Explainer: Violence In Tajikistan’s Badakhshan Province A Legacy Of The Civil War | EurasiaNet.org

Posted: July 29, 2012 in Tajikistan

Relatively few people have heard of Tajikistan’s Badakhshan region. Why is it important?

Badakhshan is an isolated, mountainous region of southeastern Tajikistan that shares a long and virtually open border with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. The region has considerable mineral wealth and is also a corridor for illegal trafficking in cigarettes, alcohol, and narcotics — particularly Afghan heroin.

It has a population of about 250,000, most of whom belong to the Pamiri ethnic group and are Shi’ite Muslims of the Ismaili sect. Tajikistan is a Sunni-majority country.

Badakhshan lies several hundred kilometers from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, and is isolated by rugged mountain terrain. It has been largely de facto autonomous since Tajikistan became independent in 1991. The borders in the area were patrolled by Russian troops until the Tajik government asked them to leave in 2005.

Tajikistan is considered a weak state that is potentially vulnerable to destabilizing influences that could come across the border from Afghanistan as the NATO-led international coalition there draws down its combat forces during 2014. This is a matter of considerable concern to both Moscow and Beijing.

The larger neighborhood powers have long had serious concerns about security in the region. Omar Ashour, who teaches Middle East studies at the University of Exeter, notes that Russia intervened heavily to end the Tajik Civil War in 1997 because of concerns that the fragile country could be undermined by the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

He says the government remains weak, unreformed, and lacks popular support. “You have a government that is not giving any signs of reform or transparency or turning away from corruption. It runs the country almost like an organized-crime syndicate,” Ashour said.

via Explainer: Violence In Tajikistan’s Badakhshan Province A Legacy Of The Civil War | EurasiaNet.org.

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