On the 14 th of September, heavy fighting between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan began again after months of relative calm. On the Kyrgyzstan side almost 140,000 people have been internally displaced and dozens killed, while on the Tajikistan side at least 35 have been killed. However there has been no order to evacuate as there have not been any official announcements. The previous flare up was in January 2022.
There are of course conflicting reports as to who is at fault for the breakdown of the ceasefire with each side blaming each other, however it is definitely the Kyrgyz side who have been more highly impacted with hospitals filling up across the country and civil society organisation needing to mobilise to provide shelter, food and water for the huge number of those affected. Roads have been bumper to bumper as locals take all they can and escape the fighting.
The conflict is primarily around the town of Batkin which is the capital of Batkin Oblast in South-Western Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan tanks and armoured vehicles reportedly crossed in to Kyrgyzstan and began shelling villages in the areas as well as well as destroying the local airport. Of course, there has been fighting and shelling of Tajikistan territory, however the majority of incidents have occurred on Kyrgyzstan territory.
The border between the two countries was closed from the beginning of the original clashes between them on the 28 th of April 2021. Since then, various ceasefires have been agreed to only to be subsequently broken. Since the beginning of the conflict, this has been the deadliest and most destructive escalation.
During the closure of the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan there have been several reports of foreign travellers managing to cross the border, despite being illegal, either through bribery or simple indifference of the border guards. The vast majority of attempts have been turned back.
Given the extreme escalation and humanitarian crisis that is now taking place, travellers should avoid heading to the southern regions of Kyrgyzstan, especially anywhere near the Tajik border. Thousands of Kyrgyz are being evacuated from the area and authorities are struggling to get essential supplies to the area, and anything that could hinder this or be seen as insensitive during this time should be avoided. Very little news is coming out of Tajikistan, so it’s much more difficult to gauge how the Tajikistan population is being affected and what coordinated efforts are going on there.
The rest of Kyrgyzstan and the main tourist areas are still safe and easily accessible, so those wishing to head to Bishkek, Issyk Kol or Song Kol for example can still do so safely without worrying they are hindering the humanitarian process going on.
Tajikistan is also still safe to travel to with destinations such as Dushanbe, Khujand, Khoja Obi Garm, Panjikent, not being affected by the conflict. That being said, less news is coming out of Tajikistan so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how the country is being affected.
Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are two of our favourite destinations and we hope that common sense will prevail, and normality quickly returns.