05/03/2021, 17.57
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Border conflicts between Muslim countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

An Islamic court settled a dispute between Ingushetia and Dagestan. Clash between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over the Golovnoy water intake facility leaves scores of people dead and wounded.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The month of Ramadan (mid-April to mid-May this year) should induce the Muslim faithful to be thoughtful and show mutual respect. Instead, disagreements and disputes over borders are multiplying among Muslims majority ethnic groups who have lived for centuries in the lands of the former Soviet Union in Europe and Asia.

Within the Russian Federation, Ingushetia and Dagestan had a row after Dagestani political scientist Ruslan Kurbanov (picture 2) on 21 April addressed the Lezgins, Northeast Caucasian ethnic groups, talking about nearby Ingushetia as a “republic formed by chance against the background of the Chechen wars of the 1990s.”

This statement sparked outrage among the Ingush, to the point that two members of the Mekhk-kkhel association, Sarazhdin Sultygov and Musa Albogachyev, filed a lawsuit against Kurbanov before an Islamic court.

The latter agreed to submit to Islamic law, but not in Ingushetia, and only after Ramadan (Islamic courts take a break in Russia during this months), possibly in Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

For his accusers, he is a “provocateur”, and in their view, local theologians, be they Ingush, Daghestani and Chechen, “chew problems like peanuts”, i.e. they can easily settle the matter; hence they insisted on immediate trial in Nazran, in Ingushetia.

On 27 April, the court met online, Sultygov and Albogachyev accepted Kurbanov's apology, avoiding dangerous reactions among the peoples of the two republics.

In late April, representatives of Chechen Tukhkum (local kinship groups) from the Arshtin ethnic group (also called Orstkhoytsy) publicly demanded the end of all speculation about their affiliation with the Chechen people.

Their request was presented in every village where Arshtin groupings are active, and the elders of each group or teip spoke out. The Arshtins reiterated their union with the Chechen people, and do not want neighbouring Ingushetia to “politically use our people to divide the citizens of Chechnya.”

All this stems from a speech by the President of the Chechen Parliament, Magomed Daudov, who, at the beginning of Ramadan, publicly said that he was willing to meet and openly discuss border issues with neighbouring republics.

Daudov repeated his proposal on 26 April, suggesting a meeting in Pyatigorsk, the administrative centre of Russia’s North Caucasian Federal District, but as protests mounted, solving the issue appears more and more remote.

Russia’s Caucasian republics are not the only part of the former Union facing border problems, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are again at loggerheads over their shared border, which recently led to a series of armed clashes.

Last Wednesday, a water dispute broke out among residents near the Golovnoy water intake facility, not far from the sources of the Isfara River (picture 3), which both countries claim. Guns were used. When security forces arrived, the fighting intensified until Thursday evening.

Roads leading to the river were blocked first by Tajiks, then by Kyrgyz, and 7,000 local residents were evacuated. More than 10 buildings were set on fire, including a school.

The Kyrgyz Ministry of Health has reported 31 dead and 154 wounded, while Tajikistan reported only nine wounded. The parties are still trying to find a peaceful solution to this issue, avoiding further violence.

In this part of the world, ethnonationalist conflicts are a local sovereigntist response to globalisation, tied to ethnicity rather territory or culture. Increasingly, Islam is the basis for collective claims, driving more people, especially the young, towards radicalisation.

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