Recurring Clashes on Tajik-Kyrgyz Border over Raising of National Flags
Dr Pravesh Kumar Gupta, Research Assistant, VIF

On 22 July 2019, the border authorities of Tajikistan informed that a skirmish took place on the border with Kyrgyzstan which resulted in killing of one local resident and several others wounded. According to the Tajik media, this violent conflict is a provocation just before the meeting of the two Presidents in Isfara, Tajikistan, for bridge-building on the conflict-prone border crossing between the two countries sharing the Ferghana Valley. The recent incident has highlighted the failure of both governments to ensure a peaceful solution to the border disputes. Moreover, the scheduled high-level meeting between the two Presidents in Isfara region will also undermine the intentions of local stakeholders from the Kyrgyz side who do not want peace on the border and therefore, they are making provocations, claimed Tajik side.1

Tajik border service officials reported that the residents of Vorukh village (it is an exclave of Tajikistan within the territory of Kyrgyzstan situated at the Isfara-Bakten border between the two countries) whilst preparing for the meeting between President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov set up a flagpole which was intended to unfurl the Tajik National flag. Meanwhile, Kyrgyz authorities claimed that the flagpole was setup on an undemarcated section of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border which led to outrage among the local Kyrgyz population. In response to the flagpole that was erected by the Tajiks in the disputed territory, local Kyrgyz population of the surrounding Vorukh Tajik exclave put up a sign Aksai in the Dacha area which was demolished by the Tajiks. This escalations between the two ethnic groups led to the hurting stones on each other’s resulting in many injuries.2

The Tajik border authorities have claimed that natives of the Kyrgyz village of Aksai (this Kyrgyz village is situated at the border of the Vorukh Exclave) used firearms and as a result of which a Tajik citizen of Vorukh village died. Also, three others were wounded and seven received serious trauma due to stone pelting. The statement also mentioned that the Kyrgyz citizens took the advantage of the situation and illegally closed the Isfara-Vorukh road (this road connects the Tajik northern city of Isfara and Tajikistan's Vorukh exclave in Kyrgyzstan). The border representatives from both sides arrived late at the site of conflict to respond to the escalating situation.3

Vorukh is a Tajik exclave situated in the Batken Province of Kyrgyzstan bordering Sughd province of Tajikistan. Issue of enclaves and exclaves between the three of the Central Asian Republics which share the Feraghana Valley region has been a bone of contention since the collapse of the Soviet Union when administrative boundaries at that time became full-fledged international borders. Several violent clashes between the local residents in the bordering areas have been happening since then. Previous governments have not been able to solve these issues for a long time until recently when the newly appointed Uzbek President Shawkat Mirziyoyev took the initiative to resolve the border issues with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have also engaged bilaterally towards resolving their border dispute. But the claims made by the aforementioned countries are at risk of failing when incidents like these take place where years of tension and anger boils over.

The Ferghana Valley region has been in a constant state of volatility due to the recurring ethnic conflicts since 1991. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan share this resource laden Valley. Resources which need to be equally shared by the overlapping ethic groups in the border areas has on several occasions led to violent inter-ethnic conflicts. Recently, attempts have been made by the new governments in place to resolve these issues.

The silver lining from this new incident on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border should be seen as closing the gap in the border dispute settlement process between these Central Asian Republics. Governments of these Republics need to take into account the local sentiments and issues and then proceed to resolve these issues.

Endnotes:
  1. “Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan: Fresh border clash causes fatality”, Eurasia net 22 July 2019, https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-kyrgyzstan-fresh-border-clash-causes-fatality
  2. “Tajikistan says conflict on border with Kyrgyzstan is provocation”, AKI Press, 22 July 2019, https://akipress.com/news:622429:Tajikistan_says_conflict_on_border_with_Kyrgyzstan_is_provocation/
  3. “150 Kyrgyz Villagers Evacuated Near Tajik Border As Tensions Flare Over Raising Of National Flags”, RFE/RL, 22 July 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/tensions-spill-over-on-kyrgyz-tajik-border-over-raising-of-national-flags/30069738.html

Image Source: https://www.tol.org/get_img?NrArticle=22357&NrImage=1

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