Water theft rumors turned deadly, Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border clash

Rachel Brooks

May 1, 2021 

“File:Kyrgyz-Tajik border area, Internatsional.JPG” by Nataev is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Clashes at the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been reported as driven by a water dispute. Since the violence began on Thursday, there had been a reported 31 people killed and at least 150 people injured in the dispute. These numbers, reported by the BBC, were taken from the Kyrgyzstan side with Tajik numbers being unclear. Initial clashes over water intensified and border guards reportedly became involved. 

Brief overview

On May 1, Trend News Agency (Azerbaijan) reported that as of 15:00 May 1 in GMT+6 time the Kyrgyz-Tajik section of the state border tensions “remained tense.” Trend News cited the Public Relations and Media Department of the Border Service of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security as their source, referring to information that was relayed by Kabar News Agency. Kabar News Agency is the state news agency of Kyrgyzstan. 

Likewise, the state news agency of Tajikistan, “Khovar” on May 1, 2021, posted this update on the state of the border escalation mitigations: 

“DUSHANBE, 01.05.2021 / AMIT “Khovar” /. The Batken region (Kyrgyzstan) hosted a series of government talks on the delimitation and demarcation of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. Chairman of the State Committee for National Security Saymumin Yatimov and Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Kamchibek Tashiev headed the State Committee for National Security.

“The current situation and further actions to resolve the conflict were considered a gift from the state border of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

“Fogiae, which spread in the border areas of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, should never be repeated,” wrote the Tajik news agency, translated here into English. 

Moscow, an ally of both nations, is attempting to mediate. See the Russian press regarding this incident at The Moscow Times. 

On May 1, the Kabar News Agency stated that the nation of Kyrgyzstan had entered a mourning period for the people killed at the border conflict. 

“President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Zhaparov signed a decree declaring May 1-2, 2021 as the days of national mourning in the Kyrgyz Republic, his press service reported,” wrote Kabar News. 

“As a result of the armed conflict on April 29-30, 2021 on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in Batken Oblast, there are numerous victims and casualties among civilians and soldiers. The armed clash also resulted in significant property damage to civilians and legal entities.”

Trend News reported that, in the area of the Kok-Tash village of the Batken district, the Tajik side has periodically fired at passing vehicles. The tensions escalated on April 28 over rumors that people were stealing water from the pumps. Citizens of Tajikistan started to install surveillance cameras at the water intake in the Kok-Tash village area. The skirmish led to people from the two countries “throwing stones at each other” reported Trend News agency. As the skirmish became heated, border patrol units from both countries became involved, and the incident turned deadly.