09/21/2022, 09.27
TAJIKISTAN-KYRGYZSTAN
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Unresolved borders behind the 'endless' war between Kyrgyz and Tajiks

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The two countries have almost 1,000 km of border yet to be fully recognised. The parties trade blame. At least 100 casualties; a ceasefire is now in force. More than 150 clashes in 10 years. Attempts to revive a joint border commission.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Today Kyrgyzstan is in national mourning to commemorate those who died in the clashes between the 14th and 17th on the border with Tajikistan.

The problem has been dragging on for years now, a legacy of Soviet-era confusions and ancestral hostilities between a people of Mongolian origin (the Kyrgyz) facing one of Iranian origin (the Tajiks), in a region inhabited by other Turkic peoples.

There is an accumulation of ethnic, economic, political and cultural factors that complicate the management of each disputed geographical area, along the almost 1,000 kilometres of border still not fully recognised by both countries.

Rather than a planned attack by one or the other side, in recent days there has been a sudden shootout, which degenerated into a clash in the entire area of the valleys that wind through the border zone, where it is impossible to distinguish the areas of competence of one or the other state, especially with regard to roads and water resources.

The disputes are also affected by many local micro-conflicts between tribal and family groups, which are often related to smuggling, and responsibility is always and mutually shifted to the other side.

The head of the special services of Kyrgyzstan, Kamčibek Tašiev, asked for forgiveness from the parents of the young soldiers who were killed: 'You gave them to us to serve the country, for me they were almost my sons... we have lost real heroes, I bow to their courage'. Former president Sooronbai Žeenbekov also joined the public condolences.

Biškek informed of 59 dead, 140 injured and 140,000 people evacuated from the area of the clashes, accusing the Tajiks of 'planned action of wide-ranging aggression'. It all originated on 14 September from an exchange of gunfire at the Kekh border point near the Tajik town of Isfar.

The head of the Kyrgyz Security Council, Marat Imankulov, said he was 'ready to prove to the international community the premeditation of the Tajik assault' with photo and video material.

Tajikistan's deputy foreign minister, Sodik Imomi, in turn declared the loss of 41 soldiers 'as a result of the Kyrgyz aggression' in various population centres on 16 September, without clarifying how many civilians were involved or killed, but adding that several wounded are in a very serious condition.

The accusations against the Kyrgyz speak of 'crimes against humanity', with violent shootings against the homes of civilians, in which a family with children and a pregnant woman were allegedly exterminated, and also against ambulances and local government offices.

The Eurasianet portal has, however, released videos that do not confirm the accusations on the part of Tajikistan, 'where information suffers severe state repression'. Tajik soldiers allegedly took the videos, which show a direct attack on Kyrgyz targets, not a defence of national territory.

However, the most affected area seems to be the Kyrgyz city and the Batken district, with its airport, where the assault by the Tajik army would be concentrated. The Prime Minister of Biškek, Akylbek Žaparov, reported the destruction in the area of 282 targets, military barracks and civilian houses, market and shop facilities, as well as nine schools and three kindergartens. All schools in the area have stopped teaching, and many people have been evacuated. The president has already signed a decree for 'immediate and extraordinary reconstruction measures for the territorial units of the Batken and Oš regions'.

On 16 September, the two presidents - Kyrgyz Sadyr Žaparov and Tajik Emomali Rakhmon - met at the summit in Samarkand. They agreed on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the troops that had meanwhile massed on both sides of the border. A joint commission with Tashiev and his Tajik counterpart Saimumin Yatimov will be activated on the spot to clarify all the details of the conflict.

The work of the Intergovernmental Border Commission, which was laboriously approved several months ago, will also be relaunched. Armed conflicts on these uncertain borders have already exceeded 150 incidents in the last 10 years, and even the International Committee of the Red Cross has appealed to the leaders of the two countries to stop involving peaceful civilians in these clashes.

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