International Students Attacked in Kyrgyzstan

A number of foreign students, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi ones, were attacked in Bishkek this weekend. Dorms housing foreigners at the Kyrgyz International University in Bishkek have since been put under increased security. Brawls erupted between students late on May 17th and again on the 18th, with videos released depicting the mobs storming student hostels, in addition to dormitories.

The Incident

The reason for the attacks is unclear—the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry has claimed that a video from May 13th, which depicted Egyptian students fighting locals, is responsible for the violence. Reportedly, protestors who watched the video congregated to demand answers. The crowd dispersed after security forces cordoned the area off and explained what happened, according to the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Kamchybek Tashiev, head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee on National Security, has claimed that the mob was protesting against illegal migrants, citing an influx of Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants. 

The Interior Ministry’s report doesn’t account for the multiple videos of mobs storming hostels and attacking students, in addition to reports from local Pakistani students (via RadioFreeEurope) describing the specific targeting of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Indians. 

Several unverified sources on social media also state the brawl occurred due to a May 13th sexual assault of a Kyrgyz woman by a Pakistani student.

Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi Students Among Those Injured

The Kyrgyz Health Ministry has reported that 15 of the 29 people injured have been taken to the hospital for treatment; the rest were treated on the spot. Their nationality was not confirmed by the Ministry. Three students were hospitalized for trauma and head injuries. 

The Pakistani government has taken a particularly active role in response to the attacks, chartering planes to fly students and citizens home. At least 180 Pakistani students left Saturday night. The Pakistani Deputy Prime Minister reportedly traveled to Bishkek on Sunday to check on the Pakistani students. The Pakistani government has conveyed their concerns to the Kyrgyzstani government, and the Pakistani Embassy in the city was also put under strict security.

Bangladeshi and Indian students were also reportedly targeted in the attacks, although no Indian students have been reported injured, and Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud said no Bangladeshi students were seriously injured. Bangladeshi students hope to return home, according to local media, and Indian students have yet to leave the region. There are about 14,500 Indian students living in Kyrgyzstan. 

Local emergency hotlines have since opened for Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani students living in the area.

Kyrgyzstani Government Reported Calm on May 19th 

Local authorities described the situation as “under control” Sunday morning. Reportedly, four Kyrgyz nationals aged 20-31 were arrested.

Kyrgyzstan is a popular destination for international medical students. The local government appears to be blaming the dissemination of false information—i.e., the video from May 13th—for the mob violence this weekend. Just in the past week, though, reportedly illegal Pakistani workers were arrested at a sweatshop in Kyrgyzstan. A local delivery driver service composed of foreign students was also shut down.

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