Rape, torture in Kyrgyzstan

2010-06-15 22:12

Khoja-Obod - Struck mute by shock after a brutal gang rape, three sisters - refugees from the violence in Kyrgyzstan - sobbed wildly as a doctor narrated the horror they had endured.

From their broken stories, doctor Mukaddas Majidova said the girls, aged between 16 and 23, had been raped in front of each other by a mob of ethnic Kyrgyz men and were rendered speechless by the trauma.

"These girls were raped recently and by a lot of men and for several hours, according to their injuries," she said.

Majidova and other doctors in eastern Uzbekistan's Andijan border region are struggling to treat the flood of tens of thousands of terror-stricken refugees fleeing five days of bloody clashes in Kyrgyzstan.

Every new patient told a horrifying story, they said.

"We treated today a 28-year-old man who was tortured. He had signs of knife wounds on his neck, burned skin from scalding water and had been shot. We took out the bullet," said Kozim Mahkamov, a doctor at the hospital in Andijan city.

Uzbekistan has issued an urgent plea for international aid to cope with estimates of up to 100 000 refugees now inside the country as it strives to cope with the escalating humanitarian catastrophe.

The Central Asian state shut its border to all but wounded refugees on Monday, leaving thousands marooned on the Kyrgyz side.

An AFP reporter saw two young boys with critical burns handed to Uzbek doctors through the iron fences at the Yorkishlok border post on Tuesday.

Pleas for help

Burns disfigured the face of one of the two boys, aged four and eight, who were without relatives, carried by other refugees to the border.

"This boy was burnt when the Kyrgyz set fire to their house," doctor Mirkomil Otakhodjaev said, receiving the stricken boys across the border.

But some 500 would-be refugees, mostly women and children, stood still screaming for help on the Kyrgyz side. "It's an Uzbek genocide," they shouted and hoisted a make-shift banner pleading: "Please Help Uzbeks!"

An Uzbek youth group handed the desperate crush bread and water through the iron bars at the crossing. Overnight to Tuesday, 24 patients, including a number of pregnant women, were taken in by doctors on the Uzbek side.

A 27-year-old refugee who gave birth to baby boy after her panicked flight said her joy was cut up with worry over the fate of her husband.

"I'm worried about my husband. He is still in Kyrgyzstan, I don't know where," Mukkaddas said at a hospital in the Khoja-Obod district of Uzbekistan.

Ismail, another refugee being treated for a gunshot wound through the back, said he had been shot by a sniper as he tried to help evacuate women and children from a besieged Uzbek neighbourhood in the city of Osh.

"There are snipers on top of all the high buildings," he said. "When we started to evacuate the women, we were shot from behind. Armed people chased us and shot at us."

Uzbeks make up 14% of the population of 5.3 million in Kyrgyzstan, where violence in the southern region over the last five days has claimed at least 170 lives.