Image: Flickr / V. Litvinov

Chaos in Kyrgyzstan after outbreak of mob violence against foreign students

Kyrgyzstan has been plunged into a diplomatic crisis following reports of violence against international students in the capital Bishkek.

Countries including the US and Turkey have issued warnings to citizens in the country, after mob violence left more than 30 people injured. During the night of 17 May, hundreds of Kyrgyz people descended upon hostels popular with international students. Online rumours of deaths have been refuted by all governments involved.

The outbreak of violence was provoked by an earlier incident of 13 May, when a brawl occurred between Kyrgyz locals and a group of international students.

Hassan Aryani, a Pakistani student pursuing a degree in Medicine, said videos of the fight went viral among students in the city. An unstable calm had hung over the community in the ensuing days, until tensions ultimately boiled over in mob violence four days later.

The incident has prompted an exodus of foreign students in the weeks since, with the Pakistani government reporting over 4,000 of their country’s nationals have left Kyrgyzstan. Ishaq Dar, Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan, announced that his government was in the process of arranging flights to repatriate all students who wanted to return.

Kyrgyzstan is a hospitable country. It’s a shame that the reputation of our country is suffering

Meerim Osmonalieva, Director of Oasis Foundation

The number of foreign students in Kyrgyzstan has increased rapidly in the past decade, but there are now fears that this incident of violence could put off the next generation of potential students from coming to the country.

Meerim Osmonalieva, Director of the Oasis Foundation, a Kyrgyz non-profit organisation, expressed dismay at the attacks to RFE/RL.

She said: “Kyrgyzstan is a hospitable country. It’s a shame that the reputation of our country is suffering. Recovery will take a long time.”

The Kyrgyz government has sought to alleviate fears of a generally hostile environment against non-native students by insisting that everything is now under control. It has promised not to let a similar incident happen again, and to take action against the culprits responsible.

Several culprits have since been arrested.

According to the Kyrgyz Government’s latest figures, the countries with the highest number of international students after neighbouring Uzbekistan were India and Pakistan, who have approximately 14,000 and 10,000 nationals studying in the country respectively. Their students were primarily those targeted in the violence.

Part of the reason Kyrgyzstan has been a popular destination for international students, including those from Pakistan and India, is the relatively high quality of its educational institutions, many of which do not require entrance exams, alongside comparatively cheap tuition fees that can make studying in the Central Asian country cheaper than in both the West and the student’s home countries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.