The research conducted after outburst of civil riots in the South of Kyrgyzstan in 2010 has shown that there are several areas in the South, where Kyrgyz and Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz were able to build necessary collaboration to maintain peace and friendship. These places were local sacred sites, which were considered as non-violence zones by local population. To promote this positive experience, Aigine CRC developed and implemented a project on transmitting traditional peace-keeping practices to the youth, which had been supported by the US Embassy in Bishkek.
This project employed innovative approaches toward reconciling and harmonizing interethnic relations:
– It made use of common culture heritage to provide reconciliation, conflict prevention and resolution grounds for the various ethnicities living in Kyrgyzstan
-It got the representatives of youth introduced to traditional methods of co-existence and tactics of conflict prevention and resolution used by various ethnicities that have been living on the same territory in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan for centuries.
-It combined the workshops and trainings on conflict prevention and resolution with a work camp. These educational and labor aspects of the project fostered interaction between the participants.
The first activity within the project was the seminar for the guardians of sacred sites. The main goal of this seminar was to forge discussions on sacred sites and their guardians’ roles in conflict prevention and resolution. The sacred sites’ custodians emphasized that sacred sites should remain aggression-free sites i.e. a platform for conflict prevention and resolution. Even stronger emphasis was made upon a statement that custodians and guardians of sacred sites are responsible for maintaining such status of the sacred sites. The main outcomes of the discussion is that shaiyks and traditional practitioners decided to establish an informal network to ensure better communication between them in order to share experience in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in preservation and revitalization of sacred sites.
The second and primary activity of the project was the work camp for the youth representatives from all over the country. 11 participants were trained on traditional methods of conflict prevention and resolution and worked together in a work camp side by side.
It should be noted that the participants of the work camp were diverse in terms of origin, gender and religious believes. Young people of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tajik, Dungan and mixed origin participated in the camp. The participants got familiar with various ways of conflict prevention and resolution such as institution of aksakaldar (elderly people); elchilik (folk diplomacy); strategies and tactics used by women; conflict prevention and the sacred sites; traditional models of self-organization and conflict resolution; conflict resolution in Islam; interethnic marriages and promotion of peace; conflict prevention using artistic means and expression in traditional culture; conflict prevention through traditional games, etc.
The participants got a unique chance to interact with experts and traditional knowledge bearers. This provided them with an opportunity to compare and commingle academic and non-academic approaches towards conflict prevention and resolution. The idea of incorporating the labor component (by turning the event into a work camp) into the training program proved useful. Working component as well as site visits such as excursions to Dary-Bulak, Kyan-Kamar in Kaindy, Kudayar kandyn Chebi places played the ice-breaker role and helped to improve friendly interactions between the participants.
On 12th of August above-mentioned participants went to Kojo Kaiyr sacred site which is located nearby Markaz village of Batken region. In Markaz, they met with local informal leaders who prevented clashes between Uzbek and Kyrgyz people in 2010 after Osh events such as the leader of Uzbek mahallyah (district) of Markaz, several women who bear the knowledge of peace-keeping traditions of Uzbek and Kyrgyz people and a person who was the head of a committee for prevention of conflict in June 2010. These people told the participants about their experience on conflict prevention and resolution, on how they managed to prevent the possible outburst of conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbek people in Markaz. It turned out that many traditional ways of conflict prevention are being implemented for peace-keeping purposes in Markaz. For instance, the participants were told how institution of aksakaldar is used in local communities of Markaz to settle down conflicts. Moreover, women of Markaz told about their strategies for conflict prevention and about mushkul kushod in particular. Mushkul kushod is a series of women gatherings which are hosted in participating women’s houses by turns. The main aim of such gathering is improvement of communication between participating women and making good wishes to each other that leads to the improvement of friendly relationships between people.
The last day of the event (13th of August) the participants spent in Osh. They visited few sites of interest as well as On Adyr, Cheremushki and Furkad mahallyas. On Adyr is known for its 100% Uzbek population and considered by Kyrgyz population of Osh as the most dangerous part of the city for Kyrgyz people. And when the participants went for dinner to the local restaurants in On Adyr, local Uzbeks told us that we were first non-Uzbek people who came to On Adyr in night time. These visits influenced the participants in a way that one of them noted that any kind of separation and segregation between Uzbek and Kyrgyz people leads to a creation of negative stereotypes that prevents interethnic reconciliation.
Besides that, the participants visited other sites of interest full of elements of culture which equally belong to Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tajik cultures. This common cultural heritage can provide very reliable grounds for reconciliation.
As a result of the project, the manual on traditional ways of conflict prevention and resolution has been developed. The final version consisted of 9 chapters:
- Contemporary methods of conflict prevention and resolution
- Traditional forms of self-organization’s role in promotion of peaceful coexistence
- Institution of elders (aksakals) in conflict resolution
- The role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in traditional societies
- Match-making as a mechanism for reconciliation
- Promotion of peace by arts and artists in traditional societies
- Mechanisms for conflict resolution in Islam
- The role of sacred sites in peace-keeping
- The concept of collective responsibility
The manual is bilingual i.e. all chapters are available both in Russian and Kyrgyz.