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Kyrgyzstan urges longtime Uzbek-Kyrgyz enemies to marry
Today, the local government is trying to heal wounds left by the violence by encouraging the two groups to come together — in marriage.
“Well, for starters, the children are more beautiful,” said “Babur,” 27, with a smile, referring to the benefits of his interethnic marriage.
(Babur asked not to use his real name because he fears publicity might bring harm to his family. He is an ethnic Uzbek married to a Kyrgyz woman in Osh.)
Last year, the mixed neighborhood where he lives was one of many areas in Kyrgyzstan’s southern regions destroyed in riots fueled by a long history of ethnic tensions.
Uzbeks, who trace their lineage to Turkish and Persian tribes, traditionally have been city dwellers. The Kyrgyz were nomads and have Mongol heritage. This rift in culture, custom and ethnicity set the framework for cycles of internecine warfare that continues today.
Kyrgyz account for 65 percent of the country’s population of 5.6 million, and Uzbeks make up 14 percent.
Over the course of three days in June 2010, ethnic violence — and the Kyrgyz government’s response to it — resulted in hundreds of Uzbek and Kyrgyz casualties.
The conflict is a common subject of discussion in Osh — what happened and who is to blame.
“There were many rumors that Kyrgyz mobs were coming to kill everyone in the mahallah [the Uzbek word for ‘neighborhood’],” Babur said. “And so, my wife helped hide our Uzbek friends and children.”
He turned on his cellphone and showed photographs of their children.
“But yes, of course, I think more interethnic marriage would help the situation,” he said. “We need more talking, more discussion.”
The couple met at university in 2006, married two years later and have two young children, a boy, 5 and girl, 3. It was more acceptable for ethnicities to mix then, but Babur admits there was friction in his neighborhood.
“It was never too bad,” he said. “All of my friends celebrated with me.”
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