Firearms often used to stop civilians trying to evade customs controls. www.iwpr.net By Jenish Aydarov, Meerim Asanaly
A Kyrgyz national was shot dead by Uzbek border guards on May 12, in what was only the latest indication of the trigger-happy way the security forces often deal with small-time smugglers.
The shooting happened near the settlement of Sogment just outside Sokh, an enclave that belongs to Uzbekistan but is entirely inside Kyrgyzstan. The area has seen recurring tensions in recent years as Kyrgyz nationals cross through it to get from one part of their country to another, while the Uzbekistan nationals who live there (mostly ethnic Tajiks) seek unrestricted road access to the Uzbek “mainland”. (See for instance Enclave Issues Challenge Uzbek, Kyrgyz Leaders.)
The latest incident seems to have involved someone trying to smuggle fruit and vegetable over the border, a common way of earning money in this part of Central Asia, but extremely risky since border guards are armed and tend to shoot first and ask questions later. A couple of people a year get killed this way, and the jumpy atmosphere on the border is not helped by the difficult relationship between the governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Kyrgyz on national radio stations in Kyrgyzstan. It was produced under two IWPR projects, Investigative Journalism to Promote Democratic Reform, funded by the European Union; and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU or the Norwegian government.