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.
Upper legislative chamber 17 April elected Rustam Emomali, son of President Rahmon, as their chair, second-highest govt office; move comes as country prepares for presidential elections scheduled for 2020. State media 9 April reported Supreme Court’s decision to block independent news website Akhbor on grounds it allegedly offered platform to “terrorists and extremists”. Court 16 April sentenced journalist Daler Sharifov to one year in prison following late Jan arrest on charges of inciting ethnic and religious discord. Russian govt 3 April said over half a million Tajik labour migrants were stranded in Russia following COVID-19-related border closures; President Putin 18 April signed decree temporarily lifting requirements for migrants to renew work permits and permitting workers to stay in Russia without extending residency registration. World Health Organization’s local representative in capital Dushanbe 1 April confirmed all COVID-19 tests conducted in Tajikistan were negative but 22 April said it was impossible to confirm absence of COVID-19, citing restricted diagnostic and treatment capacity; Tajik authorities 30 April confirmed country had fifteen registered cases; late April temporarily closed schools, banned mass-attendance events and suspended exports of grain.
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