Two Central Asian countries are taking an extreme step to strengthen security along their borders, but the move is more likely to add to tensions already present along their ill-defined common frontiers, particularly in the Ferghana Valley.
Ask an ethnic Kyrgyz in the cramped village of Tash-Tumshuk what country he lives in and he will reply confidently, “Kyrgyzstan.” Shout over the mud-brick fence to the ethnic Tajik next door and he will, with equal conviction, say he lives in Tajikistan, in a village called Hojа Alo.
For over 20 years now, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the two poorest republics to emerge from the Soviet Union, have failed to agree on the location of their border in the most densely populated parts of the Ferghana Valley.
A decade of Western support to make Central Asia’s frontiers more secure and open for trade has achieved little because of widespread corruption and a lack of political will, a new report says. Instead, the aid seems to have whet local regimes’ appetites for handouts, as they try to leverage their proximity to Afghanistan.
For Turgunaly Tagaev, a villager in southern Kyrgyzstan’s isolated and impoverished Batken Province, the death of his brother, who lived a few kilometers away, was a tragedy. But his sense of loss turned into a sense of injustice and anger when border guards from neighboring Uzbekistan -- where his brother’s village is located -- kept him from the funeral.