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Kyrgyz Republic

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The Tulip Revolution refers to the overthrow of President Askar Akayev and his government in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan after the parliamentary elections of February 27 and of March 13, 2005. The revolution sought the end of rule by Akayev and by his family and associates, who in popular opinion had become increasingly corrupt and authoritarian. Following the revolution, Akayev fled to Kazakhstan and then Russia. On April 4 he signed his resignation statement in the presence of a Kyrgyz parliamentary delegation in his country's embassy in Moscow, and on April 11 the Kyrgyz Parliament ratified his resignation.

In the early stages of the revolution, the media variously referred to the unrest as the "Pink,"[1] "Lemon",[2] "Silk", or "Daffodil" Revolution. But it was "Tulip Revolution," a term that Akayev himself used in a speech warning that no such Color Revolution should happen in Kyrgyzstan.[3] Such terms evoked similarities with the non-violent Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, whose names owe a debt to the 1989 Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution.

Givi Targamadze, a former member of Liberty Institute and the chair of Georgian Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, consulted Ukrainian opposition leaders on the technique of nonviolent struggle, and later he advised leaders of Kyrgyz opposition during the Tulip Revolution.[4]

The Tulip Revolution, despite being concurrent with other non-violent color revolutions, saw some violence in its initial days, most notably in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, where the first major signs of violence were noted, and at least three people died during widespread looting in the capital in the first 24 hours after the fall of the Kyrgyz government.


Post-election violence

Protests ended prior to the announcement of election results in many western and southern areas, and became more assertive as time passed. On March 18, hundreds of demonstrators occupied the governor's office in the southern city of Jalal-Abad and another government building in Osh. Protesters in the southern town of Toktogul took a district governor and chief district prosecutor captive, both of them having been accused of colluding with Akayev's government in electoral fraud.[5]

In the early hours of March 20, 2005 police attempted to recapture the buildings by force. Injuries to several demonstrators and a police officer were reported, as authorities temporarily detained hundreds of civilians in these areas. In the following hours, crowds surged to re-take the building in Jalal-Abad. The nearby police station quickly became a focal point for confrontations. Stone-throwing protesters stormed the station, causing some officers to take to the roof and fire warning shots in the air. The crowds forced open the doors of the building and witnesses observed people throwing Molotov cocktails into the windows.[6]

By the following day, March 21, around 1,000 demonstrators in Osh occupied the regional administration building, a police station and a television station, as well as the Osh Airport. Most security forces escaped unhurt, but rioters caught and assaulted two, before parading them on horseback through the city square.[7]

On March 22 activists seized another administrative building, in the southern town of Pulgon. A day later, the capital Bishkek saw its first demonstrations. A few hundred people gathered in Ala-Too Square, the city's main square, but police broke up the rally before it could begin. Officers hit some of the crowd with sticks and arrested a number of organizers. Those detained allegedly included members of opposition newspapers, students, NGO leaders, writers and members of the KelKel youth movement. Protestors also took over Kadamjai in the south and the northern towns of Talas and Kochkor.

Opposition unity

Prior to the election, opposition to the Kyrgyz government suffered from internal division. In the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions, opposition groups united in removing their respective governments, but this did not occur in Kyrgyzstan. Various forces had joined together to contest the election as a coalition, however several of these groups existed prior to the polls. The opposition lacked an obvious leader or a single candidate who could have inspired people to protest, thus leaving the field open for more spontaneous populist revolts. The more vocal critics of the allegedly electoral fraud included Roza Otunbaeva, a former Kyrgyz foreign minister and ambassador to the UK and the US, and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former Prime Minister who resigned his post after police shot and killed five peaceful demonstrators in the southern town of Aksy in 2002.

Thousands of people attended a rally in Osh on March 19 as an opposition congress, called a kurultai, set up a "people's council" in a challenge to the local administration and proclaimed it as a parallel government. One of its leaders, Anvar Artykov, announced: "We will keep this authority until all of our demands and problems will be resolved. We are an interim power. We can talk about the fulfillment of our tasks when the current government will be replaced by a government that is trusted by the nation."[8]

Otunbaeva said on March 21 that police officers in Jalal-Abad had switched sides in massive numbers. "Policemen, including high-ranking officers, took off their uniforms, changed into civilian clothes and joined our ranks. So we have substantial support."[9] Journalists could not independently verify these reports.

Government reaction

Following the violence on March 21, Akayev ordered the Central Election Commission and Supreme Court to investigate alleged violations. He ordered the commission and court "to pay particular attention to those districts where election results provoked extreme public reaction ... and tell people openly who is right and who is wrong".[10]

On March 23, Akayev announced the dismissal of Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov and of the General Prosecutor Myktybek Abdyldayev for "poor work" in dealing with the growing protests against his government.[11]

Regime Change

By March 23 the protest movement had become widespread, particularly in some of the majority Uzbek southern towns, having gained momentum in the wake of allegations of massive fraud and manipulations during the elections. The opposition appeared to unify to some extent around two main opposition leaders: former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev and former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva.

On Thursday, March 24, protests spread to Bishkek, where a large crowd of tens of thousands of people gathered in front of the main government building. When security forces and pro-government provocateurs began beating a number of youthful demonstrators in the front ranks, the main crowd behind them closed ranks and a large number of the young swept past the security forces and stormed into the government headquarters. They also occupied the building of the state television. A number of skirmishes took place between the opposition and police, before sheer force allowed a throng of protesters to overrun government offices—which crowds of young men then vandalized.

That same day, President Akayev fled with his family by helicopter to Kazakhstan, from where he subsequently flew to Moscow. At that point, he refused to resign. Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev resigned as the opposition took control of key state organs including State Television, and the police melted away or joined the protesters. Imprisoned opposition leaders, including Felix Kulov, were released and the Kyrgyz Supreme Court declared the election results invalid.

The newly-elected parliament named Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a southerner, as acting Prime Minister and acting President. Felix Kulov, released a day earlier and at the time considered by many to be the one man capable of uniting the erstwhile opposition groupings, made a television appeal for calm. With the breakdown of law and order, mobs looted stores and ATMs in Bishkek during the night, and a number of buildings were set on fire. By March 25 reports emerged of many casualties, including three deaths, and some looting continued. Bakiyev appointed Kulov acting Interior Minister, with instructions to restore order in the capital. An interim cabinet was appointed, consisting of a varied collection of individuals representing different anti-Akayev groups and clans.

On March 26, armed supporters of former president Akayev reportedly tried to enter Bishkek in force, but turned back when it became apparent that they would not meet much support in the capital. They acted on the orders of Kenesh Dushebaev, former acting Interior Minister, and Temirbek Akmataliev, until then minister of emergency affairs and previously minister of the interior and responsible for the killing of five unarmed demonstrators in the southern town of Aksy in 2002. Akmataliev, a very close associate of Akayev, later (on March 29) announced that he would run in the planned new presidential elections.


By March 28, gradual stabilization of the political situation appeared to have taken place. The "old" parliament dissolved itself, and the "new" parliament gained recognition as legitimate (although a number of individual seats remained in dispute and subject to review by courts). This drew some protests from people who argued that the street outpourings justified more radical reform, but the power brokers in the country seemed to consider it preferable to have the forces represented in the new parliament on the inside rather than the outside.

On April 2, Akayev agreed to resign as President. A Kyrgyz delegation traveled to Moscow to obtain his signature on the necessary document, and on April 3 Akayev announced on Russian television that he would resign with effect from April 5. He signed a declaration to this effect in the Kyrgyz embassy in Moscow on April 4. The Kyrgyz parliament debated for a week before finally accepting his resignation on April 11, but not without first stripping him and his family members of many privileges that the previous parliament had granted to them.

Aftermath of revolution

New presidential elections were held in July 2005 and, after having made a political deal with Felix Kulov, Kurmanbek Bakiyev won a landslide victory and subsequently appointed Kulov Prime Minister.

Despite hopes the revolution would bring democratic change to Kyrgyzstan, subsequent years have seen the murder of several prominent politicians, prison riots, economic ills and battles for control of lucrative businesses.[12][13][14][15] In 2006, Bakiyev faced a political crisis as thousands of people participated in a series of protests in Bishkek. He was accused of not following through with his promises to limit presidential power, give more authority to parliament and the prime minister, and eradicate corruption and crime. Bakiyev claimed that the opposition was plotting a coup against him.[16][17]

In April 2007, the opposition held protests demanding Bakiyev's resignation,[18] with a large protest beginning on April 11 in Bishkek. Bakiyev signed constitutional amendments to reduce his own power on April 10, but the protest went ahead, with protesters saying that they would remain until he resigned.[19] Clashes broke out between protesters and police on April 19, after which the protests ended.[20]

Bakiyev was re-elected in the 2009 Kyrgyzstani presidential election, with 78% of the vote. On election day the main opposition candidate, Almazbek Atambayev, withdrew from the contest, citing his belief that fraud was employed extensively and thus considers the election illegitimate. The OSCE stated that Bakiyev gained an "unfair advantage" and that the media bias "did not allow voters to make an informed choice." Additionally, they found that the election was "marred by many problems and irregularities", citing ballot stuffing and problems with the vote counting.[21]

International reactions

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe had sent 60 observers to monitor the election runoffs. In its initial assessment the group said the second round of voting showed "some technical improvements over the first round", but stressed that there remained "significant shortcomings". (The OSCE had said the first round fell short of international standards in many areas.)

Election observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) disagreed. They hailed the runoff elections as well-organized, free, and fair. CIS observers also praised local authorities for showing restraint and competence in dealing with political unrest in several regions. This contradiction in the findings between OSCE and CIS observation teams formed the latest in a series of such contradictory findings (see CIS election observation missions). Russia supported the CIS reports and rebuked the OSCE for its findings.[22]

Following the initial violent incidents, appeals quickly issued from the international community for calm and for a peaceful settlement to the growing tensions. In Washington, a State Department spokesman said US officials had contacted "both" sides to urge them to resolve their differences through dialogue. The United States, which operates Manas Air Base, a strategic military installation at Bishkek's Manas International Airport, expressed mild criticism of the election abuses and rebuked the opposition for taking over government buildings. Various international news agencies, including the New York Times, have reported that American funding and support, from governmental and non-governmental sources, helped in part to pave the way for the pro-opposition demonstrations by providing means of printing materials and literature.[23] US State Department statements have partly substantiated such claims.[24]

The United Nations, meanwhile, offered the following statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on its website: "The secretary general is opposed to the use of violence and intimidation to resolve electoral and political disputes". Annan "calls on all parties to apply restraint".[25]

The Russian Foreign Ministry on March 21 posted on its official website a statement about the recent unrest, in which it expressed concern about the actions of the opposition. The statement urged demonstrators to remain within the framework of the constitution and to maintain a "constructive dialogue" with the administration of President Akayev. The ministry also appealed to foreign observers in the country, including the OSCE, to exhibit responsibility in their statements and not to give "destructive elements" justification for unlawful acts.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry issued the following statement on March 23: "The people of Uzbekistan, which is a close neighbour of Kyrgyzstan, are concerned about the events happening in Kyrgyzstan, especially in its southern regions".[26] The state-controlled media in Uzbekistan had previously not mentioned the crisis, fearing it could spark unrest within the border town of Andijan. Since 2004 the area has witnessed demonstrations by traders upset about new laws that restrict their commercial activity.

See also


  1. ^ Pink revolution rumbles on in blood and fury - The Guardian
  2. ^ From west to east, rolling revolution gathers pace across the former USSR - The Times
  3. ^ Moscow and multipolarity - The Hindu
  5. ^ "Kyrgyz protesters take over town". BBC. March 21, 2005.  
  6. ^ Analysis: Uneasy Days In Kyrgyzstan
  7. ^ March 2005: Protests in Kyrgyzstan - Guardian
  8. ^ Tense Situation Reported In Kyrgyz City
  9. ^ [ Kyrgyzstan: Authorities Attempt To Contain Protests, Negotiate]
  10. ^ Opposition takes over Kyrgyz city - The New York Times
  11. ^
  12. ^ Kyrgyz jail unrest claims lives BBC News
  13. ^ Kyrgyz rally against corruption BBC News
  14. ^ Kyrgyz MP shot dead in Bishkek BBC News
  15. ^ Clashes erupt in Kyrgyz capital BBC News
  16. ^ Thousands rally against Kyrgyz leader Al Jazeera
  17. ^ Kyrgyzstan brings coup charges Al Jazeera
  18. ^ "Kyrgyzstan: Protests Gain Steam Ahead Of Major Antigovernment Rally", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 9, 2007.
  19. ^ "Kyrgyz opposition stages large rally against embattled president", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), April 11, 2007.
  20. ^ "Kyrgyzstan: Overnight Violence Halts Bishkek Rallies", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 20, 2007.
  21. ^ Kyrgyz presidential election failed to meet key OSCE commitments, OSCE press release (July 24, 2009)
  22. ^ Protests force Kyrgyz poll review BBC News
  23. ^ U.S. Helped to Prepare the Way for Kyrgyzstan's Uprising from the New York Times
  24. ^ United States helped Kyrgyz pro-democracy programs
  25. ^
  26. ^

External links

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