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Central Asia: Enclave Residents Face Numerous Hurdles

Enclaves are usually small areas of land that belong to one country but actually lie within the borders of another nation. As living in an enclave generally involves many inconveniences, some countries have favored their elimination. For instance, Lithuania gave its Pagiriai enclave to Belarus in the mid-1990s after Minsk agreed to compensate Vilnius with territory adjacent to the Lithuanian border. Many other enclaves still exist, however, partcularly in South and Central Asia. RFE/RL takes a look at the difficulties residents of an Indian and a Kyrgyz enclave are facing in their everyday life.

Prague, 4 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Sahanz Begum and her family live in a small village in Bangladesh, along the border of an Indian enclave within Bangladesh. Every morning, they wave at their relatives who live across the border in the enclave.

"This side, where we are living, is Bangladesh. And that side is India. We have our relatives there. But we can't go there because of the border law," Begum says.

Dasiarchhara is a 697-hectare enclave about 3 kilometers inside Bangladesh.

Reuters news agency reported that its 9,000-strong Indian population has no voting rights. There is virtually no government, schools, police, proper roads, or doctors. The locals survive through subsistence farming and get no support from the Indian government.

Fortunately, Bangladeshis have been helping their Indian neighbors by offering them health services and allowing their children to attend Bangladeshi schools.

However, residents can go to the Indian mainland by producing identity cards, but only after seeking permission from border guards on both sides.

Dasiarchhara's top official, Nazrul Islam, says his fellow enclave residents are calling for a long-term solution. "We demand that India treat us like we are their people," he says. "They should provide facilities to us or leave us and our lands to the Bangladeshi government. We hope Bangladesh will give us social services and security, and this is the way we want to live."

More than 150 enclaves exist along the Indian-Bangladeshi border. Their living conditions are believed to be no better than Dasiarchhara's. In 1974, the two governments agreed they must exchange the enclaves or at least provide corridors to each other's territory. But so far, little has been done.

Some 2,500 kilometers northwest of Dasiarchhara, a Kyrgyz enclave located in Central Asia's Ferghana Valley provides another dramatic example of how isolated enclave residents can feel. About 700 people live in the village of Barak, about 13 kilometers inside Uzbek territory.

In 1999, Barak was cut off from Kyrgyz territory when Uzbekistan dug up the road leading to the Kyrgyz village of Aktash and blockaded it with concrete blocks. The situation improved last year when Tashkent agreed to reopen the road, where a minibus service is now operating.

But Gulnara Elnazarova, who teaches at Barak's secondary school, tells RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that problems persist. "Everything is fine here. We have plenty of land, and plenty of water," she says. "The only problem we face is the road issue. It is getting better now, thank God. [The Uzbeks] are letting our cars [registered in Barak] go in and out of the village. However, our remote relatives cannot come to us with their cars. Another problem is that we cannot deliver our cotton [to Kyrgyzstan] in time. We are currently keeping our cotton harvest at our homes."

Dr. Nick Megoran is a research fellow at the Sidney Sussex College in Britain who visited Barak earlier this year. He says he had to wait a couple of hours in the heat before Uzbek guards along the Barak-Aktash road let him enter the enclave -- a delay residents have to endure regularly.

Megoran stresses that road communications are crucial for such a small enclave as Barak. "[In Barak] there's a village school, there's a [cultural center] and there's little shop. But there are no post offices and no government buildings or any other type of employment. There is no bank," he says. "Barak is tiny. Barak is one village (...) dependent on one border connection post. There's only one telephone."

Barak is among many enclaves in the Ferghana Valley, which extends into Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

(Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, and Khurmat Babadjanov from RFE/ RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report.)

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