Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan: lost and found
The fighting that erupted in Kyrgyzstan in early June caused death and destruction and tore families apart as people fled their homes and country to escape the violence. The ICRC is working with the Kyrgyz and Uzbek Red Crescent Societies and authorities to restore family links.
The effect of violence can disrupt many aspects of daily life. Sometimes, those most vulnerable are children who, in the chaos, can quickly become separated from their families. On 10 June 2010, widespread unrest erupted in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Within a matter of days, tens of thousands of people were forced to flee from their homes, some losing contact with their relatives and loved ones in the process. Two young girls, Aizirek and Aziza were among those caught up in the chaos.
Aizirek, a 12-year-old girl was undergoing treatment in an Osh medical clinic when she, along with other women, were forced to leave the clinic hastily on 14 June to escape the fighting. Her unsuspecting grandmother, who came to pick her up the following day, was shocked to learn that Aizirek had left for neighbouring Uzbekistan, where tens of thousands of people were seeking refuge.
The girl's distressed mother approached the ICRC mission in Bishkek for help to find her daughter. The organization, which had emergency teams working in parts of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan affected by the fighting in Kyrgyzstan, was able to locate Aizirek the next day. She was at the Andijan Centre for Social and Legal Aid for Minors, in Uzbekistan. The ICRC immediately put mother and daughter in phone contact, bringing great comfort to both.
After taking care of the formalities necessary for reuniting Aizirek with her family, an ICRC team picked her up on 29 June and brought her by car to Tashkent, where she spent the night. The following day, accompanied by an ICRC delegate, Aizirek flew from Tashkent to Bishkek, where she was met by an emotional but relieved mother.
" I have not been able to stop smiling all day, " exclaimed Gulnara Rakhmatullaeva as she entered the ICRC compound in Bishkek. " It began when I found out that my daughter was co ming home today – and now I just can't stop! "
Aziza, Gulnara's 12-year-old daughter, had travelled from her home in Bishkek to the southern city of Osh, to spend her summer holidays with her aunts and cousins. Her arrival in the city, on 10 June, coincided with the eruption of violence: hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks were forced to flee their homes.
At first, Aziza and her relatives hid under the floorboards of the family home, only narrowly escaping an attack by armed men. Later, they fled across the border into Uzbekistan where they spent the next two weeks in a refugee camp, unsure when or whether they would be able to return home safely.
Faced with that uncertainty and desperate to bring her daughter back to Bishkek, Gulnara turned to the ICRC for help. " I had spoken to her on the phone, " Gulnara says, " so I knew she was unharmed, but I had no idea how to get her out of the camp and back into Kyrgyzstan. I wasn't sure, but I hoped the ICRC would be able to help. " ICRC delegates working in the camps in Uzbekistan were indeed able to do so. They quickly located Aziza and with the help of the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan and both the Uzbek and the Kyrgyz authorities, escorted the brave young girl back across the border to Osh and onto an ICRC plane heading back to Bishkek after dropping off relief supplies in Osh.
" I'm so grateful to the ICRC and the Kyrgyz Red Crescent for helping me bring my daughter home, " said Gulnara, still smiling as she waited at the arrivals gate at Bishkek airport. All of a sudden, the waiting was over and Aziza, weary from her ordeal but delighted to be home, ran towards her mother. The smiles spread to everyone's faces as mother and daughter exchanged hugs and kisses and promised never to be apart again.
Thérèse Coché, the ICRC delegate who was present as mother and daughter were reunited in Bishkek said, " Because of the efforts of a lot of people from the ICRC and the Kyrgyz Red Crescent, a young girl is now back with her mother. After the tragic events of the past few weeks, it has been amazing to share in this happy event. "