Kyrgyzstan. According to CountryAAH, the total population in Kyrgyzstan is 6,524,206 people in 2020. The UN Drugs and Crime Agency (UNODC) opened an office in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city of Bishkek in May. Three-quarters of all heroin sold in Europe comes from Afghanistan, and one of Afghanistan’s main smuggling routes goes through Kyrgyzstan. So far, however, only a small proportion of the drugs have been seized in Kyrgyzstan. The widespread poverty in the country makes smuggling attractive as a source of income. At the same time, the Kyrgyz authorities have expressed concern over the increasing drug use among their own population.
A proposed language law intended to strengthen the position of the Kyrgyz language in the community aroused protests during the year. The critics warned of discrimination against minority groups, mainly the Uzbek in the Osh region in the south and Russian-speaking residents in the Bishkek area in the north.
In May, several opposition parties formed a new political movement, the League of Justice Elections, with the intention of creating a strong force that can challenge President Askar Akajev’s power in the planned parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005.
Opposition supporters continued to work for the release of leading opposition politician Feliks Kulov, who is serving long prison sentences for “abuse of power” and “embezzlement” respectively. A representative of the International Helsinki Committee, who was allowed to visit Kulov in prison during the year, expressed concern about the human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan.
Bakijev’s presidential term
Kurmanbek Bakijev was appointed acting president on March 25, 2005, after Askar Akajev was removed from power during the “tulip revolution”. President Bakijev strengthened his position by placing a number of close family members in central positions. The president’s brother, Zhanyshbek Bakijev, was appointed chief of the president’s security service. His son, Maksim Bakijev, became the head of the Kyrgyzstan Development Fund, with direct control over major national values.
Other opposition leaders from the first revolution accused the Bakijev family of corruption and nepotism. At the same time, there was no improvement in the economic situation of ordinary citizens, which led to increasing dissatisfaction with the population. Several major demonstrations against the sitting regime took place in the capital Bishkek and in other cities during 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Among events that aggravated the political situation in the country were the circumstances surrounding a car accident in March 2009 in which opposition politician Medet Sadyrkulov perished. In December 2009, critical journalist Gennadyj Pavljuk was found killed in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In both cases, members of Kyrgyz security services were subsequently convicted of murder.
Pressure against independent journalists and NGOs increased significantly during Bakijev, with the closure of several critical media and the expulsion of a number of foreigners working for human rights organizations from the country.
The trigger for the events, dubbed the “April Revolution,” was the reaction of the authorities to a series of scheduled “assembly” (“Kyrgyz” in Kyrgyz) in the cities of Talas, Naryn and Bishkek on April 7, 2010. The night before, a number of opposition politicians were arrested and taken into custody of security services, including President from 2011 to 2017, Almazbek Atambayev. The crowds in Talas took Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatijev hostage and grossly abused him. The crowds in Bishkek marched towards the presidential palace.
During the storming of the presidential palace in Bishkek, 87 people were killed, many of the snipers deployed on the roof of the building. The Kyrgyz judiciary later found the president’s brother Zhanyshbek Bakijev guilty of having ordered to shoot the protesters.
President Bakijev fled the same day to Jalalabad in the south of the country, and later with his family to Belarus, where he was offered political asylum by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. His brother, Zhanyshbek Bakijev, lived for a long period in hiding south of Kyrgyzstan, but later also traveled to Belarus. The crashed president’s son, Maksim Bakijev, traveled to London on private flights and sought political asylum in the United Kingdom.
Extradition requests from Kyrgyz authorities in recent years have not been forthcoming. In 2013, Bakijev was sentenced to 24 years in absentia by a Kyrgyz court. Zhanyshbek Bakijev was sentenced to life, and Maksim Bakijev to 25 years in prison.