An alarmingly high number of people have reportedly been injured in another interethnic clash on the undemarcated Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border overnight. As usual, media and officials in both countries are pointing fingers at the other.
According to the Kyrgyz Border Service, a clash involving 1,500 local residents started late on May 7 in Jaka-Oruk (by the Tajik village of Hoja-Alo), when Tajiks began throwing stones at Kyrgyz cars. Tajiks also burned a Kyrgyz gas station, a shop and two cars, the Border Service said in a statement. Nine people have been hospitalized, one in intensive care. Kyrgyz sources put the total injured at about 30.
Tajik officials say the Kyrgyz started it. “Clashes broke out after a group of young, drunk Kyrgyz men threw stones at a car belonging to a resident of the Tajik village of Vorukh,” an unnamed Sughd Province official told Dushanbe’s Asia-Plus news agency. He said seven Tajiks were hospitalized with head injuries and one received an injury from a hunting rifle.
Kyrgyz villagers are still blocking the only road connecting the Tajik exclave of Vorukh with the Tajik mainland, says Asia-Plus, reporting up to 60 injured total. That road runs through de facto Kyrgyz territory. Last night Tajik villagers blocked the road connecting Batken, the largest nearby Kyrgyz city, with Kyrgyz territory to the west. Vechernii Bishkek, citing Kyrgyz officials, reports that road is now open again.
Tensions in the disputed Isfara Valley, simmering over the past few years, have been especially high since January, when a shootout between border guards arguing about a Kyrgyz road project left at least seven injured. The two sides live in an uneasy codependence that currently requires villagers on both sides to pass through the neighboring country to reach their homes. The Kyrgyz were trying to build a bypass road around Tajik territory. But any road project that frees one side threatens to entrap the other. Though the Kyrgyz promise the Tajiks that they would not impede their movement, Kyrgyz villagers have frequently shut the road to Vorukh this year.
As of mid-day on May 8, Bishkek’s 24.kg news agency reports people are again massing on the border demanding the perpetrators of last night’s violence be punished. About 300 people have also gathered at the Batken provincial administrative building, about an hour away, demanding the government resolve the festering border dispute, Vechernii Bishkek reported.
For detailed background, read this March feature on the roots of the conflict, its explosive ethnic component, and why neither side seems capable of defusing it.