Statement from the Anti-War Committee of Kyrgyzstan

Sharing the statement of The Anti-War Committee of Kyrgyzstan (KYRGSOTS), originally posted in Russian here. English translation below.

The Anti-War Committee of Kyrgyzstan brings together the efforts of various civil sector organisations and activists who hold left-wing, anti-colonial/anti-imperialist and feminist positions. We are convinced that collective discussions, the development of joint positions on wartime challenges and the coordination of joint practical and solidarity actions can not only increase the effectiveness of our individual efforts but can also serve as a form of solidarity and mutual support in the current circumstances.

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, many of us feel powerless and devastated. We feel that our many years of activism, research and theoretical efforts to fight for equality and social justice have been devalued and rendered useless in the face of the brute force of arms. This sense of helplessness and disorientation is justified and understandable. But we are united in our efforts to overcome it. War is a concentration of inhuman violence, inequality and oppression – all the things we have been fighting against all these years. Our knowledge and experience, gained in this struggle in times of peace, do not lose their significance in times of war, on the contrary, they acquire a special value.

War exacerbates all existing contradictions and polarizes society. Emotional reactions often block opportunities for analytical work. One of our main tasks is to retain in these conditions the ability to think critically and to work together to develop positions, both political and practical. We unequivocally condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine and express our sympathy and solidarity with the victims of the fighting. We take advantage of the privilege of a peaceful sky above us and intend to direct our efforts towards a comprehensive critical reflection on the war, including from a feminist perspective and in the context of global capitalism.

The war in Ukraine is not unique: its causes lie far beyond the evil will of one or a few individuals. Wars in the twenty-first century are, alas, commonplace, especially in the post-Soviet space. The collapse of the Soviet Union left behind a large number of unresolved problems and contradictions between its constituent countries. Military conflicts have long been the norm in resolving these contradictions. The list of the Georgian-Abkhazian and the Georgian-Ossetian conflicts, the two Karabakh wars, the wars in Chechnya and the civil war in Tajikistan is long. Kyrgyzstan is not exempt from this list: there are territorial border conflicts, the most recent of which is the conflict with Tajikistan, which regularly takes the form of active hostilities; there are inter-ethnic clashes, such as the ones in Osh in 1990 and 2010, which used weapons.

The main form of state existence in capitalism is the nation-state and each of the countries of the former Soviet Union has been trying to construct its own national concept for the past 30 years, often boiling down to aggressive ethnic or linguistic nationalism; a space where there is no place for “outsiders” and the essence of nation, territory and language becomes invulnerable to criticism. Such nationalism inevitably becomes a convenient tool in the hands of political elites, which they skilfully use to increase their own popularity and legitimacy. And, of course, war becomes the ultimate expression of the national idea, rallying elites and people around it, obscuring any internal contradictions and sprinkling the blood on the national myth. Thus, war inevitably follows from the logic of nation-state building.

Paradoxically, capitalism, which pushes countries and peoples to build nation-states, tears them apart, turning the whole planet into a global labour and capital market for which no borders exist. Migrant communities are a prime example of this divide. Thus, today, many Kyrgyzstanis are linked to Russia and as a consequence, are directly involved and instrumentalised in military conflicts, ranging from direct participation in hostilities to the use of the migrant question in diplomatic relations between Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Similarly, the translocal position of many residents of Donbass, who even before 2014 migrated to Russian border regions and subsequently obtained Russian citizenship, is used by Russia as one of the pretexts for invading Ukraine.

While the events in Ukraine are experienced as particularly close to us, we should think of wars that seem distant despite taking place in close geographical proximity to us. First and foremost, the long-running war in Afghanistan, but also the wars in Syria and Iraq. The indirect involvement of our country in these conflicts has not caused the same public outcry as the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the operation of a military base in our country for almost a decade to support US military operations in Afghanistan, the influx into Kyrgyzstan of refugees from Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the participation of our citizens in the military conflict in Syria and Iraq show that the war has always been with us, long before February 24, 2022.

Of course, we must not forget that much of war and the experience of the threat of war is part and parcel of the global capitalist system. The imperialist blocs of countries aligned around the division of economic resources are constantly competing for influence by, amongst other things, military means. As before, the world is divided between great powers and alliances, and the more the economic situation becomes critical, the greater the tension, which finds its way into civil and political conflicts that turn into full-scale wars. Kyrgyzstan is involved in this process in the most direct way, being in the sphere of imperialist ambitions of Russia, the US and China.

The paradox of war is that none of us, ordinary people, want war in any of its manifestations. It hits hardest at the grassroots, the silent and disadvantaged majority of ordinary workers, villagers, students, pensioners and so on. Not the elites, but the most ordinary people are dying from bullets and rocket attacks, and they also suffer a great deal from the economic instability that any war entails. And yet we, the majority, are utterly powerless to stop and prevent wars. As a rule, the loudest voice in the public debate is that of the “war party,” supporters of aggression, whether driven by national sentiment or petty political and financial gain. The anti-war protest in Russia has been fruitless. The Ukrainian majority, which had expressed its desire for peace during the last elections, also lost. The anti-war protests in the US against the invasion of Iraq have lost, as have any other peace movements in recent decades.

The danger of war threatening us right now is forcing us to look for ways out. We are convinced that the answer to war must be a principled stance that makes peace between nations and peoples the supreme value, taking precedence over national, political and economic interests. We must reject the false slogan “If you want peace, get ready for war. To win a war, one must fight not the war itself but its causes. There is no point in wishing victory or defeat for one side in the current conflict when they will inevitably become a prologue to new wars and new deaths. And yet, history knows examples of the victory of anti-war civil movements. Russia’s withdrawal from the First World War as a result of the October Revolution, the French movement against the war in Algeria, the American resistance to the war in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia are perfect examples of the victory of the idea of peace that ended terrible wars. At the heart of these movements was international solidarity and a willingness to recognise others as equals – genuine humanist values which we need today more than ever.

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