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Statement of participants of the Expert Forum

Statement of participants of the Expert Forum "Chon-Tash: the Beginning and Continuation of the Openness of the Independent Kyrgyzstan's History"

On 23 September 2020, an Expert Forum was held at the Ata-Beyit National Historical and Memorial Complex to honor the memory of the author of the book Secrets of Chon-Tash, Regina Khelimskaya, a well-known journalist, film and TV critic, who recently passed away. Regina Khelimskaya devoted many years to the investigation of the repression under Stalin and the restoration of names of the repressed Kyrgyz citizens.

In their speeches, well-known historians, journalists and scientists highlighted the invaluable contribution of Regina Khelimskaya in restoring historical memory and justice, preserving the sovereignty and independence of Kyrgyzstan. She repeatedly appealed to the country's top leaders with a proposal to officially celebrate the day of remembrance of victims of political repression in the Kyrgyz Republic on 8 November each year. She requested to make all secret archives available to relatives of the repressed. Regina asked to install a stone made of the Issyk-Kul black granite in the center of the capital near the Historical Museum (where the offices of the Assembly of the Peoples of Kyrgyzstan are located), reminding the society that dissidents were tortured and persecuted in the basement of this building.

Zainidin Kurmanov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Diplomatic Academy of the MFA of the KR: "Since 1985, archives have been opened for researchers, and there is hope that the lost historical pages will be restored. But already in 1994, the state security officers closed the archives for 75 years, not willing to reveal the truth about the terrible deeds of Stalin's era, taking care about the state of mind of the relatives of those who committed repression, but forgetting about the rights of children and relatives of the repressed citizens. The truncated history cannot be considered complete and does not provide any opportunity for the development of democracy. In our experience, the authorities have always attacked democracy, narrowed the space for civic engagement and freedom of speech. Although we are considered an "island of democracy", the archives are closed to us. Sometimes they even used to be burned. Archival documents debunk myths and change public consciousness, take for example the experience of Georgia.”

Bolot Abdrakhmanov, Chief Research Associate of the Ata-Beyit National Historical and Memorial Complex:

"Thanks to Byubyura Kydyralieva, we have learned about the secret of Chon-Tash, and were able to recover 137 names of repressed Kyrgyz citizens representing different ethnic groups. 30 years have passed since then, but no more graves have been found, although we have some information indicating that there are many such graves in all regions of Kyrgyzstan. I was able to publish a ten-volume book containing approximately 18,000 names of rehabilitated people from 57 ethnic groups. This work should be continued, as, according to some sources, more than 100,000 of our citizens were repressed."

Ayida Kubatova, head of the Head of the Department of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnology named after B. Jamgerchinov of the National Academy of Sciences of the KR, holds a Ph.D. in History: "Regina Khelimskaya showed us a vivid example of active citizenship. She left the historical memory for the people of Kyrgyzstan, so that we all remember and do not forget about the terrible times of repression that claimed the lives of thousands of Kyrgyzstanis, the names of 137 of them were restored in the burial in Chon-Tash.” The expert emphasized the contribution of the founders of the Kyrgyz state A. Sydykov, I. Arabaev, I. Aidarbekov, Zh. Abdrakhmanov and other leaders. She spoke about the processes of formation of the national intelligentsia, the importance of defining the identity of citizens without discrimination and violence. She noted: “The history of political repression in the 1920s-50s is a common tragedy of the peoples of the former Soviet system. In his book Kyrgyzstan (1928), the prominent political figure Jusup Abdrakhmanov, comparing the nature and climate of Kyrgyzstan, envisioned the country to be as developed as Switzerland. Political parties and movements (such as Alash) were developed on the basis of universal values, respect for human rights and freedoms, and respect for human dignity, so the research of archives should continue.”

Sergey Sidorov, journalist of the newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstana, classmate of Regina Khelimskaya said:

"Regina wrote a lot about the repression under Stalin, but when I read an advance copy of her book Secret of Chon-Tash, I was shocked, it took a lot of courage to publish such a historical material. Regina was purposeful and not afraid of anything…”

Gulnara Tursunbekova, Director of the Ata-Beyit National Historical and Memorial Complex stated:

"Today's forum was unusual, with key scientists and researchers here at Ata-Beyit. We saw that citizens of our country, who are not indifferent to such issues, continue to search for new secret places and blank spots of history, help people find burial places of their repressed relatives. We will work together and join forces to restore justice and truth so that such repression does not recur today."

Naryn Aiyp, a well-known journalist, noted that it is unacceptable for officials of different levels to restrict our political and civil rights. Lessons from the history of 1937-38 make it possible to discover secret burial sites in Kyrgyzstan. This requires the political will of the country's top leaders, and it is necessary to open the archives. The journalist familiarized the participants of the Expert Forum with the Message of the media community regarding the inadmissibility of persecution of journalists and citizens with critical thinking and citizenship during the period of new challenges and risks associated with the pandemic, to stop persecution of journalists, demanding not to encroach on freedom of speech and freedom of expression of citizens, revoke all unconstitutional draft laws, which narrow the space for civil society in Kyrgyzstan.

The participants of the Expert Forum decided to:

Officially appeal to the country's top leadership regarding the importance of opening the archives not only to researchers, but also to relatives and descendants of victims of repression, as well as in order to restore historical memory and justice;

Celebrate officially the day of remembrance of victims of political repression in the Kyrgyz Republic on 8 November every year, using historical documents for civic education at schools and educational institutions of the country, for the development of freedom of speech and freedom of expression and pluralism;

Install a stone made of black Issyk-Kul granite with the inscription: "To victims of political repression in Kyrgyzstan in 1918-1953" next to the House of Friendship, in the basement of which there were firing cells and prison cells in the Stalin era;

Join forces to find relatives of Regina Khelimskaya, find resources to translate her book Secrets of Chon–Tash into Kyrgyz;

Promote the reform of the law enforcement agencies, including the State National Security Committee to end impunity for law enforcement agencies that use torture and humiliate human dignity of Kyrgyz citizens;

Support the Message of the media community regarding protection and promotion of the rights of journalists, freedom of speech and freedom of expression of citizens of the KR.

Participants of the Expert Forum

Chon-Tash: the Beginning and Continuation of the Openness of the Independent Kyrgyzstan's History

Ata-Beyit National Historical and Memorial Complex

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Re: Lira Ismailova, lawyer.

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