Montanans Evacuated Safely from Armed Conflict in Tajikistan

By Beacon Staff

Two Montanans working for the Central Asia Institute were safely evacuated after being caught in the middle of a violent armed conflict and stranded in Khorog, Tajikistan for a week.

According to the Associated Press, Karin Ronnow and Erik Petersen were evacuated on July 28 after U.S. officials, Tajik government officials and European Union representatives negotiated permission for them to leave the war-torn region. News reports list Ronnow as being from my hometown Livingston and Petersen as being either from Clyde Park or Gardiner.

Though I don’t know either of them very well, I have met Ronnow and Petersen, who both previously worked at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and I’m relieved to hear they made it out safely. Ronnow is the communications director for the Central Asia Institute, while Petersen was working for the organization as a photographer when the violence broke out in Tajikistan. I used to bump into Petersen frequently when he was a photographer for the Livingston Enterprise before the Chronicle.

I wasn’t even aware of the Tajikistan situation until I received a statement from Sen. Jon Tester’s office yesterday. Tester’s office said it worked with the U.S. State Department to help secure safe passage for the Montanans. They were stranded with a third person, Central Asia Institute Northeast Afghanistan program director Sarfraz Khan.

“Any Montanans who put themselves in harm’s way in order to make our world a better place deserve whatever it takes to ensure their safe return home,” Tester said. “Sharla’s and my thoughts and prayers are with Karin and Erik, and I’ll continue doing whatever I can until they’re home safe.”

You can read more about the evacuation – and their week of being stranded – on the Central Asia Institute’s blog, or through this AP story and this Bozeman Chronicle story.