Wednesday, 19 December 2001

FOREIGN LECTURERS FLED KYRGYZSTAN, BUT ARE NOW RETURNING

Published in Field Reports

By Maria Utyaganova, student, American University in Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek (12/19/2001 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Before the September 11 tragedy, no one in Central Asia would think that their region would ever become the center of attention of the entire world. Rumors and fears about the start of large-scale war, and Central Asia being the battle ground for it, were rapidly spreading among the population. The feelings of stress and shock deepened when on September 21, the U.

Before the September 11 tragedy, no one in Central Asia would think that their region would ever become the center of attention of the entire world. Rumors and fears about the start of large-scale war, and Central Asia being the battle ground for it, were rapidly spreading among the population. The feelings of stress and shock deepened when on September 21, the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan issued a statement informing about concerns on the security situation for Americans residing in and visiting Kyrgyzstan. All American citizens in the Kyrgyz Republic were urged to take those measures they deemed appropriate for their well-being including considering to leave the country.

For the American University in Kyrgyzstan, the institution with the largest number of foreign lecturers in the country, the Embassy's statement had a great impact. The day after the statement was issued, the Civic Education Project (CEP) and Indiana University professors teaching at the AUK were asked to leave by their home organizations. Both organizations have legal liability for the security of their employees. Foreign professors were informed that their contracts would be cancelled and they would assume full responsibility for their own departure in case they refuse to leave.

For the next several weeks, all airlines were full as many foreigners were leaving the country. Many courses in the AUK taught by foreign fellows were either substituted or continued to be taught via Internet chat and email. There were also some foreign professors who discontinued their contracts with the CEP and stayed in AUK. While requesting their fellows to leave the country, both CEP and Indiana University assured that they would remain deeply committed to AUK and return professors as soon as the situation became safe.

After a month and a half, Regional Director of CEP Jeff Meyers visited Bishkek in order to collect information on the security situation in the republic and report about it to the CEP Board of Directors. Mr. Meyers met with the U.S. embassy officials, the president of AUK, professors and students, and investigated the security conditions of those foreigners who remained in the country. As AUK newspapers The Star reports, Mr. Meyers explained that at the time when CEP was making its decision on evacuation of its fellows, the security threat for foreigners in Kyrgyzstan was very real. Mr. Meyers emphasized that the majority of CEP's Board of Directors is situated in New York and Washington where the threat at that time was felt much greater than in Central Asia.

Mr. Meyers admitted the fact that since the launch of anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, there has been no incident of any criminal act against foreigners in Kyrgyzstan. The initial period of uncertainty has ended, Mr. Meyers said to The Star. The Regional Director of CEP left Kyrgyzstan feeling optimistic about the fact that the information he had gathered would make the CEP's Board of Directors reconsider their decision to withdraw foreign lecturers from Kyrgyzstan.

Finally, in the end of November, the first several CEP professors came back to AUK. As Norma Jo, the director of the CEP in Central Asia and Mongolia, reported to The Star, this was the first time ever that CEP had to face such a situation. Although CEP is now planning to sign a document informing that it has no direct responsibility for the fellows' security in Kyrgyzstan, the organization still received a useful experience on handling evacuations. CEP is now returning to its regular work in AUK. More additional classes by CEP lecturers are being offered for next semester and more CEP conferences are to be held soon.

Maria Utyaganova, student, American University in Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek.
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