Accessibility links

Breaking News

'A Living Hell': Pakistani Students Describe Harrowing Bishkek Mob Violence

Crowds gather in Bishkek in the early hours of May 18.
Crowds gather in Bishkek in the early hours of May 18.

BISHKEK -- As violent mobs targeting foreign students erupted overnight in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Pakistani medical student Syed Shah Rukh Khan huddled with others in the student hostel where he lives.

"The night passed like a living hell," Khan, who is in his final year of medical studies at Adam University in central Bishkek, told Radio Mashaal, RFE/RL's service for Pakistan. "Our hostel was attacked and many other hostels, whether private or in the universities, were attacked."

Khan is one of several Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan who gave harrowing accounts to RFE/RL of the mob violence that engulfed Bishkek in the early hours of May 18 after a video purportedly showing Kyrgyz students fighting Egyptian medical students days earlier was shared widely on social media.

The Kyrgyz government has said more than two dozen people were injured in the violence, which prompted the embassies of Pakistan and India in the Central Asian nation of 7 million to warn their students to remain indoors.

Kyrgyz Security Forces Cordon Off Parts Of Bishkek Amid Violence
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:09 0:00

"The locals have beaten whoever came their way, male or female students, and they were dragged on the ground," Khan said. "Even outside the universities, they went after the Pakistani and Indian students and beat them."

Khan told Radio Mashaal that the rampage began around 2 a.m. in Bishkek and that the mobs had scouted out the locations of Pakistani and Indian students prior to the attacks.

"They entered our hostel in the night by breaking the doors and windows. But we were lucky that the [security forces] quickly arrived there," Khan said. "They controlled the situation. In other hostels, the situation was worse. They beat the students and dragged them on the ground outside their rooms."

Video Appears To Show Mob Attacking Foreigners In Bishkek
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:19 0:00

Hasnain Ali, a Pakistani medical student at the International University of Kyrgyzstan, said he and his fellow students were attacked in their hostel and that several of them suffered serious injuries.

Ali said that in the late afternoon in Bishkek on May 18, local police informed him and others that another mob was heading toward their university and had told them: "Turn off your lights, close your doors and windows, and don't look outside."

"We are without water and food. The local police are not helping. They came last night when the mob was gone. The Pakistani Embassy also did not send us any help so far. We are looking to the media to let people know about our situation," a terrified-sounding Ali told Radio Mashaal.

Another Pakistani medical student in Bishkek, Farooq Zeb, said he saw angry protesters chanting anti-Indian and anti-Pakistani slogans and breaking through the gates of his hostel.

UGC images verified by RFE/RL showed broken doors at the VIP hostel in Bishkek.
UGC images verified by RFE/RL showed broken doors at the VIP hostel in Bishkek.

"We are without food and water, and we are scared not knowing what will happen next," Zeb, who studies at the Ala-Too International University in Bishkek, told Radio Mashaal.

Pakistani student Muhammad Ihtisham Latif said earlier on May 18 that the violence broke out after "Egyptian students clashed with locals here."

"The locals are now protesting and they are beating Indian and Pakistani students.... They chase them in their hostels and houses...hostel [doors] were broken. I am locked up in the university along with other students since yesterday," Latif said.

Radio Mashaal reached Latif later in the day and the student said he was in a police van that was moving him and two dozen other students to a safer location.

Gulbara Kulusheva, rector of the Royal Metropolitan University in Bishkek, told RFE/RL in an interview that the university is attempting to provide food and other necessities to around 800 students.

"The majority of them are from Pakistan," Kulusheva said. "Throughout the night the entire university team was in the dormitory protecting them from an angry mob. We are continuing to protect them now."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service in Bishkek and RFE/RL's Baktygul Chynybaeva in Prague
  • 16x9 Image

    Daud Khattak

    Daud Khattak is a senior editor for RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.

  • 16x9 Image

    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.