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Qishloq Ovozi

Local authorities say at least two people were hospitalized after an April 3 clash at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

On April 3, residents of the Kyrgyz village of Uch-Dobo and the Tajik village of Macha’i threw stones at each other.

It's not the first time there have been clashes among villagers living along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border and there have been occasions when it was much more serious than a rock fight.

But this most recent incident stands out, especially now that Uzbekistan's relations with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are improving.

The Uzbek-Kyrgyz and Uzbek-Tajik borders were where most of the violence used to occur along borders in the Ferghana Valley, but that is no longer true.

That dubious distinction currently seems to belong to the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

What are the causes of the continued friction along the Kyrgyz-Tajik frontier and what possible solutions are there to these problems?

RFE/RL's media relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion on the unresolved issues along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

The Majlis was fortunate to have some of the leading authorities on this region and the history of the conflict there.

Joining us from Manchester was Madeleine Reeves, a senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Manchester and also the author of Border Work: Spatial Lives Of The State In Rural Central Asia, which is about the exact area in question.

Also taking part in the talk from the United Kingdom was Anna Matveeva, a senior visiting fellow at Kings College who also worked as part of a UN project focusing on the de-escalation of tensions along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

And from Dushanbe we had Jafar Nematzoda (Usmonov), a fellow at George Washington University and author of a report about the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

I've also been in that region a number of times, most recently just a couple of years ago, so I had a couple of things to say, too.

Majlis Podcast: The Lingering Conflict Along The Kyrgyz-Tajik Border
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes.

Senior IRPT activist Jamoliddin Mahmudov was sentenced to five years in prison in 2015, the year the Islamic party was banned by Tajik authorities. Recent convictions of lower-level party activists seem to suggest that Dushanbe is now going after the party's rank-and-file members. (file photo)

Once, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) shared power in the government of Tajikistan. The IRPT was the only registered Islamic political party not only in Tajikistan but anywhere in the former Soviet Union.

Today in Tajikistan, you can't even talk publicly about the IRPT without risking arrest, as was just seen.

Independent Tajik news agency Asia-Plus reported on April 2 that four men, all in their 30s, were sentenced to six years in prison for continuing to speak about the IRPT and supporting the party's ideas.

Asia-Plus referred to a "source in the Sughd provincial court" who said the four continued party activities in the northern city of Istaravshan despite a ban on the IRPT that has been in effect since late 2015.

The source said, "For example, during 2016, under the guise of having plov, they would meet in chaihanas (teahouses) and, criticize the Supreme Court decision to declare the IRPT a terrorist and extremist organization, and preach party ideas to those gathered."

Six years, in a maximum-security prison, for talking about subjects that just three years ago, and for 18 years previously, would have been acceptable, or at least legal.

Even after the 1997 Tajik peace accord, when opposition groups such as the IRPT were allowed to return to the villages, towns, and cities, and live openly, the IRPT's situation was not easy. IRPT members were increasingly harassed, sometimes beaten, and an unofficial campaign to smear the party's image gained traction in the decade leading up to the IPRT being banned

Places in government, allotted to the opposition as part of the 1997 peace accord, gradually diminished. The IRPT lost its last two seats in parliament in the March 1, 2015, elections, a vote that some felt was rigged.

A few months later, authorities claimed the party was not sufficiently active throughout the country and the IRPT's registration was revoked. On September 29, 2015, after authorities drew dubious links between the IRPT and a dubious mutiny in one small area of the outskirts of the capital, Tajikistan's Supreme Court declared the IRPT to be an extremist organization. All its activities were prohibited and 14 high-ranking members still in the country were arrested and later given lengthy prison sentences, two of them life sentences.

The four men in Istaravshan, identified as 33-year-old Kurbonboy Abidov, 38-year-old Nasim Barotov, 30-year-old Shukrat Mavlonov, and 38-year-old Shoumed Okilov, were simply IRPT members.

There were officially some 40,000 of them when the party was legal though unofficially the number might easily have been more than twice that.

The incarceration of the four men seems a new step in the Tajik government's campaign to wipe all traces of the IRPT from the country and it potentially affects all those tens of thousands of people still in Tajikistan who supported the IRPT when the party was legal.

The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL

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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


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