Kyrgyzstan has turned away dozens of Tajik nationals attempting to enter the country as part of a travel ban imposed amid continued border tensions.
Bishkek’s Manas international airport said 177 travelers arriving on May 25 from Dushanbe on a chartered Somon Air flight were made to return within the day. Nine other foreign individuals were permitted to enter Kyrgyzstan.
RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radioi Ozodi, reported on May 26 that around 100 Tajik nationals wishing to fly home or travel onward to Russia were stranded at Manas and being denied the opportunity to depart. Airport officials quizzed by Eurasianet have denied this claim, however.
The Kyrgyz government imposed its temporary restriction on Tajik citizens entering, leaving and transiting its territory on May 21. Authorities also halted the passage and transportation of goods across multiple land crossings. Prime Minister Ulukbek Maripov said two days later that the restrictions would remain in effect “until problematic issues are resolved.”
“Along with resolving the issues of border delimitation and demarcation, we have set the goal of strengthening our borders. For this we must create all necessary conditions for our border guards,” Maripov said.
Maripov urged residents of border villages to show forbearance and understanding.
What is allowed for the time being is for Kyrgyz nationals to return from Tajikistan and vice versa. Diplomatic officials and government representatives are exempt from the rules.
Around 450 kilometers of the 970 kilometers of border shared by the two countries remains unresolved, despite decades of attempts to bring the matter to a close.
The uncertainty has often caused tension among communities in contested sections – perhaps the most serious incident having occurred at the end of April, when fighting broke out over control of a critical piece of irrigation infrastructure. At least 36 Kyrgyz nationals and 20 Tajik nationals are known to have been killed in fighting, which involved troops from both sides exchanging gun and mortar fire. Tens of thousands of Kyrgyz people were forced to flee by the unrest and dozens of their homes and businesses were set alight.
Omens for the future are not encouraging. RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, Radio Azattyk, reported on May 25 that lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan have devised a bill to allow residents of border areas to possess and carry weapons after receiving mandatory training. The specific intent of the legislation, which is currently open for public consultation, is to help protect the country’s borders.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.