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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[14.03.23] Several Hundred Protesters in Kyrgyzstan Demonstrate against Possible U.S.-led War in Iraq

Several hundred anti-war demonstrators protested against a possible U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in the biggest show of opposition to the potential conflict in former Soviet Central Asia.
About 350 people demonstrated in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek holding banners reading, "Do not draw us into war" and "The peaceful sky over Kyrgyzstan is not for war."
This predominantly Muslim region has provided military bases and airspace for the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan and since the Sept. 11 attacks the United States has bolstered its position as a key power in the region balancing Russian and Chinese influence.
Kyrgyzstan has been hosting hundreds of U.S.-led anti-terror coalition troops from several Western countries at a civilian airport outside Bishkek. The Kyrgyz government insists the conditions for using the facilities only allow operations in Afghanistan - not in Iraq.
Friday's rally was the second public protest in Kyrgyzstan against use of force to disarm Iraq this week. About a dozen people protested Wednesday outside the U.N. office in Bishkek.
In Kazakhstan, between 50 and 60 people protested the U.S. policy on Iraq in the commercial capital Almaty last month on the worldwide day of anti-war protest. There has been no public anti-war protests in the other three Central Asian nations, where any demonstrations are rare.
The Friday rally in Bishkek was organized by Association of Non-government Organizations and supported by several political parties, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and students.
Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia to come out strongly in support of German, French and Russian attempts to prevent war. Kazakh leaders have been fairly quiet but said they support the work of the U.N. arms inspectors. Uzbek President Islam Karimov last week strongly backed the U.S. position, while Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has made conflicting statements on the crisis.
By Elena Listvennaya, Associated Press, March 14, 2003

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