Kyrgyzstan leaders reassure Pakistani students after mob attack

Politicians apologise after tensions between international students and locals culminate in violence in capital

May 21, 2024
View over the city centre of Bishkek with snow capped mountains in the background.
Source: iStock/Ozbalci

The president of Kyrgyzstan has sought to reassure international students in the country after a mob attacked student residences in Bishkek. 

Hundreds of local people targeted hostels housing overseas students in the central Asian country’s capital on 17 May, leaving 15 students seeking hospital treatment, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The government confirmed that no one had been seriously injured, but the incident has left international students fearful, with hundreds of Pakistani citizens fleeing the country in the days since. Pakistan’s embassy in Kyrgyzstan has helped to coordinate evacuation flights for its citizens wishing to leave.

The spark for the violence was a spat in the days before the attack between a group of Pakistani students and Kyrgyz men, a video recording of which was subsequently circulated on social media.

In a speech on 20 May, Sadyr Japarov, president of the Kyrgyz Republic, vowed to punish the attackers, saying they had “undermined the dignity” of the country.

“If this kind of incident happens again, then the law enforcement agencies will switch to the method of dispersal by force from the first minutes,” he warned.

Mr Japarov emphasised the value of immigrants to Kyrgyzstan, which has increasingly focused on recruiting foreign students in recent years. There are more than 42,000 international students in the country, according to the president, most of whom are south Asian students enrolled on medical courses.

“We should all understand correctly that foreigners value Kyrgyz education, are interested in it, pay their fees, and that our Kyrgyz citizens benefit from the services provided by foreigners working for us,” he said.

The president added that the country already has thousands of unfilled job vacancies and that the need for foreign workers was likely to grow in the coming years, with planned “large-scale projects” expected to create “tens of thousands” more jobs.

“We will not allow unpleasant actions that undermine the integrity of our state, the unity of our people, hinder our aspirations for development, harm the international reputation of our country, and the honour of our people” Mr Japarov said.

On the same day, Edil Baisalov, deputy chairman of the Cabinet, visited the dormitory of the International University of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek and apologised for the mob’s actions.

“The events that happened overnight do not reflect the attitude of our people towards you,” he said. “Law enforcement agencies are thoroughly investigating all the circumstances of the incident and will definitely bring all the culprits to justice.”

On 21 May, the Indian embassy in Kyrgyzstan said the situation in Bishkek “continues to remain normal” but warned students to “remain vigilant”.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles