Letter: Neglected conflict in Tajikistan

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From Dr John Anderson

Sir: Andrew Higgins ("Yeltsin dilemma as Tajik-Afghan border war flares", 15 April) is surely right to ascribe much of the unpublicised conflict in Tajikistan to regional and clan differences (albeit partially misreporting them). Yet to go on to describe events in terms of a struggle for control of the smuggling routes is inadequate.

For example, the Islamic Renaissance Party established in the republic during the late Eighties, and instrumental in the creation of a short- lived coalition government in mid-1992, maintains a clear commitment to increasing the public role of religion, though denying any intention of creating an Islamic state. And the tensions are further complicated by ethnic differences in a republic where nearly a quarter of the population are Uzbeks, some of whom aspire to join with their much larger neighbour Uzbekistan.

To the south lies the fragmented state of Afghanistan, whose northern territory contains around three million fellow Tajiks. And while Russian and Tajik talk of a "fundamentalist threat" is clearly used to encourage the West to ignore developments in the region, religious and ethnic cleavages have also played their part alongside the regional and economic differences underlying this neglected conflict.

With the dominant groups in Tajikistan unwilling to make concessions, and while the UN and Western states treat the republic as part of Russia, it is hard to see how the current round of peace talks (the fourth in the last year) can offer much hope to the destroyed republic and its suffering population.



Department of International


University of St Andrews

St Andrews, Fife