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Evangelicals Fear Bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan


BISHKEK/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) — Evangelical Christians in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, November 2, were anticipating a bloody uprising against President Kurmanbek Bakiyev who the opposition accuses of breaking his pledge to introduce constitutional reforms that would curtail some of his powers.

“We are standing at the door of another revolution,” said the director for Kyrgyzstan of the Bible League, one of the world’s largest evangelical, nondenominational, Scripture placement agencies.

“Vehemence is building in the political and religious spheres and the media is openly talking about this as a day of violence,” the official told BosNewsLife in a statement apparently on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

The violence was expected to make it more difficult for Christian missionaries to operate in the predominantly Muslim nation. About one percent of the country’s 5.2 million people are evangelical Christian, the Bible League said.

POLICE DEPLOYED

Thousands of police and interior ministry troops deployed across the capital, Thursday, November 2, while numerous streets leading to Bishkek’s central square, the site of the opposition rally, was blocked off, eyewitnesses said.

Nearby, about 100 servicemen of Kyrgyzstan ‘s National Guard were standing vigil outside government headquarters, which was stormed during anti-government protests, last year, news reports said. Those protests disintegrated into days of mass looting and riots that led to the ouster of long-time President Askar Akayev, who was forced to flee to Russia .

President Bakiyev was elected several months later. His presidency has been marred by prison riots, high-profile murders, and regional battles for control of lucrative businesses.

ANALYST FRUSTRATED

Speaking on the Voice of America (VOA) network, independent political analyst Kumar Bekbalatov, who heads the Bishkek regional office for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, said local frustrations against President Bakiyev have been running high.

“First is the feeling that the president has been somehow personalizing (consolidating) his power to such an extent that he will be slowly introducing some sort of authoritarian rule,” Bekbalatov said. “And, the other is that the family, close relatives and mostly his son have been accused of gaining control over the strategic areas of Kyrgyzstan ‘s economy.”

Evangelical Christians said demonstrations could extend into the weekend and may lead to unrest in other nearby Central Asian states. “The rallies are planned by supporters of the country’s former president, who was ousted in a coup in 2005,” the Bible League stressed.

POOREST REPUBLIC

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest of the former Soviet Union republics with average annual income hovering around $440, according to estimates. “Such poverty-level wages are blamed for the rampant government corruption,” the Bible League said.

“No one knows what will happen with these rallies, and there are possibilities of attacks in many locations on November. 3,” Bible League’s director in Kyrgysztan said, adding he had urged supporters to “please pray” for the situation.

The chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe , Karel De Gucht, has urged Kyrgyz authorities and the opposition to exercise restraint. American officials are also hoping to avoid seeing any fresh outbreak of civil unrest in Kyrgyzstan , which is home to an American military base used to support Afghanistan , VOA reported.

It came as elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, in Azerbaijan , police broke up an opposition rally in the capital, Baku , detaining at least 10 people, as part of what critics describe as an ongoing government crackdown on journalists and newspapers. Witnesses reportedly said security forces dispersed hundreds of demonstrators Thursday, November 2, including members of the leading opposition “Popular Front” party. Last week, the Baku government threatened to bar local broadcasters from airing the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty and BBC programs.