06/20/2022, 09.55
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Border clashes continue between Tajiks and Kyrgyz

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Kekh Pass epicentre of clashes. The two sides trade blame for the situation. Out of 972 km of the border, only 519 km are determined and officially recognized by Dushanbe and Biškek.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Several clashes and shootings occurred in June between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards in the Kekh locality, 15 kilometers from the džamoat (agricultural center) of Vorukh, part of the Tajik town of Isfar; the latest skirmish took place on June 14. Only the military's border stations are stationed in Kekh, and Vorukh often does not even get the echoes of armed incidents, except then to witness sudden maneuvers of new dispositions of soldiers in the territory.

One local resident, Zukhron Tešaev, tells Ozody that "we cannot understand what is happening over there, we see new military units coming to relieve the border detachment and we understand that they are fighting again, before there were more negotiations between the two sides, now they seem to be getting more and more agitated." The residents are continually anxious, any noise outside their door creates concern, and in the village no one can sleep anymore. With every incident, locals recount, at least one or two people die. "We want to raise our children, not grow flowers for graves, let them stop," says Zukhron.

Several Vorukh residents have witnessed at least three armed clashes at the border in the past month, where both populations claim ownership of the Kekh Pass. Tajiks claim that "for centuries we have not only been cultivating the land and grazing our flocks here, but it is also a place of recreation and rest."

The čabany, the local herders, fear the dispersal of animals across the land. According to another local resident, Rufokhudža Rakhimov, "the Kyrgyz want to turn this area into a battlefield, and they keep bringing personnel from the other 'auly' [border forts] to Kekh, while with the residents of Kyrgyz origin we had never had any problems for a long time." The bloodiest clash took place in April 2021, and since then terror has never left the lives of people in these parts.

A Tajik analyst, Nehmatullo Mirsaidov, believes that the Kyrgyz authorities have never been able to fit the border province of Leilek (Batken region) into the country's communication routes, and they try to solve their logic problems at the expense of Tajiks by encroaching on larger and larger parts of the historic pastures in the Kekh area and trying to secure access to water and crucial road crossings.

In the latest clash, 26-year-old Murodbek Makhmadkulov, a Tajik border soldier, lost his life, and the Dušanbe Foreign Ministry said that "as a result of this unjustified aggression, the commander of the Tajik border forces in Kekh was wounded and transported to the Vorukh emergency room; his condition appears quite critical." The Kyrgyz retort that it was the Tajiks who fired first, and this dynamic of mutual accusations is now repeated for all incidents in recent months.

On June 3, Tajik guards had opened fire, according to witnesses, after Kyrgyz soldiers invaded the territory without warning or justification, ignoring all warnings and intimations to stop and turn back. The Kyrgyz complain that it is rather the Tajiks who often trespass, and it appears that no way can be found to agree on control of the road between Vorukh and Isfar, where every turn is claimed by both sides.

The governments of the two countries had claimed to have determined the borders on 664 kilometers of the total 972 that unite Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but in reality only 519 kilometers are currently fully secured, while everything else remains disputed.

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