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How Iran News is Made: Adultery, Earthquakes, and the BBC

I leave it to readers to interpret the significance in this tale of modern journalism:

SATURDAY, 17 APRIL, 1235 GMT: EA's global news team is hard at work. A Twitter lead takes us to the activist site Green Voice of Freedom and produces this update:
Tehran Friday Prayer in 3 Words. Apologies that, lost in the southeast US, I was unable to give you an immediate summary of Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi’s Friday Prayer. Here it is….

Adultery Causes Earthquakes

Or, to be precise, Seddiqi said that reducing sins were necessary for preventing the occurrence of natural disasters. And it seems that many Iranian women who do not abide by the Islamic dress code lead youth astray: “They cause the spread of adultery in society which leads to the increase in earthquakes.”

MONDAY, 19 APRIL, 1936 GMT: In more than 10 months of reporting on the post-election crisis in Iran, we have used Britain's Daily Mail exactly once: "Today’s Iran Non-Story: Some Guy Who Looked Like Ahmadinejad Protested in 1984".

Now, however, the "Mail Foreign Service" makes a dramatic discovery:

Women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes, a senior Iranian cleric has said.

Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's comments follow a warning by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit the capital Tehran and that many residents should relocate.

In a prayer sermon, the cleric said: "Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes."

TUESDAY, 20 APRIL, 1106 GMT: The BBC's top investigative reporters uncover surprising news:
Women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes, an Iranian cleric says.

Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi, the acting Friday prayer leader in Tehran, said women should stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he explained.


Kyrgyzstan LiveBlog: Latest from the Uprising 

Kyrgyzstan is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time:

Kyrgyzstan Analysis: What Brought On the Colourless Revolution? (Madlena)

2045 GMT

Kyrgyzstan's Acting Prosecutor-General, Baltimir Ibraev, says criminal cases against President Kurmanbek Bakiev's two sons, Marat and Maksim, and his brother, Janysh, have been launched by the interim government. Arrest warrants for the three on charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder have been issued.

An investigation has also been launched against former Bishkek Mayor Nariman Tyuleev. Ibraev said that witnesses have testified that looting and disorder in the capital were organized by Tyuleev's supporters.

The whereabouts of Marat, Maksim, and Janysh Bakiev are unknown.

1800 GMT

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva has demanded that ousted President Bakiyev formally step down: "Yesterday he issued a statement saying adamantly that he would not resign. My interim government guarantees him his personal security. We call for his resignation."

1745 GMT

Ousted President Bakiyev has withdrawn his allegation of foreign involvement in the Kyrgyz uprising, now saying, "I do not believe that Russia or the United States of America had a hand in these issues."

Yesterday Bakiyev told Russian radio that it would be "virtually impossible to conduct such a coordinated operation" without outside forces.

1430 GMT

Roza Otunbayeva, the head of the provisional government, has said that it has control over the armed forces but she also warned of continuing resistance from the followers of ousted President President Kurmanbek Bakiyev:
(Bakiyev's) forces are not preparing to surrender. You can see how many incidents of violence there are around the city orchestrated by their side, by Bakiyev's supporters. We have information that there were several bombs planted in three public places in Bishkek.

0800 GMT

CNN reporter in Bishkek says many offices and buildings still closed, but public transport is getting back to normal. The provisional government has dissolved Parliament and declared two days of mourning for those killed in the uprising.

A "high-ranking delegation" has gone to Moscow to discuss economic and humanitarian aid with the Russian Government.

0710 GMT

Speaking from Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan, President Bakiyev has told news outlets, including the BBC and Al Jazeera: "I'm still the president. They are trying to take over the government but they can't do this. Nine months ago, 80 per cent of the people voted for me and things can't change so quickly."

0555 GMT

We have published our first analysis of the events in Kyrgyzstan: Chavala Madlena assesses, "What Brought On the Colourless Revolution?"

0545 GMT

Groups organized by the provisional Otunbayeva Government spent the night fighting looters to return calm to Bishkek. Sporadic gunfire was heard but a provisional government spokesman said nobody was killed.

"It's quiet again in the capital. No one died overnight," said Interior Ministry spokesman Abdykalyk Ismailov. "There are still some groups of looters but the city is largely under control."

0213 GMT

Georgia blames Russia for the uprising in Kyrgyzstan according to The website published the official stance of the government of President Mikhail Saakashvili today:
Georgia is watching development in Kyrgyzstan with "deep concern", President Saakashvili's spokesperson, Manana Manjgaladze, said on April 8.

"The Georgian President thinks, that it is only up to the Kyrgyzstan's people to decide who should be in the government of Kyrgyzstan," she said. "Despite [Moscow's] denials, according to the information available for us, it is absolutely obvious that Russia is roughly interfering with Kyrgyzstan's internal affairs and is trying to play geopolitical games at the expense of the Kyrgyz people."

"We call on all the forces, including those who are in control of the capital [Bishkek] not to allow outside forces to use you against the fundamental interests of the country," Saakashvili's spokesperson said.

0050 GMT

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has finally commented on the situation in Kygyzstan, albeit cautiously:

  1. On April 7, clashes broke out in Bishkek, the capital city of the Kyrgyz Republic, between the security forces and anti-government protesters including members of the opposition parties, and as the result of open fire by the government side, over forty individuals were killed and hundreds injured. The Government of Japan is carefully observing the development with concern.

  2. The Government of Japan expects that all involved parties concerned make efforts towards resolving this matter peacefully through dialogues, and that democracy and constitutional order are restored as soon as possible.

2319 GMT

Reuters reports that a senior figure in the opposition movement has accepted Moscow's role in the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Omurbek Tekebayev, a former Kyrgyz opposition leader who took charge of constitutional matters in the new government, said that "Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev."

"You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev gone," he told Reuters. "So now there is a high probability that the duration of the U.S. air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened."

The Russian government has officially denied any responsibility in Bakiyev's ouster. Interim-president spoke to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and is soon to send a delegation to Moscow. Meanwhile, President Bakiyev claimed that he did not believe Russia was responsible for his ouster.

So far, the capital and most of the country is in the opposition's hands. They have, however, conceded that the president controlled the second and third largest city of the country, Osh and Jalalabad.

So far, the opposition has indicated that it does not intend to force the US to evacuate Manas Airport.

2225 GMT

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has released a statement on his son's LiveJournal account. Although the account is confirmed to be authentic by many sources, it cannot be ascertained without a doubt that it is indeed his. The statement is in Russian, but one of our contributers kindly translated it for us. We are posting excerpts only:

2212 GMT

It seems that Maksim Bakiyev, the son of Presdient Bakiyev has made it to the US. Radio Free Europe quoted US State Department Spokesperson Philip Crowley as saying in regards to Maksim:
"We believe he is in Washington.”

Kadyrbek Sarbaev and Maksim Bakiyev were due in Washington D.C. yesterday on a state visit. However, only Sarbaev has so far officially arrived in the US. There are no immediate sources except for the State Department confirming or denying whether he is in the US or not. The trip which was supposed to be for 'consultation' has since been canceled.

2150 GMT

Another source quoting confirms that President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has indeed moved to the village of Markai, close to Jalalabad in the west of the country. He is reportedly accompanied by his brother and they are being protected by armed groups.

2100 GMT

The US State Department's daily briefing from Washington D.C. yesterday outlines the current US stance regarding the situation in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, it might also infuriate the Kyrgyz opposition.
Protests in Kyrgyz Republic/U.S. Deeply Concerned About Reports of Civil Disturbances and Possible Loss of Life/Closely Monitoring the Situation/U.S. Deplores the Violence/Urge All Parties to Show Respect for Rule of Law/Manas Airbase is Functioning/U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is Presently Functioning Normally/Maxim Bakiyev and Foreign Minister Sarbayev Will Be Arriving in the U.S. Today for Previously Scheduled Consultations

While President Bakiyev's son Maksim Bakiyev's trip was scheduled in advance, some might take it as a sign that the US is supporting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev even though it has no link to the current uprising. It is worth noting that his house was burnt during the uprising yesterday and he remains a deeply unpopular figure within the country.

It is unclear whether Maksim Bakiyev made the trip indeed along with the Foreign Minister. Unconfirmed sources have reported that he has. There is speculation among opposition activists that he might not return to the country if he has indeed made it to the US.

2022 GMT

Earlier, it was reported that President Kurmanbek Bakiyev might be in his hometown of Osh. New reports now indicate that the president might have fled close to Jalalabad - Kyrgyzstan's third largest city. According to some sources, he is currently in the village of Markai and is preparing to defend his presidency.

This comes as other sources are making claims of the blockage of the highway between Bishkek and Osh, making movement between the two parts of the country very difficult. This could not be immediately confirmed, though.

1800 GMT

While it seems the situation in Bishkek might have finally calmed down after a night of sporadic gunfire, the world is still disunited in the face of Kyrgyzstan's uprising. The US and Russia are showing markedly different approaches to the Kyrgyz uprising. While the US seems to be more cautious, Russia looks to be slowly warming up to the opposition which is now in charge of Kyrgyzstan. Reuters reports:
A U.S. official said Obama and Medvedev considered issuing a joint statement on the crisis, since both had an interest in stability, but no such initiative was forthcoming.

Instead, a senior Russian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters afterwards: "In Kyrgyzstan, there should be only one base -- Russian." The U.S. official responded that the two leaders had not discussed the notion of closing the U.S. air base.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin effectively recognized the interim Kyrgyz government formed by opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva on Thursday, speaking to her by telephone, his spokesman said. But the U.S. official said it was unclear who was running Kyrgyzstan, although he said Washington did not see the upheaval as a Russian-sponsored or anti-American coup.

1735 GMT

Even as interim-leader Roza Otunbayeva continues to claim Bishkek is under control, reports of gunfire continue to arrive from capital. Twitterati in Kyrgyzstan or with first hand knowledge through relatives and friends continue raise concern. Here are some of the tweets from David Gullette a few minutes ago:
Deputy Nazarov said at 22:30 that in two hours the city would be quiet. It's now 23:15 and there is gunfire in the area.

We are hearing shots in central Bishkek.

Others are sounding hopeful. Mirsulzhan Namazaliev, who is co-founder of the Central Asian Free Market Institute, tweets:
Everything is being normalized, guys! Multiple police sounders in the city center of Bishkek.

Great! Everything will be fine very soon! Kyrgyz Police say: Wee repress acts of looters near the Osh Bazaar

But there is alarming news which is as yet unconfirmed that the army has been given orders to shoot anyone who is out looting.

1705 GMT

As with all news stories, there are reports that cite sources who completely miss the point. 'Managing to Miss the Point of the Day' goes to International Crisis Group's analyst Paul Quinn-Judge who is based in Tajikistan. Speaking to Foreign Policy, Quinn-Judge, a former Time Magazine reporter had this to say about the Kyrgyz people:
Quinn-Judge says the discontent with Bakiyev's government that led to today's events has been building for weeks, and was driven less by political repression than by bread and butter issues.

"A few weeks ago, the government sudden raised the prices on gas, water and electricity," he said. "This turned out to be quite literally the final straw for a population that is generally very apolitical and willing to take whatever is thrown at them by the regime."

Wait? 'A population that is generally very apolitical' and 'willing to take whatever is thrown at them by the regime'? Our readers might remember Kyrgyzstan's 2005 'Tulip Revolution'. But few are talking about protests in Kyrgyzstan in 2006 and 2007 - caused by discontent with the government. The swiftness with which the government was removed from power shows anything but apathy.

It's quite simple. The Kyrgyz people have done this before. They have been voicing their concerns before with Bakiyev. He didn't listen. They acted. Alas, if only every bad president/leader/king/Imam was at the helms of 'apolitical' citizens like the ones in Kyrgyzstan...

1635 GMT

Sounds of gunfire are rocking the Kyrgyz capital again. The Associated Press reports:
Associated Press reporters in Kyrgyzstan are hearing sustained automatic weapons fire breaking out as night falls in the capital of Kyrgyzstan...

Meanwhile on Twitter, Kyrgyz twitterati also reported hearing gunshots. Many reported seeing looters on the streets. Others reported that the Kyrgyz police was taking action. Scattered reports of looting in Osh were also reported. Meanwhile, interim-leader Roza Otunbayeva used Twitter to thank the volunteer militia for helping to maintain peace in the Kyrgyz capital. She later tried to calm tensions by tweeting:

The situation in Bishkek is under control. Police and armed forces will keep the peace tonight

1330 GMT

President Bakiyev has said that he will not resign but has conceded that ministries and security forces are now under the control of the provisional government of Roza Otunbayeva.

1310 GMT

NewEurasia offers the summary that President Bakiyev has not officially resigned, although it appears that the prime minister and much of the Bakiyev Government have quit.

The site also features this incisive commentary:
Seriously, what are we going to call what just happened? The “Second Tulip Revolution” sometimes sounds very poetic, one of the few times when a Hollywood sequel was better than the original. But “uprising” just has a far more fitting connotation, doesn’t it?

For one, because a revolution has to be something a lot more deep than just shuffling a president. Maybe that’s what will happen. I’m curious about how such a disparate group of neo-liberals, ex-leftists, semi-Islamists, and sort-of-Akayevniks like the Kyrgyz opposition will actually govern the country. Perhaps by committee, hopefully with more transparency, but whatever they choose, I doubt it will be revolutionary in any real meaning of the word.

For another, because uprising really captures the spirit of what’s happened in Kyrgyzstan. There will be endless speculations about whether the Russians or the Americans somehow instigated this. But I tell you: the frustrations of the Kyrgyz people are real. Even if there was a foreign agent provateur, he didn’t have to provoke very much.

0830 GMT

A spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says that the leader of the proclaimed Kyrgyz Government, Roza Otunbayeva, has told Putin by telephone that she is in full control of the country.

0700 GMT

In addition to echoing the points below, made again at Otunbayeva's press conference, CNN's reporter in Bishkek says capital is now calm, with improvised rallies and speakers  in the streets.

Otubayeva told the CNN reporter at the press conference that the fate of the US airbase is "one of the less important things" on the agenda of her proclaimed government.

0655 GMT

Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva has told the Russian-language Mir TV channel, "The security service and the interior ministry, all of them are already under the management of new people." Other opposition leaders said Otunbayeva would head the interim government for the next six months.

"The interim government will remain in place for half a year, during which we will draft the constitution and create conditions for free and fair elections," Otunbayeva said.

0630 GMT

The "interim Defence Minister" says armed forces and border guards are under control of the Otubayeva movement.

0614 GMT

Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva warns at her press conference in Bishkek that President Bakiyev is trying to rally supporters and defend his position.

0550 GMT

The New York Times makes its priority clear in the opening paragraph of its report, "The bloody protests against the repressive rule of the president of Kyrgyzstan which forced him to flee the capital of Bishkek could pose a threat to a pivotal American military supply line into nearby Afghanistan."

The story makes no reference to statements of the opposition that it intends to take no action regarding the US airbase at Manas.

0445 GMT

This is perhaps the decisive moment for Kyrgyzstan's government. If the president is forced to flee the city, the country's south will also fall into the opposition's hands and then Bakiyev won't have any more chips to expend.

0413 GMT

Reports are slowly emerging that protesters have started to gather in Kyrgyzstan's second largest city Osh. EurasiaNet reporter David Trilling tweets:

Osh witness reports crowds gathering there.

Akipress reports white house [Kyrgyz Presidential Palace] on fire, 1000 gathered in front, people have free access. [President] Bakiyev flew from Kazakhstan to Osh.

Osh mayor says Bakiyev is in his "southern residence" (not far from UN office in Osh).

diplomatic sources say bakiyev flew to osh and may have moved to hometown of Jalalabad

0405 GMT

Two new stories have emerged. Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva, now in charge in Bishkek is going to be holding a press conference in an hour (1100 AM Kyrgyz Time). As all eyes are turned towards her, new reports have emerged of what the protesters demanded. Several sources on Twitter who are in Kyrgyzstan right now are claiming that the protesters did not demand that the US pull its troops out of Manas Airport.

This story was repeatedly reported by several Western media outlets. According to these outlets, the protesters demanded an end to corruption, lowering of utilities' prices and the evacuation of US Forces from Manas. TIME even published a story claiming Russia might have instigated the uprising to force the US out of Kyrgyzstan. This story is, however, now being hotly contested by Kyrgyz opposition twitterers. It is worth noting that Otubayeva earlier hinted that the US can keep its base in Manas for the time being and no violence was directed at US forces there.

0326 GMT

International reaction to the Kyrgyz uprising has been one of concern over violence and there have been calls for calm.

Russia's president was the first to speak. Most important task at the moment is to prevent new losses of human lives in Kyrgyzstan, which is swept by disturbances, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday. His Press Secretary Natalia Timakova echoed his sentiment:
This situation is Kyrgyzstan’s internal affair but the form in which the protests erupted testifies to the utmost degree of discontent that the actions of the authorities produced among the rank-and-file people....Kyrgyzstan has always been and will remain a strategic partner for Russia and that’s why we’ll continue watching the course of developments there closely.

US National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer urged calm:
We are concerned about reports of violence and looting and call on all parties to refrain from violence and exercise restraint... So far the situation there has not affected any of the US personnel assigned either at the embassy or at Manas.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed his concern on Wednesday toward the violence in Kyrgyzstan.
I am very concerned about the clashes between protesters and government in Kyrgyzstan... I call upon both sides to exercise restraint. Instead of violent actions, peaceful dialogues, are the only correct way to calm down the situation on the ground.

0310 GMT

News has emerged from Kyrgyzstan that the official death toll from the violent protests yesterday in Bishkek is 65. The number was confirmed by the Health Ministry, which had earlier claimed the toll to be 40. Opposition groups, however, claim that the number is as high as 100.

Yesterday's protests were extremely violent as both the government and the opposition used firearms. Scenes of protesters using AK-47s to push back security forces and government snipers shooting at people were shown across several TV stations.

The new report emerges as several outlets such as TIME are hinting that Russia might have had a hand in the new Kyrgyz uprising. This seems to entirely miss  the point that the Kyrgyz president had already faced similar protests in 2006 and 2007 and that the election that brought him to power was marred by fraud. The reports also miss the fact that the current protests were sparked by a hike in utility bills.

0245 GMT

Reports have now emerged that Kyrgyz opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva intends to stay in power and lead an interim government for six months which will write up a new constitution for the county. This could not be confirmed immediately by all sources. In the morning after protesters ousted the government in Bishkek and took over government buildings, the city is still reeling from the looting done the day before. Bishkek Municipality workers are out cleaning the streets. (See pictures below)

However, no reports of new violence from the capital have emerged. Some Kyrgyz netizens reported that the situation was relatively calm and that some people had even gone to work. The opposition earlier declared that they have appointed new ministers of interior and defense and were working to restore calm in the capital.

0216 GMT

Russia Today reports that the Parliament has been occupied by protesters as well. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's house and his relatives' houses have been burnt down. The station also confirms that the president has reportedly fled the country. They also confirm that opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva is in charge and has dissolved the parliament and taken over the presidential palace. Russia Today also confirms that protests are ongoing in at least four cities.


0211 GMT

Morning after the uprising, and Kyrgyz capital Bishkek shows signs of wide-spread looting:

Check the live journal for more pictures.

0144 GMT

The leader of the Kyrgyz uprising has a Twitter account and has been tweeting for the past 24 hours. Her first tweet in English is from 17 hours ago:
We want #freekg #kyrgyzstan ! Bakiev and his cowards are no match against the will of the #kyrgyz people!

Bakiyev, stop shooting at your own people! You will never be forgiven!

She then reverts to tweeting in Russian. A simple translation of her tweets from five hours ago are as follows:
We call on the workers of  KТР, Channel 5 and НТС and other mass-media to show the REAL situation in Kyrgyzstan!

Authority is in the hands of the national government. People have been appointed to key positions. We are working to restore calm.

In the city [Bishkek] national combatants, veterans and others are patroling. Civilians are organized.

The Ministry of Interior Affairs is working to restore calm.

0125 GMT

The BBC reports that Kyrgyzstan's new government's stance on the US base in Manas Airport in the country is unchanged. The report also quotes the opposition's main leader and self-proclaimed interim-leader Roza Otunbayeva claiming that they have appointed a new Interior and a new Defense Minister and they would be dealing with the unrest from now on.

The former Interior Minister was killed yesterday by angry protesters.

0108 GMT

New reports have emerged that Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniar Usenov has tendered the government's resignation and that Baikyev's government's no longer legitimate. This comes amid mixed reports that the President may have fled the country entirely or is in the southwestern city of Osh, his power base. Amid news of wide-spread looting in the city, some observers claim that if Bakiyev manages to keep control of Osh and southern Kyrgyzstan and the opposition remains in the north only, it could mean instability for the country.

EurasiaNet reports:
Although political support for Bakiyev has evaporated in northern Kyrgyzstan, leaders of the provisional government now worry that Bakiyev might try to rally support in the South, his home region. While it seems doubtful that the military and Interior Ministry forces will now follow his orders, as long as Bakiyev remains on Kyrgyz territory he could make trouble for the provisional government. His presence in Osh could exacerbate long-standing North-South tension in Kyrgyzstan, something that could lead to a prolonged period of political confrontation in the country.

0054 GMT

New reports emerging from the country illustrate the extent of people's anger. Protesters have reportedly stormed government institutions all over the capital and have even freed political prisoners in some cases. Opposition leaders claim they are in complete control of the capital and protesters are reportedly mobilizing to take control of other cities in Kyrgyzstan as the day starts.

Reports have also emerged that President Bakiyev has left the city of Osh and is not in Kyrgyzstan anymore. Opposition leaders have reportedly set up a new government in the capital, headed by former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva and are in the process of appointing new ministers.

2353 GMT

New reports by CNN and New York Times suggest that the opposition is in complete control of the capital and were in the process of forming a new government under former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva. Various news sources reported that Otunbayeva claims to be the interim leader of Kyrgyzstan. So far, the wherabouts of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev are unknown. Sources claim he may have left the capital for the southwestern city of Osh, others claim he may have left the country entirely.

The New York Times reports:
The United States Embassy in Bishkek issued a statement saying that it was “deeply concerned about reports of civil disturbances.” By late evening in Bishkek, it appeared that the opposition had succeeded in taking over the national television channels. In a speech to the nation, an opposition leader, Omurbek Tekebaev, a former speaker of Parliament, demanded that Mr. Bakiyev and the rest of his government resign.

Mr. Tekebaev was arrested earlier in the day along with some other opposition leaders, but was later released.

CNN adds:
Bishkek resident Munarbek Kuldanbaev told CNN that opposition leaders went on the state television network and called for calm, but clashes between opposition supporters and police continued into Wednesday night. Another Bishkek resident, who asked to remain anonymous because of security concerns, said there was machine-gun fire around the city and blood stained the streets in front of the presidential palace.

In Washington, a senior Pentagon official told CNN that the turmoil has interrupted flights into and out of Kyrgyzstan's Manas Air Base, an important link in the supply line for U.S. and NATO forces in nearby Afghanistan. It was unclear when those flights would resume, the official said, but the U.S. military has contingency plans to deal with the situation.

Roza Otunbayeva is one of they key leaders of the Tulip Revolution, which ousted then-president Askar Akayev in 2005, as well as a member of the Kyrgyz parliament. She is a former Kyrgyz Ambassador to Malaysia and later the United Kingdom and also the first ambassador the to United States and Canada and served as the deputy head of the United Nations special mission to Georgia from 2002 to 2004.

Russian officials have called for calm in the republic and asked the government and the opposition to settle their differences peacefully. As a new day begins in Kyrgyzstan, it looks unlikely that the violence will stop.


This is the second time Kyrgyzstan will see an uprising sweep away the government. In 2005, protesters stormed the capital and other large cities, forcing President-turned-dictator Askar Akayev from power in what observer dubbed 'the Tulip Revolution'. After elections were held in July of 2005, Kurmanbek Bakiyev was elected to lead the country amid allegations of wide-spread fraud.

However, Bakiyev ousted other leaders of the revolution quickly, starting with Prime Minister Felix Kulov, solidified his hold on power and based on accounts by the opposition and independent observers started to enrich himself and his family. He has faced protests twice before in 2006 and 2007 when opposition demanded that he follow through with promises of reform, restricting the power of the president and clamp down on corruption and crime.

He was elected to a second term in 2009 amidst more allegations of fraud. Among his key decisions was to declare that Kyrgyzstan would evict the US and international forces from Manas Airport, which they use to supply NATO and ISAF troops in Afghanistan.

Bakiyev also restricted media freedoms..

2330 GMT

Latest update: Protesters seem to be in control of Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

Raw video footage from Bishkek showing protesters clashing with security forces. Images could be disturbing to some viewers:


Footage from protests in the rally in the city of Naryn:


2313 GMT

Scope: Currently protesters have shown up in the capital Bishkek where they seem to be mostly in control. Protests in Talas, west of the capital seem to be steady as well and have now spread to the city of Naryn.

Protesters' Demands: End to corruption, lowering the cost of utilities and removal of US forces from Manas Airport. Different sources have quoted different demands, but everyone seems to agree on these three.

State of Affairs: Government forces attempting to control Bishkek and stop violence from spreading to countries two largest cities besides the capital, Osh and Dzhalalabad.

Government: President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is reportedly in Osh in southwestern Kyrgyzstan. The capital so far neither in control of the government nor the protesters.

Casualties: The Health Ministry claims 40 people have been killed by security forces, while opposition leaders claim the number to be over 100. Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev has been beaten to death by the protesters, according to the AP.

2150 GMT

Protesters furious over Kyrgyz government's ineptitude have seized several key government institutions and the headquarters of one of the country's state TV stations. Opposition leaders claim that at least 100 protesters have been killed in the clashes with security forces, while the Health Ministry of Kyrgyzstan claims the number to be less than half that. Protesters were demanding an end to corruption, media reforms and an end to US presence in Manas Airport, which as well as being the country's main airport is also the site of the Transit Center at Manas, a US Air Force base supporting US and international troops in Afghanistan.

Protests started in the northern city of Talas, west of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, on Tuesday over a 200% hike in electricity bills and quickly spread to the capital where protesters first took over the  State-run TV, then the office of the country's main intelligence agency. They later put the Attorney General's Office on fire and attempted to seize the government headquarters.

The violence in the Kyrgyz capital continued late into the night and early morning hours. Fore now, it seems the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is fighting hard to keep control of the capital. Tanks were seen guarding the presidential palace. More updates with background information in a few minutes.

Iran: 4 Ways the US Can Help the Green Movement (Shahryar)

Josh Shahryar writes for The Huffington Post:

Let's face it. On the question of what the U.S. government should do with Iran, the American public is bitterly divided --- less divided than on health care reform, but still very much so. The hawkish side of the spectrum, seeing an enemy in the Islamic regime, advocates a US attack on Iran or at least on its nuclear installations. The dovish side continues to embrace the policy of sympathetic ambiguity; they neither want an attack nor do they have a way of getting the nuclear issue resolved. All the while, the Iranian regime continues to play the West like a fiddle.

The Latest from Iran (3 April): Celebration

It gets interesting, however, when the question of the Green Movement comes up. Both sides generally agree that it is the moral responsibility of the US Government to help it. But while the dovish side expects the US to simply make a few gestures of goodwill, the hawkish side is urging the government to do more than just send Nowruz greetings to the people who are facing detention, torture, and death for demanding their rights.

And with good reason. If the Green Movement succeeds, it will create a democratic nation which would very likely end up being an ally of other democratic nations against dictatorships in the Middle East.

But every time someone speaks up and asks the U.S. to do more than just impose sanctions and to help the Green Movement further, the common criticism is, "Well, what can the US do without interfering in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state?"

Don't be fooled. There are things the US can do to help the Green Movement. Things that would not only help the movement, but at the same time would not be direct interference in the internal affairs of another state. Here's a shortlist of some immediate steps the US can take to help:

*Thousands of Green Movement activists and supporters have crossed the border into Turkey since violence began against them. However, dissidents face a critical situation. Refugees are not permitted to permanently reside in Turkey, but many had hoped for a temporary escape from the regime. These men and women need immediate help in finding a safe haven. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' long arms are probing for them in Turkey, and regime agents easily cross the border as there is no visa requirement between the two countries.

I met a dissident in January. Through sheer luck and help from concerned Americans, he'd made his way to the US through Turkey after languishing there for over six months and living in constant fear of the IRGC. He spoke of horrific conditions where it was not even safe to take a stroll on the streets because Iranian agents roam Turkish neighborhoods looking for refugees.

The Guardian of London has already published two reports, on 3 December and 17 December, on the intimidation of dissidents in Turkey by Iranian agents. In one case, the dissident was raped. The situation has gotten so dire that Germany has decided to offer asylum to some of these refugees in Turkey, "in a gesture of solidarity against human rights abuses by the Tehran regime".

The US Government can and should follow suit, providing these dissidents refuge on its own soil and putting diplomatic pressure on Turkey to stop the violence and intimidation against them. It can also fund Iranian diaspora organizations like OMID Advocates helping refugees and fighting for their rights.

This will help the Green Movement find a foothold abroad and establish a connection between its leadership and the US Government. At the same time, lives can be saved and minds can be converted. Such an opportunity lies in Turkey, just begging for sympathetic government officials in the US to exploit it.

*The Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act was a great first step. But this only goes one way for the most part. It helps broadcast what the West is saying to Iranians, but what about the Iranians shouting out to the West? The US Government can and should further expand funding for Iranian websites that get news out to the public in the US and the rest of the world. News websites like Rah-e-Sabz and Radio Zameneh have proven invaluable sources of information about the events in Iran.

Human rights organizations like RAHANA have been the most accurate doorways to the reality of human rights abuses there. They rely on funding and donations to sustain themselves. Such outlets need nurturing if the Green Movement is going to get the word out to the public.

Right now, Iranians are managing to get information to each other. If they were unable to do so, they wouldn't be able to get thousands to come out on the streets of Iran for protests. The challenge is for their voices to be heard abroad. The Iranian government's restrictions and the clumsiness of certain media organizations are forcing the Iranian public to use Twitter and YouTube. Websites run by Iranians and websites with sources inside Iran must receive funding if the Islamic Republic's grip on the flow of information is going to be weakened.

*The Department of State has criticized Iran's nuclear ambitions extensively. However, when it comes to criticizing Iran for its violation of basic human rights, its track record is embarrassing. Human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government in the past 10 months have included illegal detentions, torture, rape, and murder.

Yet the US Government has not pressed a single resolution in the United Nations to condemn Iran's flagrant human rights abuses. The US could have used the opportunity to get the international community to open its eyes, but it is far too busy building up coalitions for sanctions. While sanctions against Iran are important, resolutions that recognize the regime's brutality are equally as important, as they deter the publics of United Nations member states from supporting their governments' favorable stances towards Iran.

The US must spearhead a UN resolution, condemning Iran's human rights abuses to set the record straight. Humanity must be made aware of how grave these crimes are if the US is to win world support against Iran and favour with the Green Movement.

*Finally, President Barack Obama needs to address the people of Iran and the Green Movement directly. Doing so, he needs to make clear in no uncertain terms that the US supports their fight for gaining the rights guaranteed to them by the Iranian Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I remember growing up during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Every time a world leader stood up and said, "We are with you," it gave the cause of kicking the Reds out a huge moral boost. The Green Movement needs just such a lift.

Short and campy little Nowruz messages that intricately sidestep the issues with broad smiles won't do. The Green Movement will not be helped much by software. It will not be helped by arranging for visas for Iranian students. It will not be helped if it is treated like a movement that has died down and was restricted to 2009. The Green Movement needs its own speech, not just an honorable mention in a speech designed to engage the Iranian regime in a discussion about its nuclear policy.

The President needs to put on a stern face and speak up like the leader of the Free World. Obama must make it clear that the Green Movement has the full backing of the U.S. government and follow it up with action.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

This is the second time I've quoted this invocation in the case of Iran. I hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears.