Kyrgyzstan: revolution “made in USA”?

What is now being dubbed Kyrgyzstan’s "Tulip Revolution" is starting to look considerably less than velvet. The country remains divided, with ousted president Askar Akayev in hiding but refusing to step down, and some protests and even road blockades reported in his support. (AP, March 28) Looting and sporadic gunfire continue, with armed bands roaming the streets of Bishkek, the capital. Most ominously, local Russians and other ethnic minorities are said to be forming "ad hoc militias" to protect their neighborhoods. (UK Independent, March 27)

Recent speculation about a U.S. hand in the Tulip Revolution is vindicated by a March 30 NY Times story, "U.S. Helped to Prepare the Way for Kyrgyzstan’s Uprising." The U.S. apparently sunk $12 million into "democracy programs" in Kyrgyzstan last year (under the 1992 Freedom Suport Act, designed to hasten democratic transition in the post-Soviet republics). Various western European countries had similar programs, and the U.S. State Department also encouraged private groups like Freedom House in efforts to assist the independent press in Kyrgyzstan. The opposition newspaper MSN (for My Capital News), which ran exposés on the Akayev family’s personal profligance (palatial homes, etc.), was a recipient of funds from both the U.S. State Department and Freedom House, which also provided a printing press. When the regime cut off electricity to MSN’s offices, Freedom House delivered emergency generators provided by the U.S. Embassy.

Interim President Kurmanbek Bakiyev responded to the Turkish Zaman Online that the Tulip Revolution had received no foreign aid, and was "made in Kyrgyzstan."

For several days after the power transfer, two rival parliaments both met in the same building, both claiming legitimacy. On the 28th, newly-appointed security chief (recently released from prison) Feliz Kulov threatened to have the "old" parliamentarians arrested if they did not step down in favor of the newly-elected parliament. He backed down from this when reminded by a lawmaker that it was the "old" parliament which had ordered him released. (WP, March 28) But this demand was brought about the next day, when the "old" parliament agreed to step down in a deal brokered by the OSCE. (Pakistan Daily Times, March 29). The new government has, not surprisingly, assured the Pentagon that its troops will be able to remain in the country. (AP, March 30)

NOTE: Speaker of the lower house of the "old" parliament was Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, who was named in now-forgotten initial press reports as being appointed interim president after Akayev fled. The process by which he was apparently shunted aside by Bakiyev has gone completely unexamined in international reportage. Also grossly under-reported are charges by protesters of betrayal by Bakiyev and Kulov for throwing their support behind the very "new" parliament whose apparently fraudulent election had sparked the protests in the first place. The Tulip Revolution seems to have run into a rather abrupt Thermidor.