05/21/2024, 18.07
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Bishkek: Pakistani students flee violence against foreigners

At least 1,200 young people have returned home in recent days in special flights, landing in Islamabad and Lahore. The attacks were triggered by a video that went viral showing “people of Asian appearance” harassing students. Kyrgyz authorities say they will take the appropriate measures to ensure justice, but a climate of intolerance towards migrants is growing in the country.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – At least 1,200 Pakistani students at Kyrgyzstan International University in Bishkek have left the Kyrgyz capital in a hurry to escape a wave of violence that has affected immigrants from South Asia.

Yesterday alone, the Pakistani government prepared several special flights that landed in Lahore and Islamabad, to facilitate the repatriation of young people who will be able to return to the university only after the "alarming" situation stabilises. However, at present there is no definite news on the timing and a climate of uncertainty and tension remains.

Yesterday, the rector of the university, Asylbek Aidaraliev, explained that it was mainly first- and second-year students who left the country, while older students chose to stay, at least for now.

Deputy Education Minister Rasul Abazbek-uulu called the mass attacks on Pakistani and Indian students in Bishkek over the weekend "a shameful" situation that "damages Kyrgyzstan's image."

A Pakistani student who spoke to RFE/RL reports that she fled Kyrgyzstan “because the situation here is so [bad] right now and we are so scared that we are leaving urgently.” She hopes the “situation will get better with the passage of time” and that she can return to finish her degree.

The violence, which broke out on Saturday, was seemingly triggered by a video posted last week that went viral, showing a group of people of “Asian appearance" harassing some students at night, chasing them in the dormitory. At least one young man was attacked and forcibly dragged along the floor.

“The situation is stable now," said Deputy Education Minister Abazbek-uulu, addressing those who fled. “It is up to us if the students who left Kyrgyzstan decide to return in the fall. For that, all state entities must work together to persuade them that it is safe to return," he added.

Meanwhile, police in the capital have launched an investigation into the mass unrest, with the aggravating circumstance of ethnic and racial hatred.

Yesterday, in his first public statement on the violence against Pakistani students, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov declared that “all of the perpetrators who attacked foreign students will for sure be punished.”

He noted that the country’s birth was a difficult process but one “based on the rule of law”; hence, “we will support order”.

Government sources report the arrest of four foreign nationals on charges of hooliganism, while the police are on the trail of two Kyrgyz suspected of involvement in the attacks on foreign students.

On Saturday, Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Health said that 29 people were injured during the violence, 15 of whom were taken to hospital for urgent medical treatment while others were treated at the scene.

The authorities say they want to prosecute those responsible, and reject any “insinuations aimed at inciting intolerance toward foreign students.”

At the same time, they point the finger at "illegal immigration", stressing that they are looking at “decisive measures" to crack down on illegal migration and streamline procedures to “expel undesirable persons from Kyrgyzstan”.

Just three days before the violence, Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security detained 28 Pakistani nationals for allegedly "working illegally", without proper permits, in a sewing shop in Bishkek.

On the same day, police in the capital shut down delivery services conducted by more than 400 foreign students, mostly Pakistanis, on motorcycles and scooters, citing traffic safety concerns.

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