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World : Asia : Tajikistan
 
Tajikistan

Contemporary Tajiks are the descendants of ancient Eastern Iranian inhabitants of Central Asia, in particular the Soghdians and the Bactrians, and possibly other groups, with an admixture of western Iranian Persians and non-Iranian peoples, Mongols, and Turkic peoples, and reports of Alexander the Great's army. Until the 20th century, people in the region used two types of distinction to identify themselves: way of life--either nomadic or sedentary--and place of residence. By the late 19th century, the Tajik and Uzbek peoples, who lived in proximity for centuries and often used--and continue to use--each other's languages, did not perceive themselves as two distinct nationalities. The division of Central Asia into five Soviet Republics in the 1920s imposed artificial labels on a region in which many different peoples lived intermixed.

The current Tajik Republic hearkens back to the Samanid Empire (A.D. 875-999), that ruled what is now Tajikistan as well as territory to the south and west, as their role model and name for their currency. During their reign, the Samanids supported the revival of the written Persian language in the wake of the Arab Islamic conquest in the early 8th century and played an important role in preserving the culture of the pre-Islamic persian-speaking world. They were the last Persian-speaking empire to rule Central Asia.

After a series of attacks beginning in the 1860s during the Great Game, the Tajik people came under Russian rule. This rule waned briefly after the Russian Revolution of 1917 as the Bolsheviks consolidated their power and were embroiled in a civil war in other regions of the former Russian Empire. As the Bolsheviks attempted to regain Central Asia in the 1920s, an indigenous Central Asian resistance movement based in the Ferghana Valley, the "Basmachi movement," attempted to resist but was eventually defeated in 1925. Tajikistan became fully established under Soviet control with the creation of Tajikistan as an autonomous Soviet socialist republic within Uzbekistan in 1924, and as one of the independent Soviet socialist republics in 1929.

Today, Tajikistan is ruled by an authoritarian regime that has established some nominally democratic institutions. President Emomali Rahmonov and an inner circle of fellow natives of the Kulyab region continued to dominate the Government; however, Rahmonov's narrow base of support somewhat limited his control of the entire territory of the country. Rahmonov won reelection in a 1999 election that was flawed seriously and was neither free nor fair. As a result of 1997 peace accords that ended the civil war, some former opposition figures continued to hold seats in the Government. Rahmonov's supporters overwhelmingly won the February 2000 parliamentary elections that were neither free nor fair, but did allow several opposition parties to participate, one of which won two seats in parliament. Parliamentary by-elections held throughout the country in May were flawed. Although the Constitution was adopted in 1994 and amended in 1999, political decisionmaking at times took the form of power plays among the various factions in the Government. The legacy of the civil war continued to affect the Government, which still faced the problems of demobilizing and reintegrating former opposition troops and maintaining law and order while rival armed factions competed for power. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is not independent in practice.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC SYSTEM

The country has a total population of approximately 6.4 million. The economy is a state-controlled system in the process of a difficult transition to a market-based system. Most of the work force is engaged in agriculture, part of which remained collectivized. Government revenue depends highly on state-controlled cotton production. The small industrial sector is dominated overwhelmingly by aluminum production (another critical source of government revenue). Most Soviet-era factories operated at a minimal level, if at all. Small-scale privatization was more than 80 percent complete, but the level of medium to large scale privatization was much lower (approximately 16 percent) with the heavy industry, wholesale trade, and transport sectors remaining largely under state control. Many, but not all, wages and pensions are paid. The country is poor, with a per capita gross national product of approximately $290 (754 somoni), according to World Bank data. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), GDP grew 12 percent in the first 9 months of the year, with an estimated growth of 10 percent for the entire year. The IMF estimated GDP growth at 8.3 percent in 2000. The failure of the Soviet economic system has been accompanied by a rise in narcotics trafficking and other forms of corruption. This development has led to clear disparities of income between the vast majority of the population and a small number of former progovernment and opposition warlords, who control many of the legal and most of the criminal sectors of the economy. Official unemployment was estimated at approximately 10 percent; however, "hidden" employment is considered widely to be approximately 40 percent.

 

BELIEFS

Islam, the predominant religion of all of Central Asia, was brought to the region by the Arabs in the seventh century. Since that time, Islam has become an integral part of Tajik culture. Although Soviet efforts to secularize society were largely unsuccessful, the post-Soviet era has seen a marked increase in religious practice. The majority of Tajikistan's Muslims adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam, and a smaller group belongs to the Shia branch of that faith. Among other religions, the Russian Orthodox faith is the most widely practiced, although the Russian community shrank significantly in the early 1990s. Some other small Christian groups now enjoy relative freedom of worship. There also is a small Jewish community.

The Sunni branch of Islam has a 1,200-year-old tradition among the sedentary population of Central Asia, including the Tajiks. A small minority group, the Pamiris, are members of a much smaller denomination of Shia Islam, Ismailism, which first won adherents in Central Asia in the early tenth century. Despite persecution, Ismailism has survived in the remote Pamir Mountains.

During the course of seven decades of political control, Soviet policy makers were unable to eradicate the Islamic tradition, despite repeated attempts to do so. The harshest of the Soviet anti-Islamic campaigns occurred from the late 1920s to the late 1930s as part of a unionwide drive against religion in general. In this period, many Muslim functionaries were killed, and religious instruction and observance were curtailed sharply. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, official policy toward Islam moderated. One of the changes that ensued was the establishment in 1943 of an officially sanctioned Islamic hierarchy for Central Asia, the Muslim Board of Central Asia. Together with three similar organizations for other regions of the Soviet Union having large Muslim populations, this administration was controlled by the Kremlin, which required loyalty from religious officials. Although its administrative personnel and structure were inadequate to serve the needs of the Muslim inhabitants of the region, the administration made possible the legal existence of some Islamic institutions, as well as the activities of religious functionaries, a small number of mosques, and religious instruction at two seminaries in Uzbekistan.

In the early 1960s, the Khrushchev regime escalated anti-Islamic propaganda. Then, on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, the Kremlin leadership called for renewed efforts to combat religion, including Islam. Typically, such campaigns included conversion of mosques to secular use; attempts to reidentify traditional Islamic-linked customs with nationalism rather than religion; and propaganda linking Islam to backwardness, superstition, and bigotry. Official hostility toward Islam grew in 1979 with Soviet military involvement in nearby Afghanistan and the increasing assertiveness of Islamic revivalists in several countries. From that time through the early post-Soviet era, some officials in Moscow and in Tajikistan warned of an extremist Islamic menace, often on the basis of limited or distorted evidence. Despite all these efforts, Islam remained an important part of the identity of the Tajiks and other Muslim peoples of Tajikistan through the end of the Soviet era and the first years of independence.

Identification with Islam as an integral part of life is shared by urban and rural, old and young, and educated and uneducated Tajiks. The role that the faith plays in the lives of individuals varies considerably, however. For some Tajiks, Islam is more important as an intrinsic part of their cultural heritage than as a religion in the usual sense, and some Tajiks are not religious at all.

In any case, Tajiks have disproved the standard Soviet assertion that the urbanized industrial labor force and the educated population had little to do with a "remnant of a bygone era" such as Islam. A noteworthy development in the late Soviet and early independence eras was increased interest, especially among young people, in the substance of Islamic doctrine. In the post-Soviet era, Islam became an important element in the nationalist arguments of certain Tajik intellectuals.

Islam survived in Tajikistan in widely varied forms because of the strength of an indigenous folk Islam quite apart from the Soviet-sanctioned Islamic administration. Long before the Soviet era, rural Central Asians, including inhabitants of what became Tajikistan, had access to their own holy places. There were also small, local religious schools and individuals within their communities who were venerated for religious knowledge and piety. These elements sustained religion in the countryside, independent of outside events. Under Soviet regimes, Tajiks used the substantial remainder of this rural, popular Islam to continue at least some aspects of the teaching and practice of their faith after the activities of urban-based Islamic institutions were curtailed. Folk Islam also played an important role in the survival of Islam among the urban population. One form of this popular Islam is Sufism--often described as Islamic mysticism and practiced by individuals in a variety of ways. The most important form of Sufism in Tajikistan is the Naqshbandiyya, a Sufi order with followers as far away as India and Malaysia. Besides Sufism, other forms of popular Islam are associated with local cults and holy places or with individuals whose knowledge or personal qualities have made them influential.

By late 1989, the Gorbachev regime's increased tolerance of religion began to affect the practices of Islam and Russian Orthodoxy. Religious instruction increased. New mosques opened. Religious observance became more open, and participation increased. New Islamic spokesmen emerged in Tajikistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. The authority of the official, Tashkent-based Muslim Board of Central Asia crumbled in Tajikistan. Tajikistan acquired its own seminary in Dushanbe, ending its reliance on the administration's two seminaries in Uzbekistan.

By 1990 the Muslim Board's chief official in Dushanbe, the senior qadi , Hajji Akbar Turajonzoda (in office 1988-92), had become an independent public figure with a broad following. In the factional political battle that followed independence, Turajonzoda criticized the communist hard-liners and supported political reform and official recognition of the importance of Islam in Tajikistani society. At the same time, he repeatedly denied hard-liners' accusations that he sought the establishment of an Islamic government in Tajikistan. After the hard-liners' victory in the civil war at the end of 1992, Turajonzoda fled Dushanbe and was charged with treason.

Muslims in Tajikistan also organized politically in the early 1990s. In 1990, as citizens in many parts of the Soviet Union were forming their own civic organizations, Muslims from various parts of the union organized the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP; see Political Parties, this ch.). By the early 1990s, the growth of mass political involvement among Central Asian Muslims led all political parties--including the Communist Party of Tajikistan--to take into account the Muslim heritage of the vast majority of Tajikistan's inhabitants.

Islam also played a key political role for the regime in power in the early 1990s. The communist old guard evoked domestic and international fears that fundamentalist Muslims would destabilize the Tajikistani government when that message was expedient in fortifying the hard-liners' position against opposition forces in the civil war. However, the Nabiyev regime also was willing to represent itself as an ally of Iran's Islamic republic while depicting the Tajik opposition as unfaithful Muslims.

 

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

The crime rate in Tajikistan is low compared to more industrialized countries. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In the UN reports, murders are referred to as "intentional homicides." Aggravated assaults are referred to as "major assaults," and larcenies are referred to as "thefts." According to the United Nations Sixth Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the combined total of all Index crimes in Tajikistan to be 106.37, per 100,000 inhabitants in 1997. This compares with 1951.92 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 4123.97 for USA (country with high crime rate). For intentional homicides, the rate in 1997 was 7.63 for Tajikistan, 0.50 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 1997 was 4.77 for Tajikistan, compared with 34.04 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. (Note these data for Japan are for total recorded assaults, since Japan did not report a figure for major assaults.) For rapes, the rate in 1997 was 0.85 for Tajikistan, 1.78 for Japan, and 32.05 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 1997 was 4.99 for Tajikistan, 4.07 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For automobile theft, the rate in 1997 was 0.33 for Tajikistan, 243.81 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate of burglaries for 1997 was not reported for Tajikistan in 1997. The rate for thefts in 1997 was 87.8 for Tajikistan, compared with 1434.27 for Japan and 2475.27 for USA. (Note that USA data were those reported to INTERPOL for year 1997, since USA has not yet reported this data to UN.)

 

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1995 and 1997 the rate for all recorded Index offenses decreased from 135.24 to 106.37 per 100,000 in Tajikistan, a decrease of 21.3%. The rate of intentional homicide increased from 6.27 to 7.63, an increase of 21.7%. However, the rate for major assaults decreased from 5.15 to 4.77, a decrease of 7.4%. (Note that 1997 data are from 1996 - since no data reported in 1997.) The rate of rape decreased from 1.00 to 0.85, a decrease of 15%. The rate for robberies decreased from 7.23 to 4.99 per 100,000, a decrease of 31%. The rate for automobile theft decreased from 0.65 to 0.33, a decrease of 49.2%. The rate of burglaries was not reported in either 1995 or 1997. Thefts decreased from 114.94 to 87.8, a decrease of 23.6%.

 

POLICE

Preservation of internal security was impossible during the civil war, whose concomitant disorder promoted the activities of numerous illegal groups. Because of Tajikistan's location, the international narcotics trade found these conditions especially inviting in the early and mid-1990s.

Security Organizations

When Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union, the republic's Committee for State Security (KGB) was an integral part of the Soviet-wide KGB. Neither the administration nor the majority of personnel were Tajik. When Tajikistan became independent, the organization was renamed the Committee of National Security and a Tajik, Alimjon Solehboyev, was put in charge. In 1995 the committee received full cabinet status as the Ministry of Security.

Police powers are divided between the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Security. The two most significant characteristics of the current system are the failure to observe the laws that are on the books in political cases and the penetration of the current regime by criminal elements.

The Ministries of Interior, Security, and Defense share responsibility for internal security, although in practice the Government relies on a handful of commanders who use their forces almost as private armies. Some regions of the country remained effectively outside the Government's control, and government control in other areas existed only by day, or at the sufferance of local former opposition commanders. The soldiers of some of these commanders are involved in crime and corruption. The Russian Army's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, part of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force established in 1993, remained in the country and continued to have a major influence on political developments; however, the division transitioned into a new status on a permanent military base after the peacekeeping mandate ended in September 2000. Members of the government security forces and government-aligned militias committed serious human rights abuses.

There were reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivations of life committed by the Government and its agents; however, it was difficult to estimate the total number of such killings or to attribute responsibility in many cases. Some killings were committed by competing government factions for both political and economic motives. A series of killings of high-level officials during the year 2001 were suspected widely to be the result of government infighting, organized crime, or narcotics trafficking. Government officials are rarely if ever, held accountable for such crimes, although other suspects may be tried and convicted in some cases.

In June, July, and August, the Government conducted a major military operation directed against former opposition warlord Rahmon "Hitler" Sanginov and his paramilitary forces. Local and international NGO's and the press reported that indiscriminate fire by government troops may have killed or injured approximately 80 civilians. The Government acknowledged the deaths of 6 civilians in the operation, in addition to at least 60 militia members, including Saginov and former United Tajik Opposition (UTO) commanders Mansur Muakkalov and Safar Podabonov. The Government commander of the operation subsequently was removed from his post.

There were reports of a number of deaths in custody; however, statistics were unavailable. It was unclear at year's end 2001 whether these deaths were the result of mistreatment by police and prison authorities, or due to poor conditions in the prisons.

Harsh prison conditions and lack of food and adequate medical treatment resulted in a significant number of deaths of prisoners while in custody.

In September during the 10th anniversary independence celebration, an apparent suicide bombing at the sports stadium hosting the closing ceremonies killed a Tajik soldier and injured a woman. An investigation into the bombing found that the soldier who died was the bomber; the motive was unclear.

Both the Government and the opposition used landmines during the civil war. Landmine explosions in some unmarked mine fields in the Karetegin Valley reportedly killed civilians during the year 2001. Landmines were laid along the northern segment of the border with Uzbekistan, which included some populated areas and is not demarcated clearly in most places. The Government of Uzbekistan claimed that it laid the mines as part of a counterinsurgency campaign. According to press reports, a total of 32 persons were killed by landmine explosions during the year 2001 throughout the country; however, the State Border Protection committee announced that there were only 15 deaths and 24 injuries from landmine explosions along the border during the year 2001.

A number of local officials, businessmen, and professional figures were killed during the year 2001, for a variety of political, economic, and ethnic reasons. In April three policemen were found dead several days after they were taken hostage by an unknown group of armed men in Dushanbe. According to police the motive of the killings was unclear and an investigation was ongoing at year's end 2001.

In May First Deputy Minister of the Interior Habib Sanginov and Sobirjon Begijonov, Chairman of the Jabboraslov District of the Sughd Region were killed in separate attacks. In July Karim Yuldoshev, President Rahmonov's Advisor on International Affairs, was killed. In September unknown persons killed Minister of Culture, Abdruahim Rahimov. There were numerous arrests in the murder of Habib Sanginov and other cases, but no suspects were named formally. International observers questioned the competence of the investigators and their independence from official interference. In May two men from the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast were tried and sentenced to be executed for the killing of former Deputy Minister of Security, Shamsullo Tobirov, in a February 2000 attack apparently directed at the Mayor of Dushanbe; the two men had not been executed pending an appeal at year's end 2001.

There were no developments in some political killings from past years including: The 2000 killing of Sirojiddin "Sergei" Davlatov, Chairman of the Gharm District and a former Deputy opposition field commander; the 2000 killing of the Chairman of the State Radio and Television Committee, Saif Rahimov (Rahimzoda), the 2000 killing of Khovar State Information Agency corespondent Aleksandr Olpatov; the 1999 killing of Tolib Bobev an official of the Popular Unity Party, or the 1999 killing of Jumakhona Khotami, Ministry of Interior press center chief.

The Government Drug Control Agency reported instances in which Tajik border guards were killed on the Afghanistan border in gun battles with narcotics traffickers. International observers and Russian and Tajik Boarder forces also alleged that Tajik and Afghan criminal groups engaged in narcotics smuggling across the border killed members of the border area populations.

In April a bombing at a Dushanbe market killed 3 persons and injured 11 others; the bombing was believed to be connected to a dispute between Afghan organized crime groups.

On April 26, three children were killed and five were wounded in the eastern part of the country after an antitank grenade was thrown over a fence into the yard where they were playing. Police created a special unit to investigate the incident and found that the property owner was the intended target, not the children.

In August two students from the Islamic Institute of Dushanbe were convicted and executed for the October 2000 bombing of a Dushanbe Protestant church that killed seven persons.

There were no developments in identifying the individual or group responsible for an incident in February 2000 in which a landmine brought on board a public bus on the outskirts of Dushanbe killed at least five passengers; an investigation was ongoing at year's end 2001.

The bodyguard of the First Deputy Prime Minister was sentenced in connection with the 1997 killing of a Russian border guard colonel. The charges appeared to be politically motivated. In October, two suspects, one a district-level government official, were arrested in connection with the 1996 killing of Russian journalist Viktor Nikulin.

During the year 2001, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, there were numerous kidnapings.

Security forces appear to have been responsible for the October 2000 abduction of the driver and bodyguard of First Deputy Prime Minister Akbar Turajonzoda, who later appeared in police custody.

The taking of hostages for revenge or for bargaining purposes remained a common occurrence. In June paramilitaries commanded by Rahmon "Hitler" Sanginov took at least 12 Dushanbe militiamen hostage in protest against the arrest of Mukhtor Jalilov, Turajonzoda's bodyguard, and other former opposition members in connection with the killing of Deputy Minister Habib Sanginov, who is not related to Rahmon Sanginov. The militiamen were released by August after a government operation to eliminate "Hitler" Sanginov's group.

Also in June, a second group of former UTO fighters in Tavildara took hostage 15 humanitarian aid workers including 4 foreigners, also in response to arrests in the Habib Sanginov investigation. The hostages were released 2 days after negotiations by the Minister of Emergency Situation, Mirzo Ziyoev.

Political pressures, the central Government's lack of control over violently competitive factions within and outside the Government, and a lack of professional resources hamper police efforts to investigate disappearances. For example, there were no developments in the February 2000 abduction and later release of the sister of Deputy Prime Minister Nigina Sharapovna, or the September 2000 disappearance of the ethnic Uzbek mayor of a town in Khatlon District.

The law prohibits torture; however, the Government uses it in practice. Security officials, particularly those in the Ministry of Interior, regularly beat detainees in custody and used systematic beatings to extort confessions. Impunity remained a serious problem, and the Government has prosecuted few of the persons who have committed these abuses. Unlike in the previous year, there were no public allegations that security forces mistreated or beat members of opposition parties or their relatives. The Government has acknowledged that the security forces are corrupt, and that most citizens choose to keep silent when subjected to mistreatment rather than risk retaliation by the police.

In the southern regions of the country, many border guards are involved in the drug trade, and the local population has made numerous complaints of harassment and abuses committed by them. During the year 2001, there were reports of widespread invasive and degrading searches by border guards throughout 2000, particularly with regard to women. Women departing and entering the country commonly were subjected to strip searches including the examination of sexual organs with the objective of preventing narcotics trafficking.

Law enforcement authorities mistreated members of the country's Afghan refugee population--at times regardless of their social status or official connections. During the year 2001, there were widespread claims of petty harassment of Afghan refugees; however, unlike in the previous year, there were no public claims of torture or beatings of Afghan refugees. There were no developments in the case of a prominent Afghan refugee who credibly claimed that Ministry of Interior officers beat him in 2000 in retaliation for previous claims of abuse.

Law enforcement authorities (or armed individuals dressed as, and claiming to be law enforcement authorities) at times beat journalists.

There were reports that Government officials facilitated trafficking.

International NGO's and media reports stated that during military operations in the summer against "Hitler" Sanginov's paramilitary group, government forces employed excessive force against and abused civilian populations; their actions included killings, beatings, and looting.

There were a number of shootings, bombings, and terrorist attacks that resulted in nonlethal injuries and serious property damage as well as deaths. It is suspected that groups who have not accepted the peace process (i.e., organized crime groups, narcotics traffickers, or opposition groups) were responsible for these attacks.

According to credible counternarcotics law enforcement authorities in the central Government, Tajik and Afghan criminal groups engaged in narcotics smuggling across the country's border with Afghanistan and threatened, harassed, and committed abuses against the border area populations.

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the home and prohibits interference with correspondence, telephone conversations, and postal and communication rights, except "in cases prescribed by law"; however, the authorities continued to infringe on citizens' right to privacy. Except for special circumstances, by law police may not enter and search a private home without the approval of the procurator. When they do enter and search without prior approval, they then must inform the procurator within 24 hours. However, police frequently ignored these requirements. There is no independent judicial review of police searches conducted without a warrant. Police also are permitted to enter and search homes without permission if they have compelling reason to believe that a delay in obtaining a warrant would impair national security.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that security forces detained relatives of deserters in order to compel deserters to return to duty. According to the OSCE mission, during 2000 police harassed the family of Dilfuza Nimonova at the behest of her alleged murder victim's politically well-connected family after Nimonova's family sought international intervention in her case. There also was strong evidence that Nimonova, a rape victim, was forced to undergo an abortion while in prison.

In some cases, the security services reportedly created difficulties for persons associated with opposition parties who sought employment. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that persons were pressured to join the ruling party.

NGO's and media reports stated that during military operation in the summer against "Hitler" Sanginov's paramilitary group, Government looted civilian property.

 

DETENTION

The Government continued to arrest and detain citizens arbitrarily. The Criminal Code has not been amended significantly since independence, and it retains many of the defects inherited from Soviet times. For example, the system allows for lengthy pretrial detention and provides few checks on the power of procurators and police to arrest persons.

Police legally may detain persons without a warrant for a period of 72 hours, and the procurator's office may do so for a period of 10 days, after which the accused must be charged officially. At that point, the Criminal Code permits pretrial detention for up to 15 months. The first 3 months of detention are at the discretion of the local procurator, the second 3 months must be approved at the regional level, and the Procurator General must sanction the remaining time in detention. The Criminal Code specifies that all investigations must be completed 1 month before the 15-month maximum in order to allow time for the defense to examine government evidence. There is no requirement for judicial approval or for a preliminary judicial hearing on the charge or detention. In criminal cases, detainees may be released and restricted to their place of residence pending trial. There is no provision for bail, and lengthy pretrial detention was a problem.

In most cases, the security officers, principally personnel from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Security, do not obtain arrest warrants and do not bring charges. Those released sometimes claimed that they were mistreated and beaten during detention.

The Government made politically motivated arrests, and there were credible allegations of cases of illegal government detention of members of rival political factions. For example, in October 2000 police detained the bodyguard and the former driver of First Deputy Prime Minister Akbar Turajonzoda, apparently as part of a campaign of intimidation by other elements of the Government against Turajonzoda.

The number of political detainees was not clear. Since the law precludes visits to persons in pretrial detention, and the Government denies the ICRC or other observers access to these persons, estimates are uncertain.

According to the Ministry of Security, more than 105 members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were arrested during the year 2001.

Human Rights Watch reported that by December 1999, the Government had granted amnesty to approximately 5,000 United Tajik Opposition (UTO) fighters. There were reports in 2000 of several UTO fighters in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast being arrested by local authorities despite this amnesty. The families of these fighters have called for their release, and the leader of the Lal-I Badakhshan movement was pursuing their case. According to press reports, in August an amnesty decree to mark the country's independence celebrations resulted in the suspension of a number of criminal prosecutions in the Oblast.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that Border Force units detained family members of deserters and held them until the deserters returned to duty.

The Constitution states that no one can be exiled without a legal basis, and no laws establish a legal basis for exile. There were no reports of forced exile; however, some opponents of the Government remained in self-imposed exile. In September Oleg Panfilov, the head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, who has been in self imposed exile since 1997, returned to the country for a visit at the invitation of President Rahmonov. He reported positively on his visit; but returned to self-imposed exile.

 

COURTS

The legal system of Tajikistan is based on civil law system. Independent Tajikistan's system of courts and police evolved from the institutional framework established in the Soviet era. The judiciary is not fully independent; the 1994 constitution gives the president the power to remove judges from office. In the wake of the victors' wave of violence against actual or potential supporters of the opposition at the end of the civil war, the post-civil war regime continued to ignore due process of law in dealing with opposition supporters. Numerous opposition figures were arrested and held without trial for prolonged periods; representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Helsinki Watch were not permitted to see political prisoners. Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, warrantless searches, the probable planting of incriminating evidence, arrests for conduct that was not illegal, and physical abuse of prisoners were all part of the new regime's treatment of opposition supporters. The regime established its own secret prisons for those held on political charges.

In the new government installed at the end of the civil war, the minister of internal affairs, hence the national head of police, was Yaqub Salimov, who had no law enforcement experience and himself had led a criminal gang. Salimov was an associate of Sangak Safarov, a top antireformist military leader who also had an extensive criminal record. Salimov used his law enforcement position to shield his criminal confederates and to intimidate other members of the cabinet. In 1995 President Rahmonov finally maneuvered Salimov out of power by appointing him ambassador to Turkey. Salimov's successor as minister of internal affairs was Saidomir Zuhurov, a KGB veteran who had been minister of security in the post-civil war government.

Thus, in the mid-1990s Tajikistan's national security condition was tenuous from both domestic and international standpoints. Internally, the concept of uniform law enforcement for the protection of Tajikistani citizens had not taken hold, in spite of constitutional guarantees. Instead, the republic's law enforcement agencies were at the service of the political goals of those in power. Externally, Tajikistan remained almost completely reliant upon Russia and its Central Asian neighbors for military protection of its borders. By 1996 years of internationally sponsored negotiations had failed to bring about a satisfactory compromise between the government and the opposition, offering little hope that CIS troops could leave but providing the Rahmonov government a pretext for ongoing restraint of civil liberties.

Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice judges do not function independently of the executive branch and the judicial system is subject to the influence of executive authorities. In many instances, armed paramilitary groups directly influence judicial officials at all levels. Public order, which broke down during the civil war, has yet to be restored fully, and the virtual immunity from prosecution of armed militia groups has eroded further the integrity of the legal system.

Under the Constitution, the President has the right, with confirmation by the Parliament, both to appoint and to dismiss judges and prosecutors. Judges at the local, regional, and national level for the most part are poorly trained and lack understanding of the concept of an independent judiciary. The Government made some progress in this respect by instituting regular examinations to screen unqualified candidates for judgeships, which continued during the year 2001. Judges at all levels have extremely poor access to legal reference materials. Bribery of prosecutors and judges appeared to be a common practice.

The court system, largely unmodified from the Soviet period, includes city, district, regional, and national levels, with a parallel military court system. Higher courts serve as appellate courts for the lower ones. The Constitution establishes additional courts, including the Constitutional Court.

Military courts only try civilians in extremely rare circumstances, such as when a crime is committed by both a serviceman and a civilian. A military judge and two officers drawn from the service ranks, instead of a jury hear such cases.

According to the law, trials are public, except in cases involving national security or the protection of minors. Once a case is entered for trial, the law states that it must be brought before a judge within 28 days; however, it is common for cases to be delayed for many months before trial begins. The court appoints an attorney for those who do not have one. Defendants may choose their own attorney but may not necessarily choose among court-appointed defenders. However, in practice arrested persons often were denied prompt, and in some cases any, access to an attorney.

The procurator's office is responsible for conducting all investigations of alleged criminal conduct. According to the law, both defendant and counsel have the right to review all government evidence, to confront witnesses, and to present evidence and testimony. No groups are barred from testifying, and all testimony theoretically is given equal consideration, regardless of the ethnicity or gender of the witness. Ministry of Justice officials maintain that defendants benefit from the presumption of innocence, despite the unmodified Soviet legal statute that presumes the guilt of all persons brought to trial. However, in practice, bringing charges tends to suggest guilt.

In August Mokhtar Jalilov, the chief bodyguard of First Deputy Prime Minister Akbar Turajonzoda was tried for the 1997 murder of a Russian border guard colonel. The trial was believed widely to be an indirect attack on Turajonzoda by his political opponents. The evidence presented against Jalilov was poor, and numerous witnesses supported the defense's alibi. Jalilov was sentenced to 5 years in prison as a "witness" to the crime.

The obstacles to ensuring fair public trials were evident in the 2000 murder trial of Dilfuza Nimonova, a woman accused of murdering the man who raped her. The OSCE mission observed the trial and reported that there were numerous inconsistencies and violations of internationally accepted legal principles during the trial. There were reports that Nimonova's lawyer was denied access to his client, and that the politically well-connected family of the victim pressured the judges hearing the case. In 2000 Nimonova was sentenced to death, although the Government later commuted her sentence to 16 years in prison after President Rahmonov received international appeals to intervene in the matter.

With the exception of the Jalilov case, there were no other new public allegations that the Government holds political prisoners.

The Government and the UTO exchanged multiple lists of prisoners of war and political prisoners for exchange as a result of the 1997 inter-Tajik talks in Moscow. By November 1999, the Government had released all UTO prisoners named on lists submitted by the UTO, with the exception of six individuals, of whom the Government claimed no knowledge. The families of the six individuals continued to seek their whereabouts without success. In 1998 the Government accepted the UTO's claim that it had released all of the prisoners of war that it held.

 

CORRECTIONS

In year 2001, prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. There are seven prisons in the country, which are administered by the Ministry of Justice. Prisons generally were overcrowded, unsanitary, and disease-ridden, which produced a serious health threat. This problem reflected in part the self-funded status of most prisons, under which, before 1992, prisoners grew much of their own food or made goods for sale. The general collapse of governmental programs and of the economy led to the virtual disappearance of such programs. Some food production has resumed, but it remained inadequate and some prisoners died of hunger. Family members were allowed access to prisoners only after a guilty verdict, in accordance with the law. Men and women are housed separately; there is one women's prison. There is one prison specifically for members of "power ministries" (police, KGB, military personnel). Pretrial detainees are held separately from those convicted. Juveniles are held in separate juvenile reform facilities.

In August the Government issued a decree providing amnesty to more than 19,000 prisoners, primarily the sick and the old, and those convicted of minor narcotics trafficking offenses; however, the actual release of prisoners was inconsistent. Allegedly many of those covered by the amnesty continued to be held while prison guards awaited bribes from the prisoners' families. According to local press reports, in December approximately 1,500 prisoners had been released and another 200 had their sentences shortened in the northern Sughd Oblast.

The Government made public statements recognizing the harsh prison conditions, and in May conducted a seminar with international organizations focused on improving prison conditions.

The Government does permit some prison visits by international human rights monitors; for example, there was a 2000 OSCE visit during which the OSCE found the conditions to be very poor. However, the Government has denied requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to make prison visits in a manner consistent with the ICRC's standard modalities.

 

WOMEN

Violence against women, including spousal abuse was a widespread problem in 2001. In both urban and rural areas, many cases of wife beating go unreported and many reported, cases were not investigated. There is a widespread reluctance to discuss the issue or provide assistance to women in abusive situations. In addition the abduction of young women, who are raped or forced to marry their abductors, is reported widely.

The Criminal Code prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison; however, it is believed widely that most cases are unreported, and that the problem is growing, particularly in urban areas. The threat of rape often is used to intimidate women. There are no special police units for handling rape cases. There are no statistics on the number of rapists prosecuted, convicted, or punished each year. In one widely publicized case in 2000, Dilfuza Nimonova, an alleged victim of rape was convicted, in a trial of questionable fairness, of having killed the man who raped her. She was forced to undergo an abortion.

There are many domestic and international NGO's that sponsor women's resource centers, which address the concerns of victims of rape and domestic abuse. However, the Government's funding of social programs has been cut, which affects the funding of such programs.

Prostitution is illegal; however, in practice prostitutes are not tried in court, but instead are given a cursory fine and released. Pimps and madams are prosecuted regularly. The law prohibits keeping brothels, procuring, making, or selling pornography, infecting another person with a venereal disease, and the sexual exploitation of women; however, prostitutes operate openly at night in certain urban areas.

Trafficking of women for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor, was a serious problem.

There have been reports that conservative Muslims in rural areas physically harassed women for not wearing traditional attire.

According to the law, women have equal rights with men; however, discrimination against women remained a problem.

Traditionally there has been a high level of female participation in the work force and in institutes of higher learning. There is no formal discrimination against women in employment, education, or housing; and in urban areas, women can be found employed throughout government, academic institutes, and enterprises. However, women face diminishing opportunities for education and rising poverty. Some women hold the same jobs as men, although not in equal numbers. Women legally are entitled to receive equal pay for equal work; however, this regulation is not always enforced in practice.

Articles in the Criminal Code protect women's rights in marriage and family matters; however, girls often are pressured to marry men that they do not choose themselves, and polygyny is increasingly common, although it is illegal. Divorce rates in urban areas comparatively are high, and women tend to carry the burden of child-rearing and household management, whether married or divorced. Women are provided 3 years of maternity leave and monthly subsidies for each child. In rural areas, women tend to marry younger, have larger families, and receive less university education than women in cities do. In rural and traditional areas, women receive less education in general, often leaving school after the eighth year. Due to the prevalence of large families, women in rural areas also are much less likely to work outside the home. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women; however, in practice some inheritances pass disproportionately to sons.

 

CHILDREN

The Government is committed to children's rights and welfare; however, due to a lack of financial resources the Government has been unable to fulfill its commitment and the government's social security network for child welfare has deteriorated. Education is compulsory until age 16; however, the law is not enforced. Public education is intended to be free and universal; however, a lack of resources has caused the public school system to deteriorate to the point at which it barely functions. Parents who can afford to do so send their children to private schools, or join together in groups that hire teachers to give their children lessons for a fee. While most children are enrolled in school up to the completion of the secondary level, actual attendance is estimated to be lower because of the need to supplement family income by working in the home or in informal activities. A significant number of school-age children--as many as one in eight, according to World Bank data--work instead of attending school. The old Soviet practice, which is illegal, of closing high schools at cotton harvest time and putting the students to work in the field continued in some areas.

Health care is free, although the quality and quantity of medical services available has declined significantly since the Soviet era. It is estimated that one child in three is malnourished in the country. The Government has acknowledged that malnourishment is a severe problem, and they were working with international humanitarian organizations to address the problem.

There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.

Trafficking of children was a problem.

Child labor was a problem.

On November 28, the third Tajik Youth forum "Youth in Development" initiated by the governmental Tajik youth committee was held. The conference was held as a follow up to the national conference on child protection.

 

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

The Law does not prohibit specifically trafficking in persons, and it was a significant problem. There were reports that low-level government officials and border guards are tolerant of, if not involved in, trafficking of persons. Tajikistan is a country of origin, and possibly (and to a lesser extent) a country of transit for trafficked persons, primarily women. Ministry of Security figures based on records of crimes and deportations contain more than 900 cases of women prior to 2000 that may have been victims of trafficking. A report by the Tajikistan Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued during the year 2001, estimated that more than 1,000 women were trafficked from the country during 2000. Victims come primarily from Khojand or Dushanbe, and most commonly are trafficked to the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia, other former Soviet Union countries, Turkey, and Iran. There also may be trafficking of Afghan women through the country to these destinations. The majority of victims are female, ethnically Tajik, single, aged 20 to 26, usually with at least one child (the children typically come under the care of extended family), and are new arrivals to Dushanbe or Khojand from a rural upbringing with little education. Ethnic minorities are overrepresented among victims, particularly those of Slavic origin.

There were reports of trafficking in children who are used as drug couriers, and the trafficking of children for the removal of organs also was reported.

Victims commonly are recruited through false promises of employment or business trips abroad in order to purchase items for resale in Tajikistan. "Advertising" often is done through social contacts, because traffickers employ their local status and prestige to help recruit victims. There also are cases of false weddings and, more rarely, kidnapings (usually in rural areas). Traffickers generally transport victims by air to the Middle East and by train to Russia and other former Soviet Union countries. Traffickers tightly control arrangements for travel and lodging, and employ wide contacts among tourism agencies. They also may employ document falsification services in order to escape restrictions such as those in the UAE, where a woman under 31 may not enter the country unaccompanied by her parents or spouse. Victims commonly are not separated from their travel documents until arrival in the destination country. Debt bondage is a common form of control. In the case of at least one respondent interviewed by the IOM, after her escape from forced prostitution, her trafficker blackmailed her with videotapes of her previous "occupation." The victim killed her trafficker and was serving a prison sentence.

Victims of trafficking face psychological stress, social ostracism, blackmail, and extortion, and in certain cases, physical abuse. In at least one reported case, a woman was kidnaped and forced into prostitution through forced injections of narcotics; the victim then became addicted and continued engaging in prostitution in order to obtain drugs.

Traffickers include individuals who rose to positions of power and wealth as field commanders during the Tajik civil war, the so-called "warlords." Others are extremely powerful local figures who use their wealth to cultivate patron-client relationships throughout their community; this creates a network that communicates supply and demand for trafficking victims. A number of prominent traffickers are women.

Corruption is endemic in the country and reports indicated that low-level government authorities working in customs, border control, immigration, police, and tourism received bribes from traffickers. Further, there is reason to believe that certain figures in the Government act as patrons or protectors of individuals who are involved directly in trafficking. However, there is no indication of widespread institutional involvement in trafficking by the Government.

There is no law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons. Traffickers may be prosecuted under laws prohibiting exploitation of prostitution, rape, kidnaping, buying and selling of minors, illegal limitations on arrival and departure in and out of the country, document fraud, and immigration violations. The penalties for these offenses are in most cases fines or imprisonment of up to 3 years, though certain immigration violations carry a sentence of up to 10 years, and rape is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. There have been no reported prosecutions for trafficking in persons.

There is no government agency responsible for combating trafficking. The IOM reports that the Ministry of Security has taken some interest in the problem of trafficking and was collecting data on potential cases of cross-border trafficking. The Ministry of the Interior is charged formally with investigating cases of prostitution, although it has not yet begun to prosecute suspected cases of trafficking in persons.

There are no government programs aimed at preventing trafficking as a result of the government's unwillingness to publicly acknowledge the problem. The Government has not prosecuted any reported victims of trafficking. There are few resources available to victims of trafficking, and none from the Government. Blackmail is employed commonly in the country's conservative society-nearly half of the trafficked women in IOM's survey reported extortion by local officials upon return to the country. Victims usually do not pursue legal recourse against traffickers due to the social stigma attached to the problem.

Some NGO's involved in social services and gender issues offer services potentially for trafficking victims. The NGO "Women Scientists" runs a crisis center for abused women, which provides services to trafficked women as well. Some NGO programs intended to increase awareness of trafficking exist, with support from international organizations. One such program in 2000 held seminars in Dushanbe, Khojand, and Qhurganteppa for journalists, lawyers, and law enforcement officials.

 

DRUG TRAFFICKING

In the last years of the Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation of the mid-1990s, the issue of drug trafficking was embroiled in political rhetoric and public prejudices. The Yeltsin administration used the combined threats of narcotics and Islamic fundamentalism to justify Russian military involvement in Tajikistan, and the Rahmonov regime used accusations of drug crimes to justify the repression of domestic political opponents.

Despite the presence of Russian border guards, the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan has proved easily penetrable by narcotics smugglers, for whom the lack of stable law enforcement on both sides of the boundary provides great opportunities. For some Central Asians, the opium trade has assumed great economic importance in the difficult times of the post-Soviet era. An established transit line moves opium from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Khorugh in Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, from which it moves to Dushanbe and then to Osh on the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border. The ultimate destination of much of the narcotics passing through Tajikistan is a burgeoning market in Moscow and other Russian cities, as well as some markets in Western Europe and in other CIS nations. Besides Pakistan and Afghanistan, sources have been identified in Russia, Western Europe, Colombia, and Southeast Asia. A shipment of heroin was confiscated for the first time in 1995; previously, traffic apparently had been limited to opium and hashish.

An organized-crime network reportedly has developed around the Moscow narcotics market; Russian border guards, members of the CIS peacekeeping force, and senior Tajikistani government officials reportedly are involved in this activity. Besides corruption, enforcement has been hampered by antiquated Soviet-era laws and a lack of funding. In 1995 the number of drug arrests increased, but more than two-thirds were for cultivation; only twenty were for the sale of drugs. A national drug-control plan was under government consideration in early 1996. Regional drug-control cooperation broke down after independence. In 1995 the Tajikistani government planned to implement a new regional program, based in the UN Drug Control Program office in Tashkent, for drug interdiction along the Murghob-Osh-Andijon overland route. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the customs authorities, the Ministry of Health, and the procurator general all have responsibilities in drug interdiction, but there are no formal lines of interagency cooperation.

Tajikistan is the usual first leg on the drug transit route for opiates and cannabis products from Afghanistan, via the NIS, to Europe. The volume of drugs following this route is increasing. Given the reduction of border forces and the 1998 opening of a new road between eastern Tajikistan and China (increasing access to South Asia), a slight rise in the number of drug seizures is certainly not keeping up with the increased flow. The amount of opium poppy and cannabis cultivation within Tajikistan is small, and the government claims to have reduced it through vigorous law enforcement efforts over the past year. Drug abuse within Tajikistan is at a low level, but growing, and medical infrastructure to deal with this problem is inadequate. Opiates are the primary drugs of abuse in Tajikistan. Tajikistan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and government actions in 1998 show a willingness to combat drug trafficking and other narcotics-related problems, albeit with very limited resources.

Tajikistan's geographic location and difficult economic situation make it an extremely attractive transit point for drug smugglers. An estimated 75 percent of the drugs coming from Afghanistan via Tajikistan go through Shurabad, Muminabad, and Pyanj districts. Tajikistan's undeveloped banking and financial sectors will prevent it from becoming a significant money laundering country for the foreseeable future. In-country cultivation is minimal, and the government is unaware of any processing or precursor chemical production facilities.

Tajikistan produces a small amount of opium, primarily in the Aini and Penjikent districts. According to local officials, there are two or three opium poppy harvests each year. The government claims to have reduced by 65 hectares the amount of land, already quite limited, which is devoted to this crop through its "mak-98" initiative. Under this program 974 people were charged with opium cultivation in 1998. Local abusers, who treat opium poppy straw with chemicals in order to prepare an injectable morphine solution, conduct the only processing reportedly talking place in Tajikistan.

Transportation of drugs through Tajikistan is on the rise. The country's primary defense against this flow is the Tajik and NIS border forces. These forces are, however, unequal to the task and, given that the average monthly wage for troops is less than one dollar, often part of the problem. Arrests and seizures are widely publicized, but they represent only a small fraction of the estimated total drug volume.

Tajikistan does not encourage or facilitate production of illicit narcotics or psychotropic substance as a matter of governmental policy. It is difficult to know with any degree of precision how pervasive drug corruption is among top officials. It is a standard charge made by all against enemies of any stripe, and there are cases where officials and others were accused on what appear to be trumped up charges. On the other hand, salaries for even top level government officials are low, and often seem inadequate to support the lifestyles they maintain. Even when arrests are made, the cases are sometimes not brought to satisfactory legal conclusion. For example, ministry of interior personnel detained in late 1998 was released soon afterward, following threats from high-profile interested parties. On the other hand, there has been a vigorous pursuit of a high official in the ministry of defense and others who were accused of using a ministry helicopter to transport opium and heroin in April 1998. The case will be tried in Tajikistan's Supreme Court.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Internet research assisted by David Edwin Hall

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