- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

The revolution in Kyrgyzstan has also brought a personal revolution in the fortunes of Zamira Sydykova — from harassed (and occasionally silenced) dissident journalist to Bishkek’s next ambassador to the United States.

?It is certainly a new role for me to play,? Mrs. Sydykova said with a smile in an interview during a Washington trip yesterday. ?As a journalist, no one expected me to be diplomatic.

?I never imagined myself in this role, but both as a journalist and an ambassador you are really working to help your country be better,? she said, speaking both in English and in Russian.

When the U.S. government officially accepts her appointment, expected later this month, it will complete a remarkable odyssey for Mrs. Sydykova, and be yet one more sign of the changes in Kyrgyzstan wrought by the March chain of events that ousted longtime leader Askar Akayev.

Her work as editor of the opposition weekly Res Publica, founded in 1992, relentlessly exposed top-level corruption and repeatedly angered top Kyrgyz officials.

She was banned from journalism twice in the 1990s, and even served time in a labor camp for stories she published on corruption and dangerous conditions at a state gold-mining company. She has been the target of repeated government libel suits and her son, Chingiz, was twice beaten by unknown assailants after she published articles critical of the Akayev regime.

She concedes even opposition leaders were surprised by the speed with which Mr. Akayev was driven from power, but rejects the idea by some critics that last month’s events amounted to a coup, not a genuine revolution.

?This was a real display of public will, of public unhappiness with the government,? she said. ?You had many, many parts of society coming together for real elections and to get rid of the corrupt family that was governing us.?

She said Kyrgyz opposition leaders were inspired by President Bush’s recent inaugural address promising U.S. support for democracy movements worldwide. Mr. Bush’s critics said his sweeping claims were being sorely tried in Central Asia, where the United States had worked closely with authoritarian leaders such as Mr. Akayev in the post-September 11 war on terrorism.

?We did not take his message cynically,? said Mrs. Sydykova. ?When we hear the president of the United States saying he will go after dictators, we found it inspiring. It gave us a second wind.?

The ambassador-designate said she did not expect major changes immediately in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy, which has sought increased aid and support from the West without alienating its giant neighbor, Russia.

Mrs. Sydykova said her country’s top priority now is to organize free and fair presidential elections in June to replace Mr. Akayev.

She said Kyrgyzstan would welcome help from the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for the vote.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, has sponsored an amendment to a Senate spending bill for more funds for the U.S. election mission to monitor the Kyrgyz vote.

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