U.S./KYRGYZSTAN: US Awards Women of Courage Award to Kyrgyz President

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
RIA Novosti
Central Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

The U.S. Department of State has awarded Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva the International Women of Courage Award, Kyrgyz media reported on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the award to Otunbayeva and nine other women in Washington on Tuesday in the presence of the country's first lady, Michelle Obama.

Otunbayeva, who came to power amid large-scale protests that ousted former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, was approved as the country's new leader in a referendum in June.

She is credited with compiling a new constitution and being one of the first Central Asian leaders to pursue fully democratic rule.

She will remain in office until presidential elections in 2012.

In her speech during the award ceremony, Clinton said the United States was "inspired by the tremendous courage, leadership, and tenacity shown by the first woman to lead a Central Asian nation - President Roza Otunbayeva of the Kyrgyz Republic."

"In the face of a collapsing government, regional divisions, economic privation, she emerged as a unifier, someone who kept Kyrgyzstan whole after tragedy and upheaval... She has set an extraordinary example of what it means to relinquish power," Clinton said.

The International Women of Courage Award was established in 2007 by then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. A total of 36 women from 27 countries have received the award.

Prominent Uzbek human rights activist Mutabar Tadjibayeva, who received the U.S. award in 2010, has rejected her prize in protest against the decision to award Otunbayeva, the Kyrgyz Azattyk radio station said.

Tadjibayeva says Otunbayeva, as head of state, bears responsibility for a bloody inter-ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan in June last year. More than 400 people were killed and thousands injured in fierce clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the country's south.