MINORITIES AND MINORITY ISSUES IN TAJIKISTAN

ETHNIC GROUPS IN TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan is fairly ethnically diverse: a product of the large numbers of people from different ethnic groups that moved to Tajikistan during the Soviet period. Uzbeks are the largest minority in part because a large chunk of traditionally Uzbek territory in the Fergana Valley was tacked onto Tajikistan. Tajikistan is less ethnically diverse than it was: a product of the large numbers of non-Tajiks that moved out of Tajikistan after it became independent in 1991 to flee civil war, violence and pro-Tajik government policies. Tajikistanis also have a strong regional affiliation: mountains divide the country into northern and southern regions, whose rivalry spurred the civil war of the 1990s.

Ethnic groups: Tajik 84.3 percent, Uzbek 13.8 percent (includes Lakai, Kongrat, Katagan, Barlos, Yuz), other 2 percent (includes Kyrgyz, Russian, Turkmen, Tatar, Arab) (2010 est.). Languages:Tajik (official), Russian widely used in government and business. Different ethnic groups speak Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Pashto. Religions: Sunni Muslim 85 percent, Shia Muslim 5 percent, other 10 percent (2003 est.) [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

According to the 2000 census, 79.9 percent of the population was Tajik, 15.3 percent Uzbek, 1.1 percent Russian, and 1.1 percent Kyrgyz. According to the 1989 census, Tajiks made up 62.3 percent of the population, Uzbeks 23.5 percent, Russians 7.6 percent, Tatars 1.4 percent, and Kyrgyz 1.3 percent. Smaller ethnic groups include Germans, Jews, Koreans, Turkmens, and Ukrainians. Other groups include Uyghurs, Dunguns, Kazakhs, Belarussians, Germans, Koreans, Azerbaijanis, Meskhetian Turks, and other ethnic groups from the former Soviet Union, plus some Tajik-Afghan refugees..[Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Between the censuses of 1989 and 2000, the Uzbek population decreased from 23.5 percent to 15.3 percent, and the Russian population decreased from 7.6 percent to 1.1 percent. In the same period, the Tajik population increased from 62.3 percent to nearly 80 percent. Particularly in the Fergana Valley, intermarriage between Tajiks and Uzbeks has essentially merged the two groups. The Russian population is concentrated in Dushanbe and Khujand. Since 2000 the rate of Russian emigration has slowed. Tajiks make up about 5 percent of the population in Uzbekistan.

The main ethnic groups of Central Asia are the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turkmen, and Uyghurs of western China—which all speak Turkic languages—and Tajiks, who speak a Persian languages. All of main these groups are Muslims and all but the Uyghurs have their own country. Many were once nomads who lived in yurts. Some still do. Uzbeks and Tajiks have traditionally been settled people not nomads.

By some estimates small minorities make up 2.6 percent of the population of Tajikistan. In the mountainous Gorno-Badakshan area live Pamir peoples, which are sometimes included as Tajiks. Among these groups are Shugnans, Rushans, Bartangs, Orshors, Yazgulems, Ishkashims and Vakhans. Yagnobs which populate Yagnob and Varzob river valleys live separately. The largely Shi’a inhabitants of the Pamir mountains speak a number of mutually unintelligible eastern Iranian dialects quite distinct from the Tajik spoken in the rest of the country. [Source: advantour.com]

The isolation of the Pamiri Tajiks has kept them close to their ancient traditions. Although the people of the Khojand region also are isolated, they are more accessible to the other republics. They were the ruling clan in the Soviet era. [Source: Everyculture.com]

Ethnic Groups in the Soviet Era

In 1989 about three-quarters of all Tajiks in the Soviet Union lived in Tajikistan. Of the remaining 1 million Tajiks, about 933,000 lived in neighboring Uzbekistan. Much smaller Tajik populations lived in Afghanistan and China. The other major nationalities living in Tajikistan were Uzbeks, 23.5 percent (1,197,841); Russians, 7.6 percent (388,481); Volga Tatars, 1.4 percent (72,228); and Kyrgyz, 1.3 percent (63,832). In order of size, the remaining 3.9 percent included populations of Ukrainians, Germans, Turkmen, Koreans, Jews (including those of European ancestry and "Bukhoran Jews," whose ancestors had lived in Central Asia for centuries), Belorussians, Crimean Tatars, and Armenians. [Source: Library of Congress, 1996 *]

Although ethnically classified with the Tajiks in the Soviet era, several Eastern Iranian peoples who had not been assimilated over the centuries by their Persian- or Turkic-speaking neighbors preserved distinct identities. These groups were the Yaghnobs and seven Pamiri peoples. At the end of the Soviet era, the Dushanbe government allowed some leeway for education, broadcasting, and publication in the Pamiri languages. However, these limited reforms were more than outweighed by the repression that the victors in the civil war directed against the Pamiris in 1992 on the grounds that they tended to support political reform. *

In the last decade of Soviet power, Tajiks became a larger proportion of the republic's total population. The 62.3 percent they constituted in the 1989 census was an increase from their 58.8 percent proportion in the 1979 census. This trend seemed likely to continue into the late 1990s, barring such countervailing factors as civil war and emigration, because Tajiks accounted for 70 percent of the republic's natural population increase in 1989. *

Non-Tajik Migrants in the Soviet Era

For much of the Soviet era, the central government used inducements such as scholarships and cash bonuses, as well as outright reassignment, to increase the settlement of Russian workers in Tajikistan. In the 1920s and 1930s, the small number of Tajikistanis with industrial and professional skills prompted the central authorities to relocate individuals with special expertise to Tajikistan, and Moscow sent many other people as political prisoners. [Source: Library of Congress, 1996 *]

By 1940 roughly half of the republic's industrial work force belonged to nonindigenous nationalities; most of these people were Russian. The engineering profession had a particularly large proportion of Russians and other non-Central Asians. Non-Central Asians settled in Tajikistan during World War II as industries and their workers were shifted east of the Ural Mountains to prevent their capture by the German army. Additional Russians and other Europeans went to Tajikistan in this period as war refugees or political deportees. As a result, between 1926 and 1959 the proportion of Russians among Tajikistan's population grew from less than 1 percent to 13 percent. During the same period, the proportion of Tajiks dropped from 80 percent to about 50 percent. This figure fell especially fast during the agricultural collectivization of the 1930s. *

Because of the prominence of Russians and other non-Tajiks in such urban activities as government and industry, Dushanbe, the capital, became a predominantly non-Tajik city. According to the 1989 census, Tajiks constituted 39.1 percent, Russians 32.4 percent, Uzbeks 10 percent, Tatars 4.1 percent, and Ukrainians 3.5 percent of Dushanbe's population of about 602,000. Although educated, urban Tajiks were likely to speak Russian well, few Russians living in Dushanbe spoke Tajik or felt a need to do so. This situation caused increasing resentment among Tajiks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. *

Impact of Non-Tajik Migrants in the Soviet Era

By the end of the Soviet era, many educated Tajiks were criticizing what they perceived as the continued privileged position of Russians in society. Even after decades of improved education and indoctrination of younger generations of Tajiks, Russians and other nonindigenous peoples still occupied a disproportionate number of top positions in the republic's communist party (see Political Parties). Tajiks also saw Russians perpetuating their dominance by hiring practices biased against Tajiks. By the end of the Soviet era, Tajiks often were a small minority in the administration of the republic's main industrial enterprises, including the chemical plants, the cotton textile industry, and large construction projects (see Labor).

The preindependence government of Tajikistan made some provision for the distinctive needs of minority nationalities living within the republic's borders. It provided education, mass media, and cultural offerings in Russian (see Education; The Media). In 1988 state radio began broadcasting in German, Kyrgyz, and Crimean Tatar. There were several Uzbek-language bookstores in the republic. Late in the Soviet era, Dushanbe had cultural centers for Uzbeks, Ukrainians, and members of other nationalities as well as restaurants that provided ethnic foods for Uzbeks, Tatars, Koreans, and Germans.

Ethnic Tensions in Tajikistan

There is some degree of ethnic tension between Tajiks and the minority ethnic groups living in Tajikistan, particularly ethnic Russians, who live mostly in the urban areas, and the Uzbeks who live mostly in the north. These groups have resented being relegated to second-class citizens since Tajikistan became independent in 1991. After Tajikistan became independent in 1991, many Russian have left.

Ethnic tensions increased in Tajikistan, as they did elsewhere in Central Asia, under the troubled conditions of the late Soviet era. Already in the late 1970s, some ethnic disturbances and anti-Soviet riots had occurred. One consequence of heightened resentment of Soviet power was violence directed at members of other nationalities, who were made scapegoats for their attackers' economic grievances. An example of this conflict was a clash between Tajiks and Kyrgyz over land and water claims in 1989. Antagonism between Uzbeks and Tajiks reached a new level during Tajikistan's civil war of 1992, when Uzbeks living in Tajikistan joined the faction attempting to restore a neo-Soviet regime to power. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Uzbeks were criticized for denying the Tajiks' distinctive ethnic identity and ancient roots in Central Asia. Tajik nationalists accused the authorities in Soviet Uzbekistan of practicing overt discrimination against the Tajik population by forcing Tajiks to register their nationality as Uzbek, undercounting the size of the Tajik minority in Uzbekistan, and failing to provide Tajiks there with adequate access to educational and cultural resources in Tajik. Tajik nationalists also complained that the central government and their Central Asian neighbors had exploited Tajikistan's raw materials and damaged its environment. *

In 1989 attacks on Meskhetians (one of the Muslim groups deported from Central Asia by Stalin) spilled over from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan when about 2,000 Meskhetians were evacuated from eastern Uzbekistan to a remote settlement in northern Tajikistan. A violent conflict between inhabitants of the area and the Meskhetians resulted in the intervention of security forces and removal of the Meskhetians entirely from Central Asia. *

According to the U.S. Department of State: “There were occasional reports that some law enforcement officials harassed ethnic Afghans and Uzbeks. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State]

Emigration from Tajikistan in the 1990s

After the Soviet census of 1989, a wave of emigration occurred. In the absence of a more recent census, the scale of that movement has not been determined reliably. It is known that non-Central Asians, especially Russians, were a large component of the émigré group. According to one estimate, about 200,000 Tajikistani citizens had left by early 1992. Among the causes of emigration in the late Soviet and early independence eras were opposition to the 1989 law that made Tajik the official language of the republic, resentment of the growing national assertiveness of Tajiks, dissatisfaction with the standard of living in the republic, fear of violence directed against non-Central Asians (a fear based partly on the Dushanbe riots of 1990 but intensified by rumor and the propaganda of communist hard-liners looking for support against a rising opposition), and, in 1992, the escalation of political violence into outright civil war. Some of the people who left Tajikistan were Germans and Jews who emigrated not just from the republic but from the Soviet Union altogether. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 50,000 to 70,000 Tajiks fled from southern Tajikistan to northern Afghanistan to escape the carnage of the civil war that began in 1992. The total number of people who fled their homes during the troubles of 1992 and 1993, either for other parts of Tajikistan or for other countries, is estimated to be at least 500,000. Most of these people probably returned to their home districts in 1993 or 1994, with help from foreign governments and international aid organizations. The return entailed hardships for many. Some were harmed or threatened by armed bands from the victorious side in the civil war. For others the difficulty lay in the devastation of homes and the collapse of the economy in districts battered by the war. *

Most of the half million or so Russians that lived in Tajikistan have left. Many Russians were professionals and managers and had skills needed in Tajikistan. Regardless of motive, the increased emigration in the late 1980s and early 1990s deprived the republic of needed skilled workers and professionals. The number of doctors and teachers declined, and industries lost trained workers who could not be replaced. *

Russians in Tajikistan

The Russian population of Tajikistan is concentrated in Dushanbe and Khujand. There was once nearly a half million Russians in Tajikistan. Now there are almost none. The Tajik urban elite tend to be more Russified than other Tajiks. There has been problems and ethnic tensions between Russians and local ethnic groups. During the civil war in the 1990s much of the fighting was between Tajiks in the southern Tajikistan and forces that supported the Russian-backed government in Dushanbe.

Number of Russians (and their percentage of the total population) in Tajikistan: 262,600 in 1959 (13.3 percent); 344,000 in 1970 (11.8 percent); 395,000 in 1979 (10.4 percent); 388,500 in 1989 (7.6 percent); 68,000 in 1999–2000 (1 percent); Approx. 50,000 in 2007. [Source: Sebastien Peyrouse, “Russian Minority in Central Asia: Migration, Politics, and Language”, Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2007 ^^]

Sebastien Peyrouse of the Woodrow Wilson Institute wrote:“In Tajikistan, so many Russians left the country after 1992 that minority political organizations quickly lost their importance. However, those associations that still existed joined many other “civil society” actors for the inter-Tajik peace negotiations of 1995–97. Tajikistan’s Russkaia Obshchina, created in 1992, transformed in 1997 into a union of Slavic organizations for Ukrainians, Belarusians, and all those defined as “Russophones,” and in 2004 took the name Council of Russian Compatriots. Directed by Viktor Dubovitskii, it regularly works with Tatar-Bashkir and Ossetian cultural associations, also considered “compatriots” of Russia. It claims close to 40,000 members, an unlikely figure considering the number of Russians present in the republic. Its regional representatives are not very powerful, with the exception of those for cities such as Chkalov and Khujand, each of which still has a significant Russian minority and a Russian cultural center. Russkaia Obshchina receives financial assistance from Russia and, until 2005, benefited from the presence of the 201st Armored Division of the Russian Army, which guaranteed its cultural activity a certain visibility. The number of Cossacks in Tajikistan is very small, and their association is considered a part of the Cossack section of Orenburg. They arrived in the region in the 1920s and 1930s as ordinary Soviet citizens and thus have no colonial history in Tajikistan. [Source: Sebastien Peyrouse, “Russian Minority in Central Asia: Migration, Politics, and Language”, Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2007 ^^]

“In Tajikistan, the dual citizenship issue was resolved quickly. The assistance Moscow furnished during the post-independence civil war facilitated negotiations on the matter. The Tajik government was conscious of its inability to survive without Russian support; thus, Article 15 of the Tajik Constitution of 1994 and Article 4 of the Constitutional Law of 1995 stipulate that Tajik citizens cannot possess other citizenship, with an exception for states that signed specific treaties with the government. Russia is one of these. Nearly 70,000 people have received Russian passports through the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Dushanbe. Only one third of them were “ethnic” Russians; the others were Tajiks who regularly worked in Russia.

Russians in the Former Soviet Union

About 20 million Russians live outside of Russia in the former Soviet republics. The greatest number are in 1) the Ukraine (11.4 million); 2) Kazakhstan (6.2 million); 3) Uzbekistan (1.7 million); and 4) Belarus (1.3 million).

Russians once made up more than 20 percent of the population in smaller republic such as Estonia, Latvia and Kyrgyzstan. The percentage in these places is much lower now as many Russians have resettled to escape discrimination and anti-Russian sentiment.

By 1995, about 2.5 million Russians had moved back to Russia. The Russian government worried that Russia would be flooded with Russian returnees and was not forthcoming with the documentation necessary to live in Russia. Russians that had high-prestige jobs in the former Soviet republics were replaced by locals and were found they were not welcome in Russia. They were unable to get residence permits and were forced to work as illegal immigrants.

The increased numbers of Russians arriving from other CIS nations create both logistical and political problems. As in the case of non-Russian refugees, statistical estimates of intra-CIS migration vary widely, partly because Russia has not differentiated that category clearly from the refugee category and partly because actual numbers are assumed to be much higher than official registrations indicate. Many newly arrived Russians (like non-Russians) simply settle with friends or relatives without official registration. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Russian Language, Media and Education Issues in Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, 15 percent of Russians speak Tajik well, 52 percent with some difficulty, and 31 percent not at all according to a 2003 study. [Source: Sebastien Peyrouse, “Russian Minority in Central Asia: Migration, Politics, and Language”, Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2007 ^^]

Sebastien Peyrouse of the Woodrow Wilson Institute wrote: “In Tajikistan, despite large-scale Russian emigration, the Russian military presence combined with the strong economic bonds linking the country to Russia contributes to the maintenance of policies favorable to the Russian language. The Constitution of 1994 defines Tajik as the state language and grants Russian the status of interethnic language of communication. ^^

“ In Tajikistan, Russian channels are accessible for a few hours per day (with RTR being available all day); newspapers from Russia reach the capital. Numerous Tajik newspapers are published exclusively in Russian (e.g., Asia Plus) or in bilingual editions (e.g., Varorud). In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, it is not political calculation but widespread rural poverty and mountain-induced physical isolation that make media from Russia inaccessible to much of the population. ^^

Russians Migration Out of Post-Soviet Tajikistan

Most of the half million or so Russians that lived in Tajikistan have left. Many Russians were professionals and managers and had skills needed in Tajikistan. Since 2000 the rate of Russian emigration has slowed.

Sebastien Peyrouse of the Woodrow Wilson Institute wrote: “Tajikistan is the Central Asian republic that has been most severely affected by the emigration of its Russian population. Nearly 85 percent of Russians have left the country. By the 1970s migratory flows in the direction of Tajikistan had diminished, and, in 1975 they ceased being positive. The July 1989 law establishing Tajik as the official language led to an initial departure of approximately 10,000 Russians. New emigration flows followed the violent confrontations in February 1990 in Dushanbe. Before the onset of civil war in the country in 1992, some 380,000 Russians still lived in Tajikistan, accounting for 7.6 percent of the population. The outbreak of hostilities sped these remaining Russians’ emigration. In 1993 alone, more than 200,000 Russians, or half the Russian community, left. Along with the data for Armenia, this figure represents the highest percentage of departures of a Russian minority from a post-Soviet republic. [Source: Sebastien Peyrouse, “Russian Minority in Central Asia: Migration, Politics, and Language”, Woodrow Wilson Institute, 2007 ^^]

“Essentially, only the elderly without the means to leave, those belonging to ethnically mixed families, and those not able to obtain the necessary documents remained. Today, more than half of Tajikistan’s Russians are pensioners, concentrated in Dushanbe, though not as densely as formerly. Russians constituted 32.4 percent of the population of the capital in 1989, but only 17 percent in 1996. In the 2000 census, they represented a mere 1 percent of the total population of the republic, or just 68,000 people. There were 300 Russians in Pamir region, 9,000 in Khatlon region, 24,000 in the Sughd region (formerly Leninabad), and 34,000 in Dushanbe. Small communities continue to exist in the towns of Kurgan-Tyube (2,500), Tursunzade (2,500), and Kulob (500). Today, one can estimate their still-falling numbers at approximately 50,000 people. A final note worth mentioning is that the Russian families of approximately 200 former border guards remained in Tajikistan until 2006 because of their inability to obtain the allowances and housing to which they were theoretically entitled upon their return to Russia.^^

Jews in Tajikistan

Some of the Jews are remnants of Central Asia’s ancient Bukharan Jews community. ,“The country’s only synagogue remained unregistered, since the Jewish community was not large enough to meet formal registration requirements. The government, however, permitted the community to worship without interference. The synagogue is located in a building the government provided in 2010, after authorities destroyed the previous synagogue to build new government buildings.|+|

According to Everyculture.com: “Bukharan and Ashkenazi minorities constitute the tiny Jewish community. Bukharan Jews have lived in the country since the Middle Ages; Ashkenazi Jews arrived after World War II, and worked mainly as engineers and in specialized occupations. In 1989, there were approximately twenty thousand Jews; after the civil war, all but two thousand emigrated.” [Source: Everyculture.com]

See Bukharan Jews

Uzbeks and Other Minorities in Tajikistan

Minorities with less than 500 members include the Yagnobs, Shugnes, Rushanes, Khufes, Bartanges, Oroshores, Sarikules, Vakhanians, Ishkashims, Yazgulams and Mundzhans. Some of these groups are considered Pamiri Tajiks. See Pamiri Tajiks.

Uzbeks — including Lakai, Kongrat, Katagan, Barlos and Yuz — make up 13.8 percent of the population of Tajikistan, which works out to about 1.13 million people. Most of Uzbeks in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan live in the Fergana Valley. There are also large numbers of Uzbeks living in southern Tajikistan. Between the censuses of 1989 and 2000, the Uzbek population decreased from 23.5 percent of the total population of Tajikistan to 15.3 percent. Particularly in the Fergana Valley, intermarriage between Tajiks and Uzbeks has essentially merged the two groups. Tajiks make up about 5 percent of the population in Uzbekistan.

See Regional Groups, Pamiri Tajiks

Tajiks Outside of Tajikistan

At the time the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, there are about 4.4 million Tajiks in Tajikistan, 3.5 million in Afghanistan, 630,000 in Uzbekistan, 100,000 in Kazakhstan and 33,000 in Xinjiang. Some Wakhi clan Tajiks live in northern Pakistan. There are many Tajiks in southeastern Uzbekistan, particularly in the Fergana valley. Unable to find jobs, 1 million Tajiks now work abroad, mainly as construction workers, to feed their families.

The Tajiks in Afghanistan are defined as people that speak Dari — a language that is virtually the same as Tajik spoken in Tajikistan. Afghan Tajiks share many customs with the Pashtuns. The follow a code of conduct called Abdurzadagai that is similar to the Pashtin Paktunwali code. Most Afghani Tajik have a stronger bond with their valley than with the ethnic group. The assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood was a Tajik.

Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan after Pashtuns. They make up 38 percent of Afghanistan’s population of 32.3 million people, which works out 12.3 million people. Many Tajiks in northern Afghanistan. More Tajiks live in Afghanistan than Tajikistan. Many Tajiks in Tajikistan have relatives across the border in northern Afghanistan.

Tajiks in China

The Tajiks in China live mainly in the Tajik autonomous county, Tashiku'rgan (Taxkorgan) in the southwestern part of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This is near the borders of Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A small number of them are scattered in Shache, Zepu, Yecheng, Pishan and other border regions in the western part of the Tarim Basin. Millions of Tajiks live in Afghanistan, Taijikistan and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. The Tajiks in Taxkorgan live alongside Uygurs, Kirgizs, Xibes and Hans.[Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~]

The Tajiks in China fit mainly into the Pamiri Tajik category (See Separate Article). They are regarded by Chinese as firm, persistent, bold and unconstrained. In their legends, the hawk is the symbol of hero. The favorite instrument of Tajik herdsmen is a short flute called a "nayi" that is made of hawk's wing bones. In some of the dances the Tajik imitate the graceful movements of flying male hawks. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Tajik ethnic people mainly engaged in animal husbandry, supplements by agriculture, living a half-nomadic, half settled life. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, agriculture and animal husbandry developed quickly, and industry was developed from scratch. \=/

Tajik population in China: 0.0038 percent of the total population; 51,069 in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census; 41,056 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 33,538 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

Afghan Refugees in Tajikistan

In recent years many refugees from e29 have arrived in Tajikistan. In 2010, Roman Kozhevnikov of Reuters wrote: Pakistan has traditionally been the main destination for those fleeing war and persecution in Afghanistan but recent instability in border areas has prompted many to seek shelter elsewhere. A major offensive this month by NATO and Afghan troops has stepped up fighting in southern Afghanistan, but in the north a resurgent Taliban has increased attacks in areas traditionally populated by Tajiks, boosting the exodus across the border.” [Source: Roman Kozhevnikov, Reuters, February 19, 2010 <=>]

Tajikistan “is the only ex-Soviet Central Asian country to officially admit Afghan refugees, partly aimed at pleasing the West by demonstrating its resolve to cooperate over Afghanistan. Official data have yet to be released but the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the number of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan doubled in 2009 to 5,000. In 2010 the number was expected to grow to up to 7,000. "We are finding it harder every month to meet all the needs of our burgeoning Afghan refugee and asylum seeker population," said Ilija Todorovic, the head of the UNHCR office in Tajikistan. <=>

“Most refugees are ethnic Tajiks or those who once studied in the former Soviet Union. Some are Hazaras, an ethnic minority group often threatened by the Taliban. Foreign Minister Khamrokhon Zarifi said last month Tajikistan was committed to accepting the refugees "because they are our brothers." "It is in our interests that stability returns to Afghanistan because without stability there we cannot talk about stability in the whole region." <=>

“Life in Tajikistan, although fairly stable and calm compared with Afghanistan, is not easy for the refugees. Itself struggling to overcome the consequences of a civil war in which 100,000 people were killed 10 years ago, Tajikistan is the poorest state in the Soviet bloc and is ill equipped to accommodate the influx... Some Tajiks view Afghan refugees with suspicion, seeing them as unwelcome competitors for the scarce jobs available, forcing them to keep a low profile. Unable to find jobs, 1 million Tajiks now work abroad, mainly as construction workers, to feed their families. Many, registered in remote settlements with no employment prospects, flock to the capital Dushanbe in search of jobs, only to face harassment by the police. <=>

Story of one Afghan Refugees in Tajikistan

Roman Kozhevnikov of Reuters wrote: “Abdul Mutalib is one of thousands of refugees who have fled across northern Afghanistan's mountains and dusty plains into Tajikistan to start a new life. He decided to leave last year after his two Russian-educated brothers and their father, who worked on Soviet construction projects, were killed by the Taliban because of their links to the country that occupied Afghanistan for 10 years. His family are ethnic Tajiks who lived in Afghanistan for generations. "I don't have any relatives left in Afghanistan any more. Everyone's dead," said Mutalib who, like his brothers, attended a Soviet university. "The Taliban don't spare anyone with Soviet education." [Source: Roman Kozhevnikov, Reuters, February 19, 2010 <=>]

“The Taliban still harbor hostility toward the Soviet forces that occupied Afghanistan for a decade before insurgents drove them out in 1989. During that period, many like Mutalib received an education in the former Soviet Union, making them traitors in the Taliban's eyes. Just 200 km (125 miles) north of the Afghan border, Mutalib, 38, now lives with his wife and children in a crumbling Soviet-era apartment block in the Tajik city of Vakhdat. <=>

“His face alternates between anger and sorrow as he recalls the events of 2008 when militants killed his father who once worked at Russian construction sites in Kandahar. "They used to threaten my brothers and father. They wanted our land," he said, reclining on the floor of his grimy flat, its patchy walls undecorated. Insurgents shot dead two of Mutalib's Russian-educated brothers in 2009 and confiscated their ancestral house in Kandahar -- the tipping point in his decision to flee. <=>

"They (militants) told them: 'Go away'. ... But my father grew up in that house. His grandfather had built that house. He did not want to leave that house. He said: 'This is my home'." Sitting nearby, Mutalib's wife nods, clutching a baby, their fifth child. A plastic sheet flutters on a window, doing little to keep the cold out of their crowded one-room flat. Like many Afghans, Mutalib is still unemployed. Despite the hardship, he says life in peace is worth it. His family agrees. "Over there it is just war," said Masood, one of his sons who attends a local school. "Things can't possibly get worse." <=>

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Page Top

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.