The Ferghana Valley's overlapping borders are notoriously porous, portals for narcotics smugglers and - regional governments claim - Islamic insurgents. In many areas, such as around the Tajik town of Charku, the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan boundary is unmarked and runs through villages that are checkerboards of nationalities, with adjacent houses in different countries. Grazing rights and access to water stoke ethnic tensions, yet locals complain their respective governments are unwilling to arbitrate disputes. There are no checkpoints: setting up a barrier would be an implied acknowledgment of delimitation.
The potential for conflict appears high. Indeed, EurasiaNet recently witnessed one heated fight between Tajik and Kyrgyz men over the perceived slight of a toddler. Both blame the other side, maintaining they have lived in the area longer. The claims are eerily reminiscent of similar intractable disputes in the Caucasus, a comparison the villagers themselves are quick to bring up.
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's news editor for Central Asia.