Kazakhstan’s ethnic-Chinese minority return from Kyrgyzstan after coronavirus-sparked violence
More than 1,000 Kazakh citizens of Chinese descent have crossed the Kyrgyzstan border back into Kazakhstan after initially fleeing communal clashes in five Kazakh villages.
The Kyrgyz authorities said violence erupted between Kazakhs and Dungans, a Chinese-Muslim ethnic group. Ten people were reported dead and 178 injured with border guards saying around 4,500 people left Kazakhstan.
For over a century, the villages of Masanchi and Sortobe have hosted a Dungan minority that fled China because of the Hui Minorities War of the mid-19th century.
The Dungan community has often suffered in the region over the decades. Small-scale clashes were recorded on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border in recent years.
The mob largely seemed to target shops, homes and cars owned by Dungans. The Kazakh authorities failed to mention the ethnic aspect of the clashes.
The Kazakh authorities reported 47 arrests.
The numbers could not be independently verified.
Thirty-four ethnic Kazakhs were being treated in hospital in Kyrgyzstan on February 8 and 9.
An additional 39 Kazakhs were treated in Kazakhstan, including three officials who were wounded by firearms.
Fake news spread on Kazakhstan social media about the spreading of the coronavirus sparked the clashes.
Thousands of Dungans crossed the border into Kyrgyzstan.
There is reportedly envy towards the relatively affluent Dungan community.
“The Dungans started to get conceited. … Patience snapped. They got rich and when people get rich they start looking down on other people. They started saying to us: ‘Though the land is yours, the power is ours’,” a Kazakh in a village near Masanchi purportedly told the media.
The clashes broke out on February 7 in the Zhambyl region, prompting the municipal authorities in Korday to declare a state of emergency.
Hundreds fled to nearby Kyrgyzstan.
Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Berdibek Saparbaev visited at the weekend and promised to have villagers’ homes repaired.
“We ask you not to give in to provocation. All the houses that were destroyed, we will restore them, we will help families,” Saparbaev said during his February 9 visit. “Our experts are working to assess the damage. Once again, we appeal to everyone, tell your relatives who have left, who are now in Kyrgyzstan with their relatives, they must return.”
The Kazakh deputy health minister, Kamalzhan Nadyrov, visited two Kyrgyz hospitals to arrange for injured Kazakhs to be transported to Almaty, the former Kazakh capital.
Most of the fleeing Kazakhs were women, children and the elderly, according to the Kyrgyz border guards.
Kazakhstan’s president, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, said he had ordered the authorities to prosecute anyone spreading hate speech, rumours and disinformation.
Picture credit: Wikimedia