October 13, 2020
An article by Emma Svoboda ‘23: As dawn broke on Oct. 6 in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, it was unclear who was running the country. Thousands of protestors had taken to the streets the previous day to protest the results of a parliamentary election widely viewed as fraudulent, which shut opposition parties out of government for the first time in Kyrgyzstan’s history. Photos from the city’s central Ala-Too Square show a sea of people holding up their cell phone flashlights. Later in the evening of Oct. 6, protests turned violent, with police using flash bombs and rubber bullets against protestors; more than 500 injuries were reported, along with at least one death. Demonstrators overtook state security guards and broke into the White House, Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary building, where they were photographed drinking tea in ransacked government offices. Three days later, after tumultuous protests continued around the country, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov bowed to the pressures of protestors and indicated his willingness to resign. Jeenbekov, in a statement, signaled that he is prepared to step down as president as soon as “legitimate heads of the executive authorities are approved and the country takes the path of legitimacy” and committed to maintaining peace and tranquility in the country. Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country of 6.5 million people tucked between China and Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Colonized by the Russian Empire in the 19th century, the country gained its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, but also the region’s only true democracy—Jeenbekov came to power in a 2017 election in which he won only 55 percent of the vote, unlike the leaders of neighboring Tajikistan and Turkmenistan who have held onto power with sham elections.