In March 2005, thousands of Kyrgyz citizens stood up to defend democracy in their homeland after parliamentary elections were held that the opposition claimed were seriously flawed. Through courage and determination, they showed the world that the love of liberty is stronger than the will of tyranny.
The resulting ouster of President Askar Akayev, known as the Tulip Revolution, resulted in a major improvement in the Kyrgyz Government’s respect for human rights, which is an essential foundation for democracy. However, democratic institutions remain fragile pending constitutional, electoral, media and judicial reforms and anti-corruption initiatives.
A particular concern in Kyrgyzstan is the increase in politically-motivated violence. In the last several months, three members of parliament have been killed. Most recently, Edil Baisalov, head of the non-governmental organization Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society in Bishkek, was severely beaten by an unidentified assailant. Mr. Baisalov had organized demonstrations to protest the influence of criminal groups on the political situation in Kyrgyzstan. The assault is seen by many as an attempt to intimidate those who are working to promote human rights and democracy in Kyrgyzstan.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan condemned the attack on Mr. Baisalov. "This cowardly act," the statement said, "was not only an assault on an individual, but also an assault on civil society and on the principle of freedom of speech. [The U.S.] view[s] this attack as a serious escalation of the troubling political violence that has occurred in Kyrgyzstan over the past year."
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights have joined the U.S. in calling on the Kyrgyz government to fully investigate the attack on Mr. Baisalov. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has also expressed its concern over attempts by members of organized crime in Kyrgyzstan to become members of parliament.
The assault on Mr. Baisalov is a stark reminder to the Kyrgyz government that in order for genuine democracy to thrive, organized crime and corruption must be swiftly confronted, and Kyrgyzstan’s vibrant yet fragile civil society must be protected.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.