Recent riots at border posts in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan highlight the growing risk of inter-ethnic conflict in and around Central Asia's Ferghana Valley region. Observers say the source of popular discontent is governments' inability to resolve border disputes and regulate inter-state commerce.
Kyrgyz and Tajik authorities are investigating the causes of rioting at border checkpoints, aiming to prevent further violent outbursts. On January 3, about 300 residents of the Isfara region in Tajikistan's Soghd Province destroyed a Kyrgyz border checkpoint near the village of Kok Terek in Batken Province. Two Kyrgyz law-enforcement officers were reportedly injured in the attack.
In response, about 100 local Kyrgyz citizens sacked a Tajik checkpoint at Jak-Oruk in Soghd Province, local media reported on January 4. Quick action by Kyrgyz and Tajik security forces prevented the violence from spreading. "No one knows what might have happened as a consequence, if Kyrgyz and Tajik law enforcement agencies had not intervened," an Itar-Tass news agency commentary said.
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Alisher Khamidov is a Muskie Fellow at Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University.