100 Uzbeks Still Blocked in Kyrgyzstan over Territory Disputes
Tuesday 22 January 2013
(CA-NEWS) – Residents of Uzbek enclave Sokh can’t reach their homes for the past 17 days due to the closed borders. Around 100 villagers are accommodated in Rishtan college dormitory or at relatives’ homes waiting for the borders to reopen.
- There are four Uzbek exclaves, all of them surrounded by Kyrgyz territory in the Fergana Valley region where Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan meet. Two of them are the towns of: Sokh, area of 325 km² with a population of 42,800 in 1993 (with some estimates as high as 70,000 of which 99% are Tajiks and the remainder Uzbeks); and Shohimardon, area of 90 km² with a population of 5,100 in 1993 (91% are Uzbeks and the remainder Kyrgyz). The other two are the tiny territories of Chong-Kara (or Kalacha), roughly 3 km long and 1 km wide, and Dzhangail, a dot of land barely 3 km (1.9 mi) across. Chong-Kara is on the Sokh river, between the Uzbek border and the Sokh exclave. There is also a tiny Kyrgyzstan enclave, the village of Barak (population 627), between the towns of Margilan and Fergana.
Some human rights advocates accused Kyrgyz residents to have taken Sokh enclave citizens as hostages. However, Batken region police department denied this information and declared 3 Uzbek citizens were detained by Kyrgyz police on January 11 on Osh-Isfana road over illegal border crossing. According to police, they ignored the demand to cross the border and refused to obey the orders of the police. They are held in a transitory detention centre. As a goodwill gesture, Sokh residents are allowed to use public bath for free .
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has closed 4 railway border crossing points with Kyrgyzstan unilaterally since 21 January 2013, the State Border Service of Kyrgyzstan said on January 22. “According to the Uzbek side, Kara-Suu railway border crossing point was closed due to technical malfunction of the locomotive. The reasons of closure of other railway border crossing points were not explained,” the Border Service of Kyrgyzstan said.
Violence took place on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in Sokh district on January 5 as Kyrgyz workers were erecting electric poles on the disputed territory. Residents of Uzbek village Hushar protested. On January 6, they began to take hostages, wounded several Kyrgyz citizens. Violence grew into a conflict resulting to the closure of borders by both countries.
The conflict escalation was stopped thanks to the negotiations on January 7. Uzbekistan paid compensations to Kyrgyz citizens affected during the conflict. Nonetheless, Sokh enclave was blocked since that time.
Anti-Uzbek sentiments are strong between Kyrgyz’s. The Uzbeks have long controlled the local economy, especially in trade and services, and more recently also in agriculture. Many Kyrgyz feel that their sovereignty is threatened by their neighbour Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyz media regularly reports on Uzbekistan’s supposed desire to protect Uzbek people abroad.
After national delimitation in the Soviet Union (1917-mid 1930s), the peoples of Central Asia began a process of ethnogenesis in which they began to define themselves as “Kyrgyz”, “Kazakhs”, or “Turkmen”, rather than with reference to their religion or locality. The people defined by Soviet ethnographers as Kyrgyz were generally nomadic, and the people as Uzbek, sedentary. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Kyryz president Askar Akayev suppressed Kyrgyz ethnic nationalism, favouring Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turkic unity until he was overthrown in the 2005 Tulip Revolution.