Ethnic Brawls Near Uzbek Capital

By News Briefing Central Asia - News Briefing Central Asia
17 Feb 12
Police in Uzbekistan have made a number of arrests following ethnic skirmishes in Chirchik near the capital Tashkent.
A number of independent news sites reported a series of running battles between ethnic Kazaks and Uzbeks in the town, resulting in a number of injuries and six arrests.
"There will be more cases of this kind as we find out who incited the Kazaks to conflict", an interior ministry official said.
Tensions grew over a two-week period as young Uzbeks in Chirchik used mobile phones to spread a video containing an offensive song about Kazaks. In response, Kazaks began circulating text messages insulting the songwriters.
One local resident said that from January 30 onwards groups of young people from the two groups began clashing.
Police stepped in before a major battle could take place. “Around 1,000 people were going to gather for a head-to-head confrontation in Troitsky district,” one resident said.
Kazaks account for 40 per cent of Chirchik’s 144,000 people. Many of them are recent migrants from Atakent, a village just across the nearby border with Kazakstan.
They have filled a gap left as Russians emigrate from the town.
Residents of Chirchik say the tensions have created a palpable mood of Uzbek nationalism among young people, although it is unclear what the underlying reasons are.
Although both communities are Muslim, some speculate that local Uzbeks feel the Kazaks are less observant followers of the faith.
"The [Kazaks] living in Chirchik are less religious, they don’t observe all the formalities, and they have their own rituals which the [Uzbeks] don’t find acceptable,” a local government officer said. He said that apart from the fact that some Kazaks did not attend the mosque regularly, they might have caused offence by getting Uzbek girlfriends.
An ethnic Russian student in Chirchik said her community was made to feel unwelcome, too.
"There’s prejudice against us as well. Lots of Uzbek guys believe we exert a harmful influence on the locals as we wear European clothes. They often say inappropriate things about our ethnicity," she said.
This article was produced as part of IWPR’s News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.