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.
Watchdog painted grim picture of media freedom in Tajikistan, and Türkiye’s foreign minister hinted at possible border deal between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan during working visit.
Watchdog warned of intensified media crackdown since 2022. Committee to Protect Journalists 4 Jan warned in its annual report that Tajikistan’s media “are in their worst state since the violent years of the civil war” of 1992-1997. Watchdog said series of harsh sentences handed down to seven journalists in 2022 and 2023 marked “a deeply chilling escalation in the years-long constriction of independent media”, with several journalists reportedly linking crackdown to suppression of May-June 2022 protests in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.
Türkiye’s FM hinted at imminent border deal between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. President Rahmon and FM Muhriddin 10 Jan met with Türkiye’s FM Hakan Fidan in capital Dushanbe to discuss bilateral ties, with sides reportedly stressing need to boost cooperation “in all areas of mutual interest”. Speaking with reporters after meeting, Fidan also hinted that Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan could sign border deal in March 2024, but offered few details.
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.
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