Kyrgyzstan awareness raised by Kent alumna

Allison Brookes

Sabina Uzakova, a recent Kent State University alumna, is asking members of the Kent community to help the thousands of displaced men, women and children in Kyrgyzstan.

Since June 11, the civil unrest between the ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan has left close to 2,000 dead and 200,000 more as refugees who have fled their homes into neighboring countries. Most of their houses have been burned or looted, leaving them with virtually nothing. The city of Osh, located in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan, has been the epicenter of the violence, Uzakova said.

“We’ve always had tensions between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbek people,” Uzakova said. “But it was never like a neighbor killing a neighbor.”

Uzakova said she was born and raised in Kyrgyzstan and came to the United States in 2003 for a study abroad program. Her mother and two sisters still reside in Kyrgyzstan.

“As far as communication, I can still contact my family and make sure they’re OK,” Uzakova said. “But in the south, it has been a challenge for me to contact anyone.”

Uzakova said she is in the process of helping a friend who is in a military camp with his family get out of the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. She says he is too afraid to leave for fear of being shot by the snipers.

Due to the high volume of people trying to contact their loved ones in Kyrgyzstan, it has been challenging for Uzakova to reach him. One day she tried to reach him at least 20 times. However, Uzakova is still able to text message him for free from certain Web sites.

Policemen who knocked at his door interrupted her conversation with another friend in Osh another day, and later on again by gunshots that she could hear in the distance.

Uzakova is seeking help from members of the Association of International Students as well as the international student population at Kent State. She is also trying to contact the Red Cross in the United States and Kyrgyzstan so she can ship items like canned food, pasta, oil and medication to those in need.

“People have been bringing me food and medical supplies and some of them gave money,” Uzakova said. “But right now, the challenge I’m facing is shipping costs.”

According to Chris Rutzen, an employee at Kent’s UPS Inc. store, shipping a 20-pound box of supplies to Kyrgyzstan would cost $600. Rutzen said a 50 lb. box would cost around $1,000.

“When you ship internationally the weight is important to the price,” Rutzen said. “It costs a lot, but you know it will get there in two days safely.”

Uzakova will talk to UPS Inc. and FedEx this week to see if she can get a discount on the shipping collected supplies to her country.

“I’m also trying to contact different media outlets to raise awareness because a lot of people don’t know a lot about Kyrgyzstan,” Uzakova said. “If I do this, maybe people will want to help.”

Another way Uzakova is spreading the word on Kyrgyzstan is through flyers she’ll be placing around the Kent State campus this week.

“Sabina has so much talent and intelligence that I am sure her contributions will be felt by her Kyrgyz people,” Ted McKown II, associate director of International Affairs, said. “She is dedicating her life to this cause that deeply connects her to family and friends, which truly demonstrates her character and compassions towards humanity.”

If you would like to donate to the people of Kyrgyzstan, contact Sabina Uzakova at [email protected].

Contact International/Diversity Reporter Allison Brookes at [email protected].