Isomidin Ahmedjanov | Institute for War and Peace Reporting
I was born in 1987 in Osh, the centre of the region of the same name in southern Kyrgyzstan. My father was a police officer and my mother a postal worker. Their job took them to Russia and I spent my childhood shuttling between Kyrgyzstan and various regions in the Russian Far East - Yakutia, Sakhalin and Primorie reigon.
I was three years old in 1990 - shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union - when inter-ethnic violence broke out in Osh between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz triggered by a land dispute. Around 150 people died and hundreds were injured in clashes before the Soviet military stepped in to quell the violence.
At that time, I could not know, of course, that twenty years later I would be reliving a similar conflict and not just as a witness but as a journalist reporting about it.
Following the violence in early 90s, my parents decided it was not safe anymore to leave me with my grandmother and took with them to Russia.
It was not until the time came for me to go to school, when I turned seven, that I returned to Osh. I attended three different schools where teaching was in Uzbek, Turkish and Russian. I have good memories of that time when I was growing up in a multi-cultural environment. It was due to this mixture of cultures that by the time I left school I was able to speak five languages, as I also learned Kyrgyz and English.
My first taste of journalism came when I was 15 year old and my parents moved back to the Far East. There, I enjoyed the same multi-cultural atmosphere we used to have back home until the interethnic violence has put an end to it.
Yakuts, Buryats, Russians, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and other people from all corners of the Soviet Union, as well as Chinese, lived alongside each other.
What I remember fondly from that time is that there was an absolute equality of all cultures and languages without the dominance of one particular ethnic group. The level of friendship and camaraderie between people had more than made up for the harsh environment people lived in.
I got involved in a group run by local historians and journalists which taught youngsters about the history of the region and how to write about it. One thing that I took out from that teaching - which proved to be useful in my job - is the importance of being able to create a picture in the mind of the reader.
This is what I strive to do in my reports about people, events and places in south Kyrgyzstan that reach people all over the world through the IWPR website.
I used to write articles and short stories about life of people in the Far East and send them to local media. Only few of them got published but I felt I should keep trying to get more practice and experience.
I started to work as a journalist in 2006 writing mostly for local newspapers in Kyrgyzstan. In 2008, when I heard about IWPR organising a training session for local journalists and journalism students, I expressed an interest as I wanted to learn something new and the topic of the training - international standards of journalism – sounded very promising.
The real test of my IWPR training came when I covered last year’s events in Kyrgyzstan – the popular uprising in April when the country’s authoritarian president was ousted and the interethnic fighting that broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan in June.
The clashes over several days involving ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities took place in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad and nearby rural areas. It left more than 400 dead, and a trail of deliberate destruction in its wake.
I wrote more than 20 articles for IWPR covering these events.
The article that I feel is special to me is the report Kyrgyzstan on Alert After Osh Clash about a security operation against suspected militants in Osh last November.
This incident provoked fear among the local population about the danger of a renewed wave of ethnic violence. When I interviewed people for the report, I realised that many of them were panicking because there were rumours of a repetition of violent clashes.
It felt good that I could tell them what I knew about the situation - which was not as threatening as they imagined - and could see that people were able to calm down once they found out what was going on.
My journalistic work is helping me to develop skills needed to fulfil my dream of becoming a writer and write a book about the tragic events in Osh.
I also take pride in my work as a reporter to provide the public with accurate information as disinformation and rumours were what fuelled the violence in Osh.
I am glad that through my work as a journalist I can contribute to telling the outside world what’s going on in my small country.
Truthful and objective information about Kyrgyzstan will help the international community to get a real picture of events taking place here. As journalists say, the truth should be told regardless of how unpleasant or uncomfortable it can be. It enables us, in turn, to talk openly about problems and hopefully to find solutions.