What I saw in Bishkek
Image Credit: Images by Hage Firouzel

What I saw in Bishkek


Patrick Barrow is an Australian writer, English teacher and tour guide who lives in Kyrgyzstan. He was on the ground when the violence in Bishkek first erupted.

‘I was in the main Square during the fighting on Wednesday, in the crowds and on the periphery. There was a lot of gun fire and people would duck and run in swarms, unsure of what was fully going on.

It was hard for us to follow what was happening, because everyone was talking in Kyrgyz. In the evening after going home to eat we returned to the Square. There were less people, but still a few thousand people around and the fighting continued. There was some very heavy gun fire. The presidential White House gates appeared as though they had been rammed by commandeered trucks, which were set alight and by morning had burnt out. Snipers took pot shots from the roof of the official government building. The army were inside the gates, firing on people.

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The morning after the fight, we went back to the White House, just before 9am. There were maybe a thousand people scattered about, but they had taken over the Parliament. The gates were all busted open, all the cars inside the grounds were burnt out and the building was ransacked. People were swarming though the front door but couldn’t get in. Around the back, there were a few broken windows and people climbed in.

The mood inside at the time felt safe, but also just one of complete awe and bewilderment. There were a couple of hundred ‘riot tourists,’ just wandering through, but I’d say we were the only foreigners actually inside the White House. Every room was ransacked and pillaged and people were collecting anything they could. Computers, keyboards, electrical cables, books, blank sheets of paper etc.

I even saw one man polish his shoes with boot polish he found. You know it’s a ‘poor man’s revolution,’ when people are polishing their shoes with boot polish they find in the Parliament House.

People seemed happy and excited. Not everyone was taking things—a lot of people were just looking. Some rooms were burnt out and floors were wet from the sprinkler systems, doors were smashed off their hinges and offices were completely overturned. There were people walking around, draped in Kyrgyz flags and their traditional ‘kalpak’ hats.

It was interesting to see the little things that people did…things which meant something to them, such as putting the picture back, or smashing something they didn’t like, or taking some government books that they felt belonged to them.

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