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Security forces killed two militants near Afghan border, govt deepened ties with Azerbaijan, and Russia planned to boost combat readiness of military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Militants killed near Afghan border. State Committee for National Security 26 April reported that security forces had killed two suspected militants belonging to “international terrorist organisation” in Vanj district near border with Afghanistan.
Azerbaijani and Tajik leaders sought closer ties. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 5 April arrived in capital Dushanbe for two-day state visit, meeting with President Rahmon. Sides struck number of agreements aimed at strengthening bilateral relations through deeper economic cooperation.
Russia announced plans to boost combat readiness of military base in Tajikistan. Speaking at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in India, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 28 April announced plans to increase combat readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, saying U.S. efforts to strengthen its presence there triggered move.
Court charged journalist with calling for changes to constitutional order; Russian PM promised deeper bilateral ties with Tajikistan during two-day trip to capital Dushanbe.
Journalist charged with calling for changes to constitutional order. Authorities 6 March arrested journalist Khurshed Fozilov in Panjakent city, 13 March charged him with “public calls to change the constitutional structure by force”; Fozilov next day rejected charges.
Russian PM sought to deepen ties and boost economic cooperation. President Rahmon 2 March met with Russian PM Mikhail Mishustin in Dushanbe, where Rahmon expressed readiness to continue developing Russian-Tajik relations. Mishustin next day met with his Tajik counterpart Kokhir Rasulzoda to discuss opportunities to strengthen cooperation in trade, energy, industrial production, transport and culture.
Authorities handed down lengthy prison sentence to Islamic State recruiter, and U.S. sought to deepen engagement in region.
Court in capital Dushanbe 16 Feb announced it had sentenced notorious Islamic State recruiter Parviz Saidrahmonov, who enlisted over 200 people in the group’s ranks, to 21 years in prison in Nov 2022 on terrorism charges. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 28 Feb held talks with FMs from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, amid U.S. efforts to deepen engagement in region; Blinken announced $25mn of new funding to support economic growth.
Tajik and Belarusian defence ministers met in Minsk.
Belarusian news agency Belta 4 Jan reported that Defence Minister Sherali Mirzo met with Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin in Belarus; two reportedly discussed “security matters in the responsibility area of the Collective Security Treaty Organization” and ways to advance bilateral cooperation.
UN condemned treatment of human rights defenders.
During two-week visit to Tajikistan, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor 9 Dec raised concerns about deteriorating situation for human rights defenders across country and urged govt to eliminate “the intensifying climate of fear”. Meanwhile, prosecutors 1 Dec called on court in capital Dushanbe to sentence Faromuz Irgashev, activist from Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region detained following region’s deadly May protests, to 30 years in prison.
Authorities targeted activists in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO); govt deepened military cooperation with China.
Crackdown on GBAO activists persisted. In wake of May anti-govt protests in GBAO that turned violent amid heavy-handed response, Supreme Court 23 Nov handed down life sentences to five activists; eight other defendants were sentenced to between ten and 30 years in prison.
Govt strengthened military cooperation with China. Authorities 21 Nov published agreement committing Dushanbe to joint anti-terrorism drills with Chinese forces every two years.
Tensions persisted along Tajik-Kyrgyz border as both sides traded accusations of military build-up.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan accused each other of mustering forces along border. Following deadly violence in Sept along disputed segment of border with Kyrgyzstan, President Emomali Rahmon and Kyrgyz counterpart Japarov 13 Oct met in Kazakh capital Astana along with Russian President Putin, who offered to help resolve border dispute. Yet tensions persisted, with border guard service 19 Oct accusing Kyrgyzstan of “deliberate actions aimed at escalating the situation in the border areas”, including “preparing firing positions, creating trenches, continuing to pull in additional military equipment and regularly violating [its] airspace”. Kyrgyzstan’s security services same day rejected “absolutely untrue” accusations, blaming Tajik armed forces for “preparing firing positions, digging trenches and making incursions with unmanned aerial vehicles”.
Kyrgyzstan called on regional security organisation to station troops along border. Kyrgyz authorities 19 Oct asked Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are members, to deploy peacekeeping troops at disputed segments of Kyrgyz-Tajik border to uphold fragile ceasefire, saying “until an arbitrator comes between us, say a small contingent from the CSTO, peace will not be achieved”.
Deadly violence erupted along disputed border with Kyrgyzstan, killing almost 100 people and displacing thousands.Fierce fighting flared along disputed part of Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border. Clashes 14 Sept erupted between Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards, killing at least two. Sides exchanged blame for flare-up; Kyrgyz guards accused Tajikistan of assuming military positions on part of border not yet demarcated, while Tajikistan said Kyrgyz guards had opened fire without provocation. President Rahmon and Kyrgyz counterpart Sadyr Japarov 16 Sept announced ceasefire agreement on sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, said they had ordered troop withdrawal. However, violence same day erupted again, marking deadliest escalation since conflict in April 2021 claimed 55 lives. Sides accused each other of breaching ceasefire and of using heavy weaponry including tanks, rocket artillery and assault drones to attack outposts and nearby settlements. Notably, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyzstan of firing toward Ovchi-Kalacha and Bobojon settlements in Gafurov district, and Vorukh and Chorkuh settlements near Isfara city. Kyrgyz border services, meanwhile, said Tajik forces “renewed gunfire at Kyrgyz border guards’ positions” in Kulundu and Jany-Jer settlements in Leilek district and attacked positions in Batken district, which lies 10km from border, signalling spread of hostilities deeper into Kyrgyzstan. Countries 16 Sept signed second ceasefire, after which sides 16-17 Sept reported sporadic shelling but no major incidents. Hostilities left around 100 people killed, including at least 37 civilians. Kyrgyz authorities 18 Sept said they had evacuated 137,000 people from conflict area, 19 Sept said homes in Ak-Sai village (Leilek district) were deliberately burned and pillaged. Authorities same day said civilian homes in Tajikistan were also burned, although there were no reports of evacuation efforts.Moscow urged “peaceful” resolution and offered to help stabilise border. According to Kyrgyz authorities, situation on border 18 Sept remained “tense” but “appeared to be stabilising”. Russian President Putin same day spoke with Tajik and Kyrgyz leaders, urging sides to “prevent further escalation and to take measures to resolve the situation exclusively by peaceful, political and diplomatic means”, highlighting “Russia’s readiness to provide the necessary assistance to ensure stability in the Kyrgyz-Tajik border region”. Sides 25 Sept reached agreement to demilitarise conflict-affected section of border.
Human rights organisation condemned crackdown in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), as U.S.-sponsored military exercises took place in capital Dushanbe. NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) 23 Aug issued statement calling on Tajik authorities to halt “wrongful detention” of dozens of residents from restive GBAO, which saw violent anti-govt protests in May. HRW said authorities have detained over 200 people on charges “related to the protests and ensuing clashes” who now face “unfair trials behind closed doors without access to lawyers”. U.S.-sponsored military exercise, Regional Cooperation 22, took place 10-20 Aug in Dushanbe. Participants from U.S. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Pakistan were all involved in military exercise designed to “enhance regional security and stability, increase national capabilities and commitment to interdict weapons of mass destruction, terrorist elements, and narcotics, [and] help develop regional defense forces in international peace operations and information sharing”.
President Rahmon visited Kyrgyzstan along with leaders from five Central Asian states in summit designed to strengthen regional cooperation. Kyrgyzstan 20-21 July hosted President Rahmon along with leaders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Issyk-Kul Lake town of Cholpon-Ata to discuss economic and political cooperation in wake of Ukraine war, COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and situation in Afghanistan. Summit marked first gathering of regional heads of state since Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 Feb (see Ukraine) and ended with pledge to increase cooperation. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, however, did not sign off on treaty committing countries to “friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation”, citing domestic procedures. Meanwhile, 146 women and children 25 July were repatriated to Tajikistan from refugee camp in Syria, where relatives of ISIS militants were reportedly being held.
Skirmishes erupted along border with Kyrgyzstan, while police carried out arrests in restive Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO). Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guard Service 3 June said clashes broke out along border with Tajikistan after Tajik border guards reportedly entered Kyrgyz territory. Kyrgyz authorities same day reported unspecified number of wounded on both sides. Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards 14 June exchanged gunfire, reportedly killing one Tajik border guard. Authorities from both sides reportedly held talks, while situation along border remained tense. Police made number of arrests in GBAO following violent anti-govt protests in May. Notably, authorities 11 June said three “leaders of organised criminal groups of the city of Khorugh” had been detained, accused of murder, illegal trafficking and “the creation of a criminal community”; authorities 12 June arrested brother of fugitive opposition politician Alim Sherzamonov, wanted for allegedly organising and financing protests.
Anti-govt protests in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) turned violent amid clashes with police and govt security operation, which left at least nine civilians killed. Protests 14 May began in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), as local leaders in Khorog, regional capital of GBAO demanded resignation of region’s governor Alisher Mirzonabot, probe into police killing of man that sparked unrest in Nov 2021, and end to alleged harassment and persecution by Tajik authorities. After govt refused demands, protesters 16 May announced start of demonstrations; clashes same day broke out in Khorog, leaving one protester dead and three police personnel wounded. Protesters next day marched toward Khorog’s central square, where en route police dispersed crowds using tear gas; authorities same day cut off internet access in region. After protesters 17 May blocked highway between Rushan district and Khorog and clashed with police, interior ministry next day announced “anti-terrorist operation” in region, which it said killed eight people and wounded eleven, with 70 protesters detained. Interior ministry 31 May announced security forces “neutralised” five more men from Rushon district. EU, UK, French, U.S. and German embassies in capital Dushanbe 19 May called on all parties to “refrain from excessive use of force and incitement to violence”. UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Affairs Fernand de Warenne 20 May criticised govt’s “harsh response” as “disproportionate and deeply disturbing”. Police said “internal clashes between criminal groups” 22 May killed informal leader of GBAO. NGO Human Rights Watch 26 May called on govt to “end abuses against protesters in the towns of Khorugh and Rushan”. Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) reportedly claimed it had fired rockets from Khawaja Ghar district of Afghanistan’s Takhar province toward unspecified military targets in Tajikistan on 7 May; Tajik authorities, however, denied rocket attack and said gunfire had crossed border during battle between Taliban and ISIS fighters.
Clashes on border with Kyrgyzstan killed one border guard. Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards 12 April exchanged gunfire close to Maksat village in Leilek district, Batken region, in south-western Kyrgyzstan, reportedly wounding one border guard on each side; Tajik border guard next day succumbed to wounds. Head of respective border guard services same day reportedly held talks to de-escalate situation. Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region governor 13 April said Kyrgyz-Tajik talks on border situation ended with agreement to withdraw additional armed forces from both sides and “two sides’ police will take joint control over the border segment crossing the Konibodom-Khujand highway”. Tajik FM Sirojiddin Muhriddin and Kyrgyz FM Ruslan Kazakbaev 14 April held call to discuss border situation; pair “agreed to continue discussions on further steps to resolve border issues”.
Clashes on border with Kyrgyzstan killed one, while U.S. expressed concern over internet blackout in country’s eastern region. Local officials 10 March held discussions with counterparts from Kyrgyzstan following gunfire exchange previous day along disputed part of border between Kyrgyzstan’s Batken district and Tajikistan’s Sughd region that killed one person and wounded another; Kyrgyz authorities claimed clashes erupted after Tajik border guards entered disputed area. U.S. embassy 16 March called on govt “to restore full Internet access” to residents of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in east, which has reportedly had its internet access cut since protests in Nov 2021; embassy said lack of internet “impacts the ability of residents to access information, run businesses, and exercise freedom of expression”. Authorities 7 March announced lifting of COVID-19 restrictions imposed in 2020, citing “normalization of the epidemiological situation”. FM Sirojiddin Muhriddin and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya 22 March discussed bilateral cooperation issues and situation in Afghanistan.
Deadly clashes erupted along disputed border with Kyrgyzstan. Clashes along disputed border between Tajikistan’s north-western Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan’s south-western Batken province 27-28 Jan killed two civilians and injured ten people – six servicemen and four civilians – on Tajik side, while 11 were injured on Kyrgyz side; clashes reportedly forced some 1,500 local residents to flee before ceasefire was agreed 28 Jan. At virtual Central Asia-India summit, President Rahmon 27 Jan urged Central Asian countries and India to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. Social media users from 24 Jan called for Russian and Tajik authorities to establish whereabouts of activist Amriddin Alovatshoyev from Mountainous Badakhshan Autonomous Region amid allegations Alovatshoyev may have been detained by authorities. Commander of Russia’s central Military District Alexander Lapin 24 Jan announced Moscow will reinforce its military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with new weapons and equipment.
Clashes with police in easternmost Gorno-Badakhshan region turned deadly, while govt participated in 17th EU-Central Asia summit. Protests 25 Nov erupted in Khorugh city in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region following police raid in which man sought by police was injured and later died; protesters same day rallied outside regional administration building, leading to clashes with police that left at least one dead and several wounded; protests continued 26-27 Nov before officials and protesters reportedly struck agreement 28 Nov. EU foreign policy chief 22 Nov met FMs of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Tajik capital Dushanbe for 17th EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting; parties same day issued joint communiqué that reaffirmed support for “strong, ambitious and forward-looking partnership”, noted “the importance of progressing on the rule of law, democracy, governance, gender equality and universal human rights”, and cited concerns over “regional repercussions of developments in Afghanistan”. Ahead of meeting, NGO Human Rights Watch 19 Nov raised concern that “authorities harass and imprison government’s critics”. U.S. embassy to Tajikistan 9 Nov confirmed that 191 Afghan evacuees, including 143 pilots, would be relocated to U.S. after fleeing Afghanistan following collapse of Kabul govt in Aug; flight reportedly departed next day.
Concerns persisted over tensions between govt and Taliban in Afghanistan. Russian foreign ministry 1 Oct voiced concern about “growing tension in Tajik-Afghan relations against the background of the mutually acrimonious statements by the leaders of both countries”, indicating build-up of Taliban fighters and Tajikistan’s armed forces on respective sides of border. Reports 28 Oct surfaced that China will finance construction of law enforcement outpost in eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in eastern Tajikistan, at border with Afghanistan. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 29 Oct held telephone conversation with FM Sirojiddin Muhriddin during which pair “confirmed the decision to coordinate efforts on issues related to the situation in Afghanistan”. Muhriddin 30 Oct hosted chairperson of Parliamentary Assembly of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Margaret Sederfelt, and reportedly raised “alarming situation on the border” with Afghanistan.
Authorities continued to express concern about threat to regional security arising from Afghanistan. Dozens of Afghan women 14 Sept rallied outside Afghanistan’s embassy in capital Dushanbe to protest Taliban govt. Border official 22 Sept reportedly confirmed: “We see certain security threats from the other side of the border” in Afghanistan, amid reports that Tajik militants associated with Taliban plan to return to country. In pre-recorded speech at UN General Assembly, President Rahmon 23 Sept warned of “serious threat to regional security and stability” emanating from Afghanistan. Lower chamber of parliament 9 Sept approved bill proposing amnesty for some 16,000 people, including prisoners and those suspected or accused of crimes. Foreign ministry 14 Sept issued verbal protest to U.S. ambassador after U.S. President Biden, who was commenting on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, said: “If we were in Tajikistan and pulled up a C-130 and said we’re going to let … anybody who was involved with being sympathetic to us to get on the plane, you’d have people hanging in the wheel as well”, potentially implying that many people currently based in Tajikistan would also be desperate to leave country on U.S. airplane; foreign ministry said president’s remarks “do not correspond to the spirit of friendship and partnership”.
Following Taliban’s takeover of major Afghan cities, country faced influx of Afghan military aircraft and forces; meanwhile, border tensions with Kyrgyzstan persisted. Presidents of five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – 6 Aug met in Turkmenbashi city, Turkmenistan, to discuss range of issues, including regional cooperation and “earliest possible settlement of the situation in neighboring Afghanistan”. Kyrgyz, Russian and Tajik armed forces 10 Aug concluded joint military exercises close to Afghan border, held amid “threat of penetration of radical terrorist groups into the border countries of the Central Asian region”. Following Taliban’s seizure of major Afghan cities including capital Kabul (see Afghanistan), reports mid-month surfaced that dozens of Afghan military aircraft and hundreds of soldiers crossed borders into Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; following talks with Pakistan FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi, President Rahmon 25 Aug called for “inclusive [Afghan] government with the participation of all ethnic minorities, especially the Tajiks of Afghanistan”. Meanwhile, Kyrgyz border force 23 Aug announced officials held talks with Tajik counterparts in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region to discuss new flare-up; talks held following incident in which unknown individuals attacked Kyrgyz cars when reports surfaced that Tajik authorities had begun construction work at disputed Golovnoi water facility, scene of deadly escalation in April; construction reportedly halted after talks. Delegation to Tajik-Uzbek border demarcation commission 24-29 Aug held talks with Uzbek counterparts. Ahead of 30-year anniversary of country’s independence on 9 Sept, President Rahmon 30 Aug proposed amnesty for some 16,000 people, including prisoners and those suspected or accused of crimes.
Skirmishes broke out on Tajik-Kyrgyz border while instability in Afghanistan continued to raise security concerns. Tajik and Kyrgyz forces 8 July reportedly exchanged gunfire along border in Leilek district, Batken region, killing one Kyrgyz border guard; guards 24 July reportedly exchanged fire on border between Sughd region and Kyrgyzstan’s Batken oblast. Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Parliamentary Assembly 1 July convened in capital Dushanbe and expressed concern over intensity of fighting in Afghanistan. FM Sirojiddin Muhriddin 1 July met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in U.S. capital Washington where pair discussed situation in Afghanistan and Blinken “affirmed the U.S. commitment to Tajikistan’s security, stability, and territorial integrity”. President Rahmon 5 July ordered 20,000 reserve officers to Afghan border. After Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 7 July expressed willingness to use capabilities of Russian military base on Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan “to prevent any aggressive impulses”, govt same day requested CSTO support and assistance to strengthen Tajik-Afghan border, two thirds of which govt says is under Taliban control. Deputy head of emergencies committee 23 July said govt was preparing to receive up to 100,000 Afghan refugees.
Amid ongoing tensions with Kyrgyzstan, sides struck new agreement to stabilise border; concerns rose over border security with Afghanistan. Following deadliest fighting on Kyrgyz-Tajik border in years in April, Kyrgyz authorities 4 June announced they had bolstered border security presence after observing that Tajikistan had violated past agreements by installing container and deploying military personnel and equipment on unmarked segment of border in Kyrgyz’s Chon-Alai district in southern Osh region; Tajik officials same day dismissed concerns. Kyrgyz and Tajik officials 5 June struck new nine-point agreement, including provisions to withdraw troops and military equipment from border and relocate respective border posts 3km from border; Kyrgyz authorities next day withdrew reinforcements after reporting that Tajik side removed container. Heads of Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region 16 June held meeting to discuss border issues, reportedly forging agreement on water distribution. During 28-29 June official visit to capital Dushanbe, Kyrgyzstan President Japarov described late-April military escalation as “heavy test” for both countries. Meanwhile, Head of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region Yodgor Fayzov 21 June convened meeting with military and law enforcement officials on border situation with Afghanistan where conflict had been escalating in recent weeks (see Afghanistan); highlighted risk of possible refugee influx of between 5,000 to 10,000 people and ongoing border insecurity due to presence of extremist groups along border. Border service revealed that 17 Afghan soldiers 27 June crossed border into Tajikistan, as they were fleeing Taliban operations in Afghanistan’s Balkh province, while media reports late June said Taliban offensive had pushed over 130 Afghan soldiers to cross border over to Tajikistan.
Tentative calm returned to Kyrgyz-Tajik border following last month’s deadly fighting. Authorities in northern Sughd region 6 May confirmed that last month’s deadly fighting on Tajik-Kyrgyz border killed dozens. Officials in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region 18 May said security forces established joint checkpoint between Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai and Tajikistan’s Vorukh district. Announcement followed previous day’s incident during which Kyrgyz authorities claimed three of their citizens beaten in Tajik custody along border; Tajik officials reportedly agreed to hold perpetrators accountable.
Deadliest fighting in years erupted on Kyrgyz-Tajik border, killing dozens and displacing thousands. Local residents in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region and Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region 28 April clashed and pelted stones at each other, injuring many on both sides; incident reportedly related to ongoing dispute over water facility both sides claim. Kyrgyz police in Batken next day reported that gunfire from Tajik side of border targeted military unit in Kok-Tash village, while Tajikistan’s border guards same day claimed Kyrgyz military personnel opened fire on border units; sides 29 April agreed to ceasefire. Tajik authorities reported 15 dead, including six border guards and Kyrgyzstan reported 34 people dead, including three civilians; fighting reportedly injured scores more and displaced thousands. Earlier in month during visit to Vorukh city, Tajik enclave situated inside Kyrgyzstan’s southernmost Batken province, President Rahmon 9 April said talks on delimitation and demarcation of border with Kyrgyzstan have taken place since 2002 and govt had never considered swapping Vorukh for other land; visit and remarks followed reported proposal by senior Kyrgyz official to exchange Vorukh for other land in Batken region that sparked domestic criticism. Russia 1 April resumed regular flights with Tajikistan, paving way for return of Tajik migrants to Russia. Tajik and Russian militaries 19-23 April held joint exercises involving some 50,000 troops.
Govt held talks with Kyrgyzstan on border delimitation while concerns rose over instability of Afghan border. Tajik and Kyrgyz officials 15-18 March held talks over demarcation of Kyrgyz-Tajik border and agreed to hold further talks, which took place on 26 March. Governor of Shamsiddin Shohin district in south, at border with Afghanistan, 6 March confirmed that authorities engaged with local residents, including hunters and army reservists, to encourage them to “take up arms to defend our country” amid concerns of spillover from fighting inside Afghanistan’s northern provinces.
Security chief visited Afghan capital Kabul to discuss border security and Afghan peace talks. Head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah 14 Feb announced he met with head of Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security Saimumin Yatimov in Afghan capital Kabul to discuss peace efforts and security situation; Abdullah’s aide same day said Tajik authorities are concerned about “unclarity in the ongoing Afghan peace talks, the continuation of violence in Afghanistan, the activation of terrorist groups in Afghanistan’s north, and the growing illegal drugs smuggling via the Afghan-Tajik border”. Earlier in month, Tajik and Russian govt officials 8-9 Feb convened in Russia’s capital Moscow and agreed “measures to expand Tajik-Russian economic ties and industrial cooperation” while Tajik officials requested that Moscow consider resuming air traffic between two countries, which was largely halted due to COVID-19. World Bank 14 Feb approved $8.63 mn for procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
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.
President Rahmon won fifth presidential term amid reports of voting irregularities. Following presidential elections on 11 Oct, Central Election Commission 12 Oct announced President Rahmon’s victory with 90.92% of votes, securing his fifth term in office. Amid media reports of ballot stuffing and electoral irregularities, EU same day said elections were “peaceful and orderly” but failed to implement previous EU recommendations, including media independence and political plurality. Rahmon 30 Oct was sworn in during presidential inauguration ceremony.
Incumbent President Rahmon announced bid for fifth presidential term ahead of Oct poll. Ruling People’s Democratic Party 3 Sept nominated Rahmon, in power since 1992, to run for fifth term in presidential elections scheduled for 11 Oct, ending speculation he would step down to make way for his son, Rustam Emomali. Lawyer and Gorno-Badakhshan provincial council member, Faromuz Irgashev, same day announced intention to run in elections to fight “injustice being meted out by law enforcement officers against ordinary people”; State Committee for National Security officers next day visited and questioned Irgashev at his home. After 11 Sept candidate registration deadline, Central Election Commission 14 Sept announced total of five presidential candidates, excluding Irgashev who reportedly failed to collect enough voter signatures; candidates next day launched electoral campaigns. Nationwide internet outage 16 Sept coincided with online address by exiled Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri, speaking from Washington DC, U.S.; Kabiri accused govt of preventing opposition from participating in elections. State Communications Service representative next day said 30-minute internet shutdown occurred for “unknown reasons”. Group 24 opposition movement, which govt proscribed as extremist group in 2014, 2 Sept said Russian authorities detained activist and member Shobuddin Badalov in Nizhny Novgorod city in Russia; Group 24 alleged involvement of Tajik officials. Meanwhile, U.S. defence dept 1 Sept said China may be planning to set up new military bases in Tajikistan “to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure”. Afghan FM Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Tajik counterpart Sirojiddin Muhriddin 17 Sept met in capital Dushanbe, reportedly to discuss range of issues including resumption of electric supply from Tajikistan to Afghanistan; Afghan MFA same day announced plans for strategic partnership agreement with Tajikistan.
Govt targeted members of proscribed Muslim groups in wave of arrests and detentions. Head of anti-organised crime department of interior ministry, Shodi Hafizzoda, 3 Aug said more than 200 members of terrorist groups were arrested in past six months. State Committee for National Security 3 Aug reportedly summoned and detained former Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) member Jaloliddin Mahmudov on unknown charges; govt designated group as extremist in 2015. Law enforcement 14 Aug arrested three sons of late IRPT founder, Said Kiemitdin Gozi, on unknown charges. Following July trials of 116 members of Muslim Brotherhood, group proscribed since 2006, court in northern Sughd province mid-Aug found 20 people guilty of Muslim Brotherhood membership, sentencing them to 5-7 years in prison. Parliament 6 Aug scheduled presidential elections for 11 Oct.
Authorities accused of limiting space for govt critics and monitors, while court sentenced seven Tajik citizens for Nov 2019 Islamic State deadly attack. Court in capital Dushanbe 14 July sentenced seven Tajik citizens to prison terms of up to 27 years for deadly Nov 2019 Islamic State attack on Tajik border post south west of Dushanbe that killed two security personnel and fifteen militants. After authorities 25 June detained without charge Asroriddin Rozikov, son of imprisoned senior member of banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, NGO Human Rights Watch 9 July condemned “arbitrary” detention as “part of intensified efforts by Tajik authorities to spread fear among perceived govt critics and peaceful dissidents everywhere”. Austrian Supreme Court early July retrospectively invalidated extradition of Tajik activist Hizbullo Shovalizoda in March; Shovalizoda, now in Tajikistan, was 10 June sentenced to 20 years in prison on extremism charges. Govt mid-July rejected mandate extension of two leading Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe officials; UN special rapporteur for freedom of speech 10 July condemned govt’s decision as effort “to shield themselves from well-deserved criticism and monitoring”. Govt 29 July said it will provide one-time financial allowance ($40) for 488,000 people with social and financial needs to help alleviate impact of COVID-19.
New COVID-19 law came under criticism for stifling rights. Parliament 10 June passed bill that would criminalise spreading COVID-19 and punish first-time offenders with prison sentences of up to five years; same day approved fines for disseminating false information about COVID-19. NGO Reporters Without Borders 12 June criticised law on grounds that “this new, vaguely defined legislation could be exploited to violate the right to information”. Court in southern Khatlon region 8 June convicted Muslim cleric and nine relatives of involvement in banned organisation Muslim Brotherhood; defendants face prison terms of up to seven years.
After clashes erupted 8 May between dozens of Tajik and Kyrgyz residents over rival claims to land along disputed border with Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz and Tajik armed forces exchanged fire that reportedly injured three Kyrgyz border guards and two Tajik villagers; countries blamed each other for escalation but reportedly engaged in talks as hostilities ceased same day. Kyrgyz resident 27 May allegedly shot and wounded Tajik citizen on disputed border in northern Sughd region; Tajikistan’s border guard directorate same day accused Kyrgyzstan of “attempting to destabilise” border. Dozens of residents of Khuroson district in west 17 May blocked key road and demanded govt aid following flooding and mudslides that killed one person, injured several and damaged dozens of houses. In northern Sughd region, police 20 May used gunfire to disperse protest by dozens of Chinese mine workers reportedly demanding payment of salaries and return to China; no injuries reported. Authorities reported first COVID-19 cases 30 April, confirmed 2,140 cases, including 47 deaths, as of 31 May; activists claimed number far higher.
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.
Ruling People’s Democratic Party won 1 March parliamentary elections with 50.4% of vote and 47 of 63 seats in parliament, while country’s only opposition party failed to meet 5% threshold to gain a seat; turnout reported at 86%; Radio Free Europe reported voting irregularities. Russia’s closure of its border with Tajikistan to stem spread of COVID-19, as well as wider closure of regional borders, raised concerns over economic impact of collapse in remittances from Tajik migrant workers in Russia.
Amid tensions with Kyrgyzstan, FM distanced govt from provocative statement by police chief of Sughd region which prompted outcry in Kyrgyzstan (see Kyrgyzstan). Following mid-Jan joint protocol, Kyrgyz and Tajik joint working group 24 Feb reportedly agreed to swap 23 hectares of land along disputed border segment. International NGO Committee to Protect Journalists 6 Feb condemned arrest of journalist Daler Sharifov on charges of inciting ethnic or religious discord; Prosecutor-General 1 Feb accused Sharifov of publishing “more than 200 articles and notes of extremist content and nature aimed at inciting religious intolerance”. Prosecutor-General 28 Jan announced efforts to extradite four Tajikistani militants linked to Islamic State (ISIS) attacks and recruitment in Syria; marks first time govt has sought extradition of former fighters. U.S. Sec State Pompeo and all five Central Asian FMs met in Uzbekistan 3 Feb (see Uzbekistan).
Tensions rose 9-10 Jan along disputed border with Kyrgyzstan after stones thrown at cars and a house in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region and gunshots fired; fuelled accusations on both Kyrgyz and Tajik sides over who started incident; 14 Jan prompted talks between Kyrgyz and Tajik officials on process of land exchange; sides established joint working group to decide on demarcation of 114-km border by 15 Feb. Local radio station 20 Jan reported that authorities previous weeks arrested some 70 suspected members of banned political groups, including possibly Muslim Brotherhood group; General Prosecutor Yusuf Rahmon 28 Jan said that 113 individuals suspected of such allegiances have been detained since beginning of Jan. Journalist Daler Sharifov, who had long reported on violations of religious freedoms, 28 Jan detained on charges of inciting ethnic or religious discord, could face up to five years imprisonment.
Clashes erupted again on Tajik-Kyrgyz border in southern Batken region 18 Dec; six Kyrgyz nationals, including four border guards and a local politician, and three Tajik nationals, all civilians, reportedly wounded.
Authorities reported 20 alleged Islamic State (ISIS)-linked militants including at least one woman attacked Tajik border post in south, 50km south west of capital and close to border with Uzbekistan 6 Nov, with two security personnel and fifteen militants killed in subsequent clash, five arrested. According to official statements, attackers were mostly Tajik nationals with links to Islamic State-Khorosan Province, crossing from Afghanistan, although later information created some uncertainty over details of attack. ISIS claimed responsibility for attack 8 Nov, and claimed number of security personnel killed higher.
Supreme Court early Oct ruled that National Alliance of Tajikistan (PMT), group comprising several opposition movements and parties based in EU, is a terrorist and extremist organisation. Some 2,000 prisoners released late month in mass amnesty, including some sentenced for “liking online extremist posts”.
Four people reportedly killed and dozens wounded in shootout between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards 16 Sept, along disputed section of border in Tajikistan’s Bobojon Ghafurov district and Kyrgyzstan’s Leilek district in Ferghana Valley. Both sides blamed each other, citing alleged construction work in disputed area. Tajik govt said Kyrgyzstan deployed up to 300 troops to site, who fired toward Tajik village, prompting Tajik retaliation. Dead reportedly included one Kyrgyz border guard and three Tajik border guards. Countries’ PMs met 17 Sept and agreed to take measures to avoid further violence, while officials next day agreed to remove constructions.
Violence erupted on contested Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border. Ahead of meeting of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan presidents to resolve border dispute planned for 26 July in Isfara in Tajikistan, residents of Tajikistan’s exclave Vorukh erected Tajik flag near Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai; move sparked fighting between Kyrgyz and Tajik locals in which one Tajik citizen killed 22 July. Further clashes reportedly erupted 24 July in Batken region of Kyrgyzstan, which surrounds Vorukh. Two presidents met in Vorukh 26 July, Kyrgyzstan President Jeenbekov urged “more dynamism and progress in negotiations”.
President Rahmon and Chinese counterpart Xi 15 June signed eighteen agreements bolstering bilateral ties.
Govt late April repatriated from Iraq 84 children of women jailed on charges of belonging to Islamic State (ISIS). 29 prisoners and three guards killed in Vahdat prison riot 19 May, including two members of banned opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), and son of late former police commander-turned-ISIS war minister Gulmurod Khalimov; IRPT said death toll higher. President Rahmon discussed military cooperation with visiting Russian Defence Minister 28 May, and 29 May discussed regional and bilateral cooperation with European Council President Donald Tusk, starting his four-day tour of Central Asia.
President Rahmon and Russian President Putin 17 April agreed to continue security cooperation and joint efforts to “fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, and the illegal trade in weapons”. Tensions around disputed area of border with Kyrgyzstan inflamed with further incident 22 April (see Kyrgyzstan).