The Kyrgyz Republic Breakdown: Images, Words, History. (UPDATED with video)

by | Apr 8, 2010 | POLITICS

Images from Reuters. Written by Baylen Forcier. Baylen was our intern, probably the best we had, and we all wished him well when he left for Kyrgyzstan; we knew he’d do great documentary work, but none of us knew he’d be documenting a revolution. For more info on the documentary work he’s doing, please check out Sons of Hedin.

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. Thursday, April 8, 2010 1 a.m. local time.
Sporadic gunshots ring out as I sit in my Bishkek apartment with my American roommate, Lyla, and Kyrgyz friend, “Art.” We’re watching the local news, which the opposition gained control of and is now looping footage of the riots from earlier today.



Images from Reuters. Written by Baylen Forcier. Baylen was our intern, probably the best we had, and we all wished him well when he left for Kyrgyzstan; we knew he’d do great documentary work, but none of us knew he’d be documenting a revolution. For more info on the documentary work he’s doing, please check out Sons of Hedin.

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. Thursday, April 8, 2010 1 a.m. local time.
Sporadic gunshots ring out as I sit in my Bishkek apartment with my American roommate, Lyla, and Kyrgyz friend, “Art.” We’re watching the local news, which the opposition gained control of and is now looping footage of the riots from earlier today.

Kyrgyz citizens have overthrown Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his party. Coming to power in 2005 after the comparably peaceful “Tulip Revolution,” Bakiyev promised democracy and to stamp out the country’s corruption.

After fraudulent elections, Bakiyev is accused of: cracking down on domestic media belonging to the opposition, dramatically raising energy prices, suddenly causing some people to pay 75% of their salary on utilities, and handing over key government positions to his family and friends, with his son, Maxim Bakiyev, taking some of the most lucrative.

I went to the main square, a mile from my home, around 3 p.m. with my two friends and another boy named “Fifty.” The streets were packed with cars and busses as those who worked in Bishkek fled to their homes in the outlying micro-districts.

Art explained that many of the rioters were from outlying regions, like Talas, which was overthrown early Thursday morning, and didn’t live or work in capital.

I stood on Kiev Street, staring at the main square. A large cloud of smoke was building from a car that was surrounded by people; I could only hear the guns and see the gas that police were shooting at them.

I looked behind me, Fifty ran. I turned back, everyone was running and screaming from the square. We bolted.

No one knew what was happening. Cell phones weren’t working, TV stations were cutting in and out and local websites weren’t saying anything. We didn’t know who was in charge, what was happening and what would be next.

Suddenly one station worked, Bakiyev’s station.


“All protesters will be arrested,”
“Anyone on the streets will be searched,”
“All media equipment will be taken.”

Art was suddenly getting calls from his family, telling him to stay inside not to go anywhere. A few minutes later his cousin came over and we went back.

A few hours had passed and the streets were completely different, everyone who wanted to leave Bishkek was gone.

People gathered outside government buildings, setting cars ablaze sending black smoke into the air. Police were now confined behind gates. Protesters waved confiscated assault rifles and teargas cannons.

Walked down to the Kyrgyz White House, after hearing gunfire small stampedes broke out, only to stop seconds later as rioters regained their confidence.

Wounded rioters were thrown into an ambulance and taken feet away to the hospital I stood next to. The official death toll was 12.

Louder shots rang out, a sniper had been spotted on the roof of the White House, people were screaming about the use of real bullets. If this were true, Art said, “Bakiyev is done.”

They stormed the Department of Defense across the street, taking an old car from the garage, driving it to the White House, and setting it alight.

We walked to the main square.

People were running towards us, a boy was holding a computer tower and a small statue of a golden tiger.

The General Prosecutor’s office was raining its contents out of its windows: computers, electric heaters, clocks, a small stapler, the looting had begun.

It was getting dark. We walked home.

Storeowners grabbed taxi’s off the street, packing them with merchandise, and covering the store windows with cardboard. Then hanging signs that read, “We’re with the people,” praying their store would be spared.

The police have set up a “People’s Militia” to stop the looting but many of the stores are burning tonight.

Local news states that Bakiyev has resigned, the military has stopped shooting and Roza Otunbayeva will now lead the Kyrgyz temporarily as people from all over the country flock to the capital to establish a new government.

Baylen Forcier, our foreign correspondent of sorts is currently in Kyrgyzstan doing documentary work. We’re going to be posting images from his travels across Central Asia, all of which are via Sons of Hedin organization. Based out of Bishkek in northern Kyrgyzstan, Sons of Hedin is named after Swedish explorer and committed scholar Sven Hedin, and represents the joint work of Baylen and Dalton Bennett, with the aim of promoting awareness of Greater Central Asia.

MORE POSTS FROM BAYLEN & SONS OF HEDIN:
Live Bazaar
The road to Bokonbayveo
Fish Market, Empty Hospital

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.




more in politics

Editorial Roundtable on the Richmond & Virginia Elections 

As we find ourselves in the middle point of summer, the upcoming months will bring pivotal decisions for our community as we elect our next mayor, city council and school board members followed by the gubernatorial election next year. Over the past few months, we have...

Dispatch From Cuba 2015

I wanted to give a bit of context for this piece. I was introduced to Bill one afternoon at the local watering hole by a mutual friend. Bill, a talented and experienced writer, shared some of his work with me, and I was interested to read more. When I asked if he had...

News or Noise: How Irresponsible Journalism Threatens Our Democracy

Immediately after the first presidential debate, journalists wasted no time amplifying Biden’s poor performance. And so the narrative begins. Or rather, continues. Over the last few years, news outlets have been reporting on the advanced ages of both presidential...

RVA 5×5 | Bonding With (Or Against) The People?

There has been a lot of activity across the region recently about bond ratings and localities issuing bonds. It is a timely comparison of priorities of local leaders, a glimpse of a possible future, and what happens if you have people in charge who worry more about...

Topics: