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Country Reports

Kyrgyzstan Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Foreigners wishing to visit the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan (population 5.8 million) should take note of a few issues prior to traveling.

AREAS TO AVOID

Most Western governments advise general vigilance when traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic.

A longstanding dispute concerning sections of the Kyrgyz and Uzbek border sometimes results in skirmishes between security forces in the border Batken province, with a few deaths and casualties reported over the past few years. Landmines have been placed in contested frontier zones; the many landslides that occur in the region, an active seismic zone, increase the risk of explosions. All nonessential travel to regions to the south and west of Osh should therefore be avoided, as well as travel to the Fergana Valley region and the Tajik border.

Kidnappings are common near the border with Uzbekistan, particularly in the Osh region.

TERRORISM

The Kyrgyz Republic's counter-terrorism strategy continues to focus on rooting out existing violent extremists, countering the spread of violent extremism, limiting the flow of Kyrgyz national foreign terrorist fighters, and preventing those returning from conflicts abroad from engaging in terrorist activities. While terrorist attacks remain rare in Kyrgyzstan, the August 2016 car bombing of the Chinese Embassy in the capital Bishkek, multiple foiled bombings, and various arrests of suspected terrorists underscore the ongoing terrorist threat.

On August 30, 2016, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device inside the compound of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek a week before the start of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, injuring three people. The identities of the culprits as well as their motives have yet to be established.

Additionally, Kyrgyzstan remains vulnerable to transnational threats due to its porous borders and the infiltration of extremists. According to government sources, approximately 600 Kyrgyz have left the country to join the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS).

CRIME

Foreigners are regularly subject to crime in urban areas (extortion, theft, etc.). In 2016, police investigated 77 cases related to crimes against foreigners. However, some cases often go unreported, such as sexual and physical assaults as well as theft. Most violent assaults and mugging occur in Panfilov Park in Bishkek. All parks should be strictly avoided after nightfall.

On multiple occasions, foreigners have reported having their drinks spiked. Women are at risk of being drugged in nightclubs in cases of attempted sexual violence.

There is a high incidence of petty theft and pickpocketing in local open-air markets/bazaars, crowded places (streets, internet cafés), public transportation, and underground malls/underpasses. In Bishkek, be particularly vigilant in Osh Bazaar, Dordoy Bazaar, Alamedin Bazaar, and Ortosay Bazaar. Some foreigners have been victims of extortion at Osh Bazaar, targeted by individuals professing to be plainclothes policemen. Travelers should be aware that Kyrgyz police always wear a uniform when on duty. 

Always keep your identity and travel documents (passport, visa) with you at all times. Keep copies in a safe place.

SOCIAL RISKS

Despite a history of civil unrest, ethnic violence, and political rivalries based on regional and ethnic cleavages that continue to hinder the nation's political and social development, electoral periods tend to proceed peacefully.

Small, localized, and potentially violent events sometimes occur sporadically. They have the potential to evolve into large-scale, violent demonstrations and general disorder.

A series of protests took place in February-March 2017 after several opposition leaders were arrested and sentenced for allegedly plotting a coup. During this crackdown on opposition, supporters gathered outside the State National Safety Committee's headquarters in Ala-Too Square - a traditional protest site in Bishkek - as well as outside the White House (presidential office). Police resorted to stun grenades to forcibly disperse the crowds; nearly 70 people were arrested during and after the protests.

Numerous incidents of ethnic violence have left several hundred dead in the south over the past few years, specifically in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in May-June 2010. In January 2011, several incidents of violence took place in the capital (e.g. a hotel was attacked by Islamist militants leaving three dead).

POLITICS

On October 4, 2015, President Almazbek Atambaïev's party and the ruling coalition's largest partner, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (PSDK), won the parliamentary elections.

The December 2016 constitutional referendum passed; the changes included a rebalancing of power between the president and the prime minister, but also the removal of a major human rights clause and the definition of marriage as strictly between a man and woman.

Parliamentary elections will be held in October 2020. Current Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeebekov, nominated for the presidential race by the SDPK, is the favorite so far. Four other party-nominated candidates and 25 independent candidates will take part to the election. Observers expect a second round of elections.

NATURAL RISKS

Kyrgyzstan is situated in an active seismic zone. A strong earthquake of 5.8 magnitude occurred in southern Kyrgyzstan in May 2017. While there were no human fatalities, the tremors resulted in severe damage to infrastructure, including educational and health facilities and houses in the district of Chong Alay of Osh province as well as the district of Kadamjai in Batken province. The last deadly earthquake occurred in 2008; with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale, it left 60 dead in the Alay Mountains region (in southern Kyrgyzstan).

Some 95 percent of Kyrgyzstan's territory is mountainous and torrential rains often prompt landslides and mudslides. Around 20 people were killed in a rain-induced landslide near Osh in April 2017.

HEALTH

Medical facilities suffer from serious shortages of equipment, trained personnel, and medicine, and the care available is below Western standards. Prior to departure, foreign nationals should purchase a health insurance policy covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Typhoid fever, tuberculosis, malaria, rabies, and tick-borne encephalitis are all present in the country and could affect travelers. The risk of contracting malaria is high and is more severe from June to October in some southern and western parts of the country, mainly in areas bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (Batken, Jalal-Abad, and Osh regions) and in the outskirts of Bishkek.

Tap water is not drinkable in many parts of the country. Diarrheal diseases are common among travelers who do not take precautions.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Power outages occur regularly throughout the country.

Foreign visitors should note that tourist infrastructure is not very well developed. Public transportation is rare in the country and should be avoided.

Finally, whenever possible, it is best to avoid flying with domestic airlines in Kyrgyzstan, as many do not adhere to international security and safety norms.

LEGAL

Kyrgyzstan has a secular government; however, the majority of its citizens are Muslim. It is therefore recommended to dress modestly, especially in the areas around Osh and Naryn.

Taking pictures of border areas is prohibited in Kyrgyzstan. Infractions are liable to be strictly punished.

Climate

Kyrgyzstan has a continental climate which varies significantly between mountainous zones and arid valleys.

Snow is a constant on summits while temperatures are high in the country's desserts, fluctuating between 30°C and 40°C in the summer. The climate becomes cooler as elevations increase. In the winter, temperatures remain below freezing, particularly in January due to the Siberian winds that blow across the country.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +996 Police: 110 Fire Dept.: 101 Ambulance: 103

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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