Tajikistan is tightly controlled by President Emomali Rahmon and a complex system of patronage and political repression are the hallmarks of his rule. The government’s elimination of moderate Islamic opposition risks creating an opening for violent jihadists and the country faces growing instability along its southern border with conflict-plagued Afghanistan. Through field research, analytical reports and advocacy, Crisis Group aims to mitigate Tajikistan’s internal and external threats and inform national and regional stakeholders about the risk of political instability and radicalisation in the face of government policies.
Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Amid concerns over widespread food insecurity, reports over harassment of opposition leaders and their relatives emerged. After relatives of opposition leader Mahmurod Odinaev, deputy chairman of Social Democratic Party, said he was missing late Nov after placing Facebook post asking to stage protest over rise in food prices in capital Dushanbe, Prosecutor General’s Office 5 Dec announced arrest of Odinaev on hooliganism charges in capital Dushanbe; authorities same day also reportedly detained Odinaev’s nephew in Hisor city. Meanwhile, NGOs Human Rights Watch and Norwegian Helsinki Committee 4 Dec urged govt to “stop harassing” family of exiled opposition activist Fatkhuddin Saidmukhidinov in apparent move “to force him to cease his online criticism of the government”; authorities late Nov interrogated, summoned and threatened Saidmukhidinov’s relatives. U.S. 7 Dec included Tajikistan on list of ten countries with which it has “particular concern” over religious freedom. After video surfaced in early Dec showing Tajik insurgents who appeared to be fighting against Afghan govt forces in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, govt deployed additional troops along southern border with Afghanistan. After 8-9 Dec visit to Al-Hawl and Al-Roj camps in north-eastern Syria, Tajikistan’s Ambassador to Kuwait Zubaidullo Zubaidzoda 9 Dec announced plan to repatriate families of Tajik Islamic State fighters “within weeks”. World Bank 23 Dec released survey revealing widespread food insecurity and poverty associated with COVID-19 epidemic.
The prevailing calm in Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan's remote east does not rule out the prospect of a clash between local powerbrokers and Dushanbe authorities. To mitigate the risks of a local flare-up and regional power rivalry, China and Russia should communicate with each other and nudge President Rahmon toward a smooth transition of power.
With his seven-year term set to end in 2020, uncertainty is growing over whether Tajikistan’s long-time ruler President Rahmon will handpick a successor or continue his reign. Growing troubles at home and abroad ensure both scenarios are fraught with risk and must be managed prudently, lest the country become another source of regional disorder.
Plagued by violence, corruption and economic hardship, and exposed to a long, insecure border with Afghanistan, Tajikistan is under dangerous stress. President Rahmon’s autocratic undermining of the 1997 peace agreement is fostering Islamic radicalisation. As Tajikistan’s growing fragility impacts a brittle region, the country must become a conflict-prevention priority.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
Tajikistan, Central Asia’s poorest state and a key logistical link for international forces in Afghanistan, faces a growing security threat from both local and external rebels.
Originally published in Internationale Politik
Originally published in New Eastern Europe
Originally published in Esglobal