Understanding the Violence in Tajikistan

A lot of people have been asking me about the outbreak of violence in Tajikistan so I decided to put together a list of sources and coverage.

The best writer on Tajikistan, in my view, is Christian Bleuer, a Central Asia expert who is, unlike most academics, a thoughtful and engaging writer. Here is his blog. Be sure to check out his most recent post, What’s going on in the mountains of Tajikistan?

Christian also runs Tajikistan Research Resources, which is an online portal for scholars, researchers, students, journalists, policy-makers, NGO/humanitarian workers, travelers, and others who want to better understand Tajikistan.

Tajikistan has been studied much less than other Central Asian countries, but has been a key research site for a younger generation of Central Asia scholars. Besides Christian, I recommend Brent Hierman (political science), Christopher Whitsel (sociology), Zohra Ismail-Beben (anthropology) and Daniel Beben (history) as sources on Tajikistan. Zohra and Daniel did research in Gorno-Badakhshan, the province where the violence is taking place.

News coverage on the conflict has been better than expected given the difficulty of gathering information in the region. Communications have been cut in Gorno-Badakhshan, a mountainous region which is notoriously difficult to access. Here are a few highlights:

Eurasianet: Tajikistan: Will Ceasefire End Deadly Conflict in Gorno-Badakhshan?

Economist: Violence in Tajikistan: The Strongman Cometh

Radio Free Europe: Explainer: Violence In Tajikistan’s Badakhshan Province A Legacy Of The Civil War

Eurasianet: Tajikistan Blocks YouTube, Steps Up Info Restrictions After Clashes

On YouTube, PamirTV has been uploading video of clashes and television news reports.

I’ll update this post as more information comes in.

Update: Anthropologist Zohra Ismail-Beben has written a great article giving context to the conflict on Registan.

Update: Some of the best reporting on the violence has been in Tajik, a language not served by Google translate and other online translation systems. The website eTajikistan is doing an important service by providing English translations of these articles.

Update: Global Voices Online describes how the conflict is affecting the Tajik and Pamiri diaspora and internet communities as well as the government’s attempts to cut communications to the region. (I’ve heard that telecommunications have since been partially restored, although Tajik security officials are said to be confiscating photos and video at the airport.)

Update: You can always count on Russia’s Central Asia analysts for a bizarre and conspiratorial take on current events, and this article from Regnum — arguing that the conflict in Gorno-Badakhshan will cause Afghan militants to arm Uzbeks against Kyrgyzstan — is no exception. As usual, the road to hyperbole leads through the Ferghana Valley.

Update: The Facebook group Peace in Khorog has over 1000 members. Updates on the conflict in Tajik, Russian and English.

Update: You may notice all these updates avoid answering a key question — what is happening in Tajikistan? From Radio Free Europe: Tajik Militants ‘Agree’ to Surrender. From The News (Pakistan): Tajik militants refuse to lay down weapons. These articles were published at the exact same time. I would argue that unless you are in Khorog, you don’t know what’s happening in Khorog. (Actually even if you are in Khorog, you probably don’t know what’s happening either.)

Updated with unsubstantiated scary rumors: Tajik militants have headed off with explosives to blow up the Lake Sarez dam, potentially killing millions of people! The corpse being dragged through the street in that awful video is actually IRPT member Sabzali Mamadrizoev! These are probably not true. But people are talking about them anyway.

Update: Last night I did a radio interview with BBC World Service on the conflict in Khorog. Today the Tajik government blocked the BBC website. But I do not take credit (or blame).

Final update, 7/31: The violence has died down, so the last thing I will leave you with is this excellent editorial by Abakhon Sultonnazarov, the regional director for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting: How Will Badakhshan Recover?

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6 Responses to Understanding the Violence in Tajikistan

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