ISSN 2330-717X

Taliban Force Kyrgyz To Flee To Tajikistan – OpEd


Few peoples of the world have been forced to fight and then flee more often than the Kyrgyz of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. They initially fought the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s as Basmachi, then fled to China, leaving there for “the roof of the world” when the communists took power, and retreating to Pakistan when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

But their odyssey did not end there. The group divided between into two: about a 1,000 who hoped to be resettled in Alaska but ultimately were forced to move to the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey and about 300 who returned to the Wakhan Corridor, hopeful they could hold out. Both hoped to move to Kyrgyzstan but Bishkek wasn’t prepared to take them in.

Now, with the Taliban moving into their largely inaccessible region, some of the 300 who had been eking out an existence in the Wakhan have been forced to flee again, this time to Tajikistan where their future is anything but secure ( and

According to the Tajik government, 77 members of this group, including 26 men, 20 women and 31 children, arrived in Tajikistan along with over 1300 animals which have been the basis of their economic life. Dushanbe has put them in rural areas of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, one of the most unstable places in that country.

Taliban officials are denying the entire story, but the details are such that it is virtually certain that it is true. What is depressing is the Kyrgyzstan continues to show itself unwilling to take these people and the 1,000 Kyrgyz in eastern Turkey back as refugees and provide them a national homeland.

For background on that refusal and on the travails of the Wakhan Kyrgyz more generally, see and

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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