In the aftermath of violence in Kyrgyzstan, women are jump starting peace talks across ethnic lines—and taking the security of their country in their own hands.
Often called the Switzerland of Central Asia, mountainous and ethnically diverse Kyrgyzstan was once touted as a success case for peaceful coexistence. Now, following violent clashes in June between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, ethnic tension is threatening to topple the stability of the entire region. But, a well-organized and thriving women’s movement could pull Kyrgyzstan back from the brink. Nurgul Djanaeva reports.
It was July, just weeks after violence had erupted in our country, killing hundreds of people and displacing hundreds of thousands. We were gathered in a room, looking out at buildings that had been burned to the ground: Kyrgyz and Uzbek women, meeting face to face for the first time since the conflict erupted and pitted us against each other.
Some of us had lost our houses; others had lost family members. We had witnessed violence; we had been the victims of violence. We were angry. Before June, we had been neighbors. Now, many of us were shouting at each other.
When the violence happened, I felt how deeply women had been affected. As the president of the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan, I also knew that women could take on a critical peacebuilding role after conflict. As women leaders from different ethnic groups, I knew we needed to meet each other to begin peace talks. But I was nervous. Our country had never before been through a conflict on this scale, and I had no experience in organizing peace and mediation talks.
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