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More Fallout From Yet Another Kyrgyz-Tajik Border Shootout

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Borders are a problem in Central Asia. Barbed wire Wikipedia image.

Another week and more violence on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. As usual, the respective governments, media and Internet users of the two countries interpreted events very differently.

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Kyrgyz-Tajik border. A photo from knews.kg. Used with permission.

According to  Kyrgyz officials, the situation at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, where one Tajik national was killed  and a further seven wounded in a shootout on July 10, is now stable. Last Thursday an armed conflict between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards arose over disputed territory in Batken oblast near the Tamdyk border crossing point. Representatives of the Kyrgyz State Border Service stated that Kyrgyz border guards were acting within their legal mandate afterTajik citizens violated border regulations:

Перестрелка была спровоцирована “неправомерными действиями граждан Таджикистана” – около 30 человек предприняли попытку проложить трубопровод с территории Кыргызстана (река Каравшин) в село Бедак таджикского анклава Ворух. Кыргызстанский пограничный наряд, прибыв на место, потребовал прекратить все работы в связи с тем, что участок является неописанным. В ответ, как сообщается, граждане Таджикистана забросали пограничников камнями, и те были вынуждены произвести предупредительные выстрелы в воздух. После этого пограничный наряд Таджикистана, находившийся неподалеку от места инцидента, открыл огонь по кыргызским пограничникам. В результате завязалась короткая перестрелка.

The shooting was provoked by the “unlawful actions of Tajik citizens”. About 30 people attempted to build a pipeline from Kyrgyzstan to the Bedak village of the Tajik Vorukh enclave. Kyrgyz border guards demanded to end work [on the pipeline] as the land was disputed. In response, citizens of Tajikistan threw stones at the Kyrgyz border guards, and they had to fire a few warning shots in the air. After that, Tajik guards arrived at the scene of conflict and opened fire on the Kyrgyz border guards.

The Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a different view of events, and sent the following note to the Kyrgyz government:

10 июля в 11.30 местного времени на территории земель, отведенных Кооперативному хозяйству «Ворух» Исфаринского района Республики Таджикистан, гражданами Таджикистана проводились работы по прокладке трубопровода. Подошедшие к ним кыргызские пограничники, несущие службу на посту «Тамдык», расположенном на несогласованном участке границы, стали вести себя вызывающе по отношению к мирным жителям, всячески оскорбляя их и выдвигая незаконное требование прекратить работы и покинуть местность. Находившиеся неподалеку таджикские пограничники, подошедшие для выяснения обстоятельств, попытались пресечь действия  своих кыргызских коллег. В ответ последние внезапно открыли прицельный огонь из автоматического оружия. В результате этого, 7 мирных граждан и один пограничник Республики Таджикистан получили огнестрельные ранения. Один гражданин Республики Таджикистан от полученных ран скончался на месте происшествия. Следует отметить, что таджикские пограничники не произвели ни одного выстрела.

Kyrgyz border guards acted aggressively towards the citizens of Tajikistan and made unlawful requests to stop work in the area. After Tajik border guards arrived and asked their Kyrgyz colleagues to stop their illegitimate actions, Kyrgyz guards opened fire in Tajik citizens. As a result of the shooting, 7 citizens of Tajikistan were injured. It is worth noting that Tajik border guards did not fire a single shot in the conflict.

The Kyrgyz State Border Service disagreed, insisting that Tajik border guards opened fire on their Kyrgyz counterparts at the Tamdyk border crossing point.

Whose land is it anyway?

At the heart of the problem is a failure to delimit the vague boundaries left over from Soviet times. In what some see as a Stalinist ruse, the Soviet Union created pockets of Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek territory outside the general territories of those states. This has lead to a situation where residents of “exclaves” want to connect villages to their “home” countries and residents of the mainland want to build infrastructure that bypasses the exclaves, sparing themselves the hassle of passing through border controls.

Over at Eurasianet's Inside the Cocoon blog, journalist David Trilling explained the link between the July 10 violence and another shootout in the same area earlier in the year.

Tensions have grown in the disputed areas around Vorukh and the Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai (map here) in recent years as the population has increased and the two governments push the idea of firm national boundaries in a region where none have previously existed. In January, arguments over the construction of a Kyrgyz road led to an hour-long shootout between border guards that left at least seven injured. The Kyrgyz say the Tajiks fired shells and tried to destroy a small dam.

Although people living in these border areas typically lack access to the Internet, urban Tajiks and Kyrgyz actively discuss the deteriorating situation at their common border. A citizen of Kyrgyzstan, Kanykei Toichubekova commented on Kyrgyz newpaper Vecherni Bishkek's public Facebook page:

Мы что кыргызы, теперь и на своей территории, не можем строить дороги. Чушь, полная, мне интересно как это таджики могут указывать, нам что делать? Пусть у себя на территории делают, что хотят.

We are Kyrgyz, why can't we construct a road in our own territory? I wonder why citizens of other counries feel they can tell us what to do. Let them make decisions on their own territory.

On July 11, Tajikistan requested Kyrgyzstan to remove its border post in the region, sparking more outrage from Kyrgyz patriots like Rafael Aidekov, who accuse their Tajik neighbours of slowly grabbing more and more Kyrgyz territory:

 Они скоро свое белье в Белом доме будут вешать

Soon they will be hanging their laundry inside [our] House of Government.

Tajiks reacted equally angrily on Asia Plus, an independent news site in Tajikistan:

Сколько можно терпеть беспредельный с киргизкой стороны ? Почему наши власти не принимают каких либо адекватных мер Прошу редакцию Азии Плюс расследовать эти инциденты Когда наша страна встанет с колен перед всеми

How much longer can we tolerate these violations from the Kyrgyz side? Why do our authorities not take any concrete measures? I ask Asia Plus to investigate these incidents wherein our country is brought to its knees in front of everyone

But another reader of the website urged commenters to avoid provocation and called for Muslim unity during the Islamic holy month:

Кто-нибудь из вас когда-нибудь был на этом месте? в наше время пока не увидите своими глазами не верьте что пишут. вашу необоснованную ненависть могут третьи силы использовать в своих интересах. Рамадан мубарак!

Have any of you ever been to that place? In our times until you don't see things with your own eyes,don't believe what you read. Your unfounded hate can be used by outside forces for their own gain. Happy Ramadan!

The repective Attorney Generals of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have announced they will launch investigations into the July 10 conflict on the Kyrgyz-Tajik state border.The Tajik-Kyrgyz joint commission organized in January to prevent further border conflicts has so far failed to achieve very much. Only around 600 km of the 900 km long Kyrgyz-Tajik border have been delimited at present.

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