President Askar Akayev's administration in Kyrgyzstan has collapsed, in what some are calling “the lemon revolution”, others the “tulip revolution”. Anti-government sentiment had been building since the first round of parliamentary elections on February 27th, and the situation exploded yesterday afternoon, as over 15,000 protesters assembled in Ala-Too square, before seizing control of key government buildings, including Kyrgyzstan's “White House”. Akayev fled the capitol – his whereabouts are unknown, though he is likely heading for Kazakhstan or Moscow. A group of opposition leaders are now in control of the capital. Unfortunately, there has been widespread looting in Bishkek (the capital) and volunteer police are attempting to maintain control.
Many of the first-hand accounts of events in Bishkek are coming from Elnura Osmonalieva, a twenty-three year old woman who has been diligently reporting the events of the past 48 hours. Her amazing photodocumentary is online at ThinkingEast.net, and Registan.net is hosting her narrative of the past days’ events. The account has wonderful details of an amazingly rapid coup:
Excited journalists looked for the President’s Office. When they arrived they found human rights activist Tursunbek Akun in the President’s Chair announcing that he was the first one to enter the room and was there to protect it. Kurmanbek Bakiev arrived to the President’s office in an hour and appealed to all to retain order. He congratulated people with their victory and said “This is people’s property and nobody has the right to take anything. Please have patience, retain order. We must save the White House and this room for our future leadership”.
Eurasianet also has a useful narrative with excellent photos.
Registan, consistently one of the best sources for news and commentary on Central Asia, has a good post on blogosphere reactions to the events in Bishkek. One of the stories Nathan Hamm points to is from Edward at ObsidianWings, whose partner is Kyrgyz and has some insights and reports from family members who are in the capital:
Interestingly, among the protestors who stormed the “White House” were reportedly well-known athletes who were plied with vodka and then encouraged by the opposition leaders to beat up on the president's police. The looters are reportedly the poorer folks from the countryside, not the residents of Bishkek, which bodes well for order once things calm down and they return to their homes. As my partner noted, without a hint of irony, “I mean, who rides a horse in the capital?”
If anyone knows of other people covering the events in Kyrgyzstan, especially people within the country, please let us know.
Update: Righteousbiche, who lives in Kyrgyzstan, blogged a few weeks ago about why she thought a lemon revolution would not happen. As of her last post, she's in Paris – not because she was fleeing revolution, but because she and her partner decided to take a post-election break, because they were sure “nothing exciting would happen”.