This summer, a 32-year-old musician with Uzbek citizenship was visiting her mother in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. For the last decade, the musician has lived in the Tajik capital Dushanbe with her husband, an ethnic Uzbek, and their 10-year-old daughter.
The visit coincided with Uzbek authorities’ decision to reintroduce exit visas for citizens traveling to Tajikistan. She thus became a virtual prisoner in Uzbekistan, a victim of acrimonious ties between the two long-time rivals.
“When I got to the border on my way back [to Dushanbe], border guards told me that I was missing an exit visa stamp in my passport. I had no clue what this was, but had to obey and returned to Samarkand,” the musician recalled. “I spent the next two weeks visiting the law enforcement agencies – from the district police station to the Interior Ministry and officials at the SNB [National Security Agency SNB]. I was harassed everywhere – one officer called me ‘a prostitute wishing to work in Tajikistan,’ another wondered why I have so many border stamps in my passport, hinting that I am involved in espionage.”
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Konstantin Parshin is a freelance writer based in Tajikistan.