in Kyrgyzstan, where "there is a process of increased political activism," Turgunaliev said.
Turgunaliev said that a new and democratic government would be a better partner for the United States because it would focus on the roots of terrorism as it built a secular state. He charged the United States and the West with "employ[ing] a double-standard" because "there is lots of talk about democracy and human rights, but at the end of the day, the West finances corruption in my country and supports repression." Turgunaliev urged the West to understand the harm that is caused by the "ambiguity of policy" in the countries of Central Asia, and "alleviate this double standard".
The democratic opposition of Kyrgyzstan is calling for the resignation of President Akayev, Turgunaliev said, for several reasons. According to the opposition, Akayev has usurped power through unfair elections, violated the country's constitution by extending his term of office to a fourth term when there is a limit of two terms, consistently violated the human and civil rights of the people of Kyrgyzstan, and worked against the "sovereign interests" of Kyrgyzstan by arbitrarily ceding territory to China and Kazakhstan.
The International League for Human Rights honored Turgunaliev and several other human rights leaders at its annual Defenders' Day Ceremony in New York City on December 9, 2002.