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Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Border: Toward Friendship through Football

A football match was held in the Kyrgyzstan village of Samarkandek, Batken region, between the young people from boundary villages of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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The Kyrgyzstan village of Samarkandek is located a hundred metres away from the Tajikistan village of Chorku in the enclave Vorukh. The houses and yards of local residents on both sides of the border often sit side by side, but this neighbourhood is not always peaceful.

Last Friday, October 18, the shouts like “tep”, “zhet”, “zhugur” (“kick”, “hurry”, “run”) were heard here. However, it was not a regular border conflict, but exclamations during the football match between the young people of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Photo: CABAR.asia

Residents of Kyrgyzstan villages of Aktatyr, Ak-Sai and Samarkandek of Batken region, and of Tajikistan jamoats of Chorku, Vorukh and Surkh of Isfara district took part in the athletic games.

Mukhamatzhon Sokhibov. Photo: CABAR.asia

Mukhamatzhon Sokhibov, a teacher of secondary school No. 29 of jamoat Surkh, located in Tajikistan, recalls that there were no borders during the Soviet period, while Kyrgyz and Tajik children used to attend one school on friendly terms.

“We used to go to one school with Kyrgyz children and also held athletic games. We were friends and lived in unity; I have many friends among Kyrgyz people. But our relations have changed due to the border conflicts. I hope such events as today’s football match will help restore our friendly relations,” Sokhibov said.

Munarbek Abdimannap uulu. Photo: CABAR.asia

Munarbek Abdimannap uulu, who came from the Kyrgyz village of Aktatyr, played with Tajik participants in one team. The teams were formed other than based on the country intentionally to make players from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan play side by side in one team and become friends.

“To be honest, at first I thought if we divide by Kyrgyz and Tajiks, we would quarrel. But we were mixed up in different teams. Thus, we played well passing the ball to each other,” Abdimannap uulu shared his impressions.

Border conflicts

According to the State Border Service of Kyrgyzstan, 12 conflicts took place on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border since early 2019. The last one took place on September 16 in the village of Maksat, Leilek district of Batken region. The incident was reportedly triggered by construction works at the undemarkated plot.

The common border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is 976 kilometres long. 472 kilometres are not approved officially, which is a reason for frequent conflicts between residents.

The government delegations of both countries held a regular meeting on state border delimitation and demarcation at Dushanbe on April 4-6, 2019. And on March 13 an armed conflict occurred between the residents of boundary villages of Ak-Sai and Vorukh due to the renewed construction of the diversion route Ak-Sai-Tamdyk, which will connect Kyrgyzstan villages with the regional centre of Batken bypassing the Tajik exclave Vorukh.

On July 22 this year, another conflict between the nationals of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan occurred in Tort Kocho, near the village of Ak-Sai. According to the State Border Service of the Kyrgyz Republic, the reason of the conflict was the installation of the flagpole by the residents of the Tajikistan village of Vorukh. Thus, they were preparing for the visit of President Emomali Rakhmon Rakhmon, who was to meet Sooronbai Zheenbekov at Isfara.

In peace and concord

According to the deputy akim of Batken district, Taalai Ibragimov, representatives of Batken district administration of Kyrgyzstan and Isfara district administration of Tajikistan established a task force to strengthen friendship between the young people in boundary districts and to prevent conflicts by means of athletic games. This task force is also responsible for investigation of all disputes and conflicts arising on the border and for management of their consequences.

“In October this year, the akim of Batken district met with the akim of Isfara district. During the meeting, the task force made of representatives of both parties set tasks to prevent conflicts at the border. One of such tasks is to organise and hold mass cultural events and athletic games between Batken and Isfara districts,” Ibragimov said.

According to him, local Kyrgyz and Tajik authorities together organised the events dedicated to Nooruz, Victory Day, Independence Day, as well as two football matches since the beginning of the year.

“Mass cultural events have their positive outcome. If compared to previous years, the number of conflicts has reduced significantly. If we registered over 40 conflicts per year 4-5 years ago, this year we registered not more than 10 strives,” Ibragimov said.

Shukhurullo Nasiriev. Photo: CABAR.asia

The resident of jamoat Chorku (Tajikistan), Shukhurullo Nasiriev, came to Samarkandek with a purpose to watch the football match. He thinks that such athletic games with participation of young people of both countries speak of the strengthened friendly relations between the people and believes life will become better if such events are held more often.

“The game was interesting. It would be great if it was always like that. The two nations have bad relations because of water and land disputes. From now on we need to live in peace and concord, leaving the hatred and all grievances behind. If another conflict occurs at the border and the road is closed, ordinary people will be suffering,” Nasiriev said.

Local authorities promised that the football match was not the last. The next athletic game will be held in Tajikistan between the Kyrgyz and Tajik young people.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.

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