Tiptoe Through the Tulips


Five years ago, a mostly nonviolent revolt nicknamed the Tulip Revolution ousted an authoritarian government in Kyrgyzstan. The new regime soon proved repressive as well, and another wave of people-power protests began to brew. Today the rebels seem to have succeeded, according to The New York Times:

Large-scale protests appeared to overthrow the government of Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday and its president fled before an outbreak of mayhem and violence in the capital of Bishkek and elsewhere in the country, an important Amerian ally in Central Asia. Government officials said at least 41 people had been killed in fighting between riot police officers and demonstrators.

While the opposition declared that it was forming its own government, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev left Bishkek in the presidential plane, though it was not clear whether he was leaving the country or heading to another Kyrgyz city. Earlier in the day, the police used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against a crowd of thousands that massed in front of the presidential office in Bishkek, according to witness accounts.

Geopolitical context:

The upheaval raised questions about the future of an important American air base that operates in Kyrgyzstan in support of the NATO mission in nearby Afghanistan. American officials said that as of Wednesday evening the base was functioning normally.

It also posed a potential embarrassment for the Obama administration, which angered the Kyrgyz opposition last summer by courting Mr. Bakiyev in an ultimately successful attempt to reverse his decision to close the base, angering the opposition.