According to the OSAC: The crime rates in Tajikistan and its capital, Dushanbe, are relatively low. The overall security situation in Dushanbe is calm. However, Tajikistan faces a number of economic, political, and border challenges that can affect the security environment. Changes to the security situation could lead to a rise in crime. Despite the low rate of crime, the U.S. Department of State rates Tajikistan as high for crime due to the inability of local police to detect, deter, and investigate criminal activity. [Source: “Tajikistan 2015 Crime and Safety Report,” Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State ^]

Tajikistan has seen an increase of crime in recent years, but to a large degree it has not affected Westerners. However, crimes of opportunity do occur. Criminal groups and terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Westerners are easily identified, and criminals act on the perception that they have money. Additionally, Western women, particularly those who travel alone at night, have reported incidents of sexual harassment and attempted sexual assaults by Tajik males. Reports of petty theft and unarmed robberies are common. ^

Tajikistan has a serious problem with organized crime. Kidnapping is a concern. According to “One of the most widespread crimes is the smuggling of narcotics. There has been an increase in violent crime as a result of unregistered weapons remaining in private hands after the civil war. Official corruption and white-collar crime have increased. Wife beating is a common problem, as is the abduction of young women, who are raped or forced to marry. [Source:]

Saltanat Berdikeeva wrote in the China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly: “It has been difficult to restore the rule of law, recognition of the government legitimacy and stability in post-civil war Tajikistan. The country is faced with criminality, corruption, factionalism and the struggle for power by former warlords and the current leadership. Some of the former warlords, including the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) members and those legitimately holding official positions, maintain weapons and have been reportedly tied to criminal and extremist groups. [Source: Saltanat Berdikeeva, China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Volume 7, No. 2 (2009) p. 75-100, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies, Saltanat Berdikeeva is a Senior Research Analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Washington DC, and a contributing security Analyst for Exclusive Analysis, London]

All five republics of Central Asia have suffered increasing rates of crime in the liberalized atmosphere of the postindependence years. Drug trafficking, official corruption, and white-collar crime have increased most noticeably. All republics lack the resources to equip and train qualified police and specialized forces, and their judicial systems are not sufficiently removed from their Soviet antecedents to deal equitably with new generations of criminals. Evaluation and quantification of crime in post-Soviet Central Asia have been hampered by changes in responsible agencies, by irregularities in reporting procedures, and by lack of control and responsiveness in law enforcement agencies, particularly in Tajikistan. Statistics for the years 1990 and 1994 from Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan show dramatic increases in every type of crime, although those from the other three republics, where record keeping is known to be substantially less comprehensive, show considerable drops in many categories. In 1995 and 1996, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan set up new, specialized police units to deal with economic and organized crime. [Source: Glenn E. Curtis, Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Areas of Concern in Tajikistan

Because of widespread poverty and high unemployment and the central government’s lack of control of some areas and national borders, Tajikistan is vulnerable to turmoil spreading from neighboring Afghanistan. Some remnants of the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are known to be in Tajikistan. Authorities monitor carefully the activities of the ostensibly peaceful Islamic extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has a large membership in Tajikistan. Sharply increased narcotics trafficking through Tajikistan has increased related criminal activity and narcotics addiction along the trafficking routes. Trafficking in women and children from Tajikistan has increased substantially in the early 2000s. Corruption is pervasive in most of Tajikistan’s institutions and is exacerbated by severe poverty. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007**]

According to the OSAC: Territorial disputes along the Tajik-Uzbek and Tajik-Kyrgyz borders have the potential to develop into armed conflict. There were several armed conflicts between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards in late 2013 and in 2014, particularly in the area of Isfara and the Vorukh enclave. [Source: “Tajikistan 2015 Crime and Safety Report,” Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State ^]

During July-August 2012, the government closed off areas of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region (in the Pamirs) to conduct security operations against local criminal leaders suspected in the murder of a government official. Travelers to the Pamir region must obtain special permission from the Department of Visas and Registration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Not all border crossing points are open to third-country nationals, so tourists should plan their travel carefully. ^

Civil Unrest and Political Threats in Tajikistan

According to the OSAC: After the civil war, political violence diminished significantly. However, localized instability in the Rasht Valley, in Sughd Area (mostly in the Isfara Region), and in the Pamirs has occurred. 2013 and 2014 were relatively quiet with no significant incidents of political violence. [Source: “Tajikistan 2015 Crime and Safety Report,” Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State ^]

The potential for spontaneous civil unrest exists. Tajiks support their president and generally credit him for ending the civil war; however, government cronyism, pervasive corruption, and low standards of living are potential sources of discontent. Public demonstrations are rare. However, in September 2012, after a fire destroyed much of the Korvon market, hundreds of vendors who lost goods held a march in Dushanbe to demand that authorities compensate them for their losses. The situation was defused when the mayor met with the vendors on the same day and promised to arrange compensation. In October 2014, the externally-based opposition movement Group 24 released a video calling for demonstrations in multiple cities in Tajikistan. While the public response was negligible, the government reacted by blocking Internet access and dramatically increasing the visible security presence in Dushanbe. ^

Older Tajiks remember the privation and loss of civil war, and only the most extreme perceived injustices would bring them into the streets. The potential reaction of Tajikistan’s large youth generation – some 55 percent of the population is under 30 – is less predictable, but there is an increased tendency to organize demonstrations; i.e. several flash-mobs occurred in 2013. A high percentage of the younger generation works outside of Tajikistan and sends remittances to their families. ^

Terrorist Threats in Tajikistan

According to the OSAC: Supporters of regional terrorist groups (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Jamaat Ansarallah (JA)) aim to overthrowing central Asian governments and create an Islamic state. Militants affiliated with these groups are thought to be responsible for the 2009 and 2010 attacks on government troops and skirmishes in the Rasht Valley. Transnational terrorist groups (al-Qai’da) are not known to operate in Tajikistan. In 2014, it was reported that several hundred ethnic Tajiks joined the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), supporting militant activity in Iraq and Syria. Because of increased security at official U.S. facilities, terrorists may seek softer civilian targets (residential areas, clubs, restaurants, hotels, outdoor recreation events, other).[Source: “Tajikistan 2015 Crime and Safety Report,” Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State ^]

1) On September 23, 2010, a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated outside a police headquarters building in Khujand, killing two police officers and wounding 26 others. JA claimed responsibility. 2) On January 9-10, 2013, 18 members of banned organizations, reportedly IMU, were arrested; one member was killed, and another was wounded during a skirmish in Matcha district of Sughd Region. One police officer was wounded. ^

3) On January 14, 2013, a traffic police officer was killed and his partner was wounded in Konibodom in the Sughd Region. Members of IMU were accused of this murder. One of murderers was killed on the spot, and another was arrested. 4) On January 19, 2013, a police officer was wounded by an IMU member who set off a hand grenade during a police raid in Khujand in the Sughd Region. 5) On December 19, 2014, four Tajik Border Guards were kidnapped along the Tajik-Afghan border and held for ransom by a group reportedly affiliated with the Taliban. ^

Drug Related Crime in Tajikistan

According to the OSAC: Tajikistan is a major conduit for illicit drug traffic from Afghanistan to third countries. According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, approximately 100 tons of heroin pass through Tajikistan every year. The majority of the drugs likely enter Tajikistan by the truckload at official points of entry along the Tajik/Afghan border. There are killings and skirmishes between Tajik Border Guards and Afghan drug traffickers. Most of skirmishes occur in the Hamadoni district and the Shurobad district in the Khatlon region. [Source: “Tajikistan 2015 Crime and Safety Report,” Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State]

According to the United Nations: “Drug related crime in Tajikistan is very low. At 11 crimes per 100,000 people in 2006, the incidence of drug related crime is substantially lower than the regional average of 41 crimes per 100,000. Drug related crime has followed the general pattern observed elsewhere in the region with rising crime figures between 1996 and 2001, followed by declining figures for 2002-2005, rising again in 2006. The same pattern is loosely followed for drug related convictions. Given Tajikistan’s position as the drug gateway to Central Asia, it is peculiar that drug related crime and convictions are the lowest in Central Asia. In 2006, drug related crime increased by 17 percent. However, this figure is still the second lowest (after 2005) for the entire 1996-2006 period. [Source: “Illicit Drug Trends in Central Asia”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Central Asia, April 2008 |~|]

A) Drug Related Crimes in Tajikistan: 1,727 in 1995; 1,150 in 1996; 1,116 in 1997; 1,346 in 1998; 1,908 in 1999; 1,922 in 2000; 1,949 in 2001; 1,087 in 2002; 877 in 2003; 754 in 2004; 620 in 2005; 713 in 2006. B) Drug Related Crime Offenders in Tajikistan: 1,107 in 1995; 903 in 1996; 874 in 1997; 1,005 in 1998; 1,493 in 1999; 1,859 in 2000; 1,922 in 2001; 1,290 in 2002; 822 in 2003; 834 in 2004; 911 in 2005; 726 in 2006.

“Sub-nationally, the highest absolute number (240) and prevalence (39 per 100,000) of drug related crime occurred in Dushanbe city. Dushanbe also has five times the national average prevalence of drug users and two and a half times the national HIV prevalence. GornoBadakhshan registers the second highest drug-related crime prevalence, as well as substantially above average registered drug users and HIV prevalence. |~|

Main Drug Related Crimes Registered in Tajikistan: A) Smuggling: 18 in 2006; B) Storage: 195 in 2005; 213 in 2006; C) Distribution: 428 in 2005; 447 in 2006; D) Cultivation: 32 in 2005; 39 in 2006.


Rape and Domestic Violence in Tajikistan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There was no separate statute for spousal rape. The government did not provide statistics on the number of cases or convictions. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases at the victim’s insistence. Most observers believed the majority of cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid humiliation. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. According to a survey conducted by the National Statistic Committee during the year, 19 percent of women between ages 15 and 49 reported they experienced physical violence since age 15. The highest incidence of domestic violence was reported in Sughd, where 22 percent of women reported suffering domestic violence. The lowest reported level of domestic violence was reported in the Districts of Republican Subordination around Dushanbe, where 13 percent of women reported suffering domestic violence. Women underreported violence against them due to fear of reprisal or inadequate response by police and the judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles widely dismissed domestic violence as a “family matter.” Women and girls were more vulnerable to domestic violence because of early and unregistered marriages. *\

One police station was fully equipped to work with domestic violence victims. Five stations nationwide were staffed with police officers trained, with OSCE support, to respond to family violence cases and address the needs of victims in a gender-sensitive manner. There are four comprehensive shelters for victims of domestic violence, with support from the OSCE and operated by an NGO in Khujand. In rural areas the government and NGOs operated additional crisis centers and hotlines where women could seek guidance on domestic violence problems and legal assistance, but many centers lacked funding and resources. Local governments donated the premises of three of the shelters. The Committee for Women’s Affairs (within the government) had limited resources to assist domestic violence victims, but local committee representatives referred women to the crisis shelters for assistance. *\

In 2012 the government adopted a law on domestic violence, but it falls short of internationally accepted standards. The Ministry of Internal Affairs lacked the capacity and training to implement the law, although it was working with the international community to increase capacity. In May the government adopted an action plan to implement domestic violence law. The plan calls for law enforcement, court officials, the prosecutor’s office, and representatives of relevant government bodies to receive training on their responsibility to combat domestic violence. The plan also calls for greater cooperation between law enforcement officials and local leaders to change societal attitudes towards domestic violence. The government took some steps to collect information on domestic violence, but many cases of domestic abuse went unreported. *\

Authorities seldom investigated reported cases of domestic violence, and they prosecuted few alleged perpetrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is authorized to issue administrative restraining orders, but by law, police cannot act without a written complaint from the victim, even if there were other witnesses. Consequently, police often gave warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence. *\

Physical and psychological abuse of wives by mothers-in-law was widespread. In some rural areas, officials observed a continued trend of female suicide in which independent observers considered such abuse to be a contributing cause. *\

Human Trafficking in Tajikistan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “Tajikistan is a source and, to a lesser extent, destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, and a source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Extensive economic migration exposes Tajik men, women, and children to exploitation. Tajik men and women are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Women and children from Tajikistan are subjected to forced prostitution primarily in the UAE and Russia, and also in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and within Tajikistan. These women sometimes transit through Russia, Kyrgyzstan, or Azerbaijan en route to their destination.[Source: “2015 Trafficking in Persons Report: Tajikistan”, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State ]

“Reports indicate an increase in kidnappings and transport of Tajik women and girls to Afghanistan for the purpose of forced marriage, which can lead to forced prostitution and debt bondage. Women are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking within the country and abroad after they are informally divorced from their absent migrant husbands and then need to provide for their families. Women engaged in prostitution in Tajikistan are vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers.

There are reports from previous years of Tajik children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced begging, within Tajikistan and in Afghanistan. Some Tajik children and some adults were potentially subjected to agricultural forced labor in Tajikistan—mainly during the fall 2013 cotton harvest—but this exploitation occurred to a lesser degree than in 2012. Afghan and Bangladeshi citizens are vulnerable to forced labor in Tajikistan. Seven Tajik trafficking victims were identified in Kyrgyzstan in 2012.

Saltanat Berdikeeva wrote in the China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly: “Tajikistan has also become a key transit point and a destination of illegal migrants...from Afghanistan. Migrants from Afghanistan go through Tajikistan “to other post-Soviet countries and further to the West, alongside the hundreds of thousands of Tajiks who leave to seek better working conditions abroad (they largely end up in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, or the nearer region of Russia, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk).”Some Afghan migrants manage to get Tajik passports and often engage in kidnappings of Tajiks residing in the Khatlon province near the Afghan border. [Source: Saltanat Berdikeeva, China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Volume 7, No. 2 (2009) p. 75-100, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies |*|]

“The victims, mostly underage girls, are kept as hostages in Tajikistan and taken to Afghanistan. Aside from kidnappings for the purposes of human trafficking, more than “half a million of Tajiks with rising numbers, leave the country every year in search of work at “the risk of being trafficked.”Tajikistan is considered as a “place of origin, with no evidence that it is a significant transit or destination state [and] the victims are generally trafficked to North America, the EU, Western Asia, and the CIS.” |*|

Tajikistan Government and Human Trafficking

According to the U.S. Department of State: “ he Government of Tajikistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to make progress in further reducing the use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest. However, it continued to lack procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to existing protective services. The lack of adequate victim protection remained a serious problem in the country; budget limitations and high turnover in public jobs requiring specialized knowledge constrained such efforts.” [Source: “2015 Trafficking in Persons Report: Tajikistan”, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State ]

“The Government of Tajikistan continued limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 130.1 of the criminal code prohibits both forced sexual exploitation and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 167 prohibits the buying and selling of children, prescribing five to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law does not reach all forms of child trafficking; for example, crimes that do not include a financial transaction for the sale of a child may not come within the prohibition. The law may also include cases beyond the scope of trafficking; for example, if the purchase of a child is not undertaken for the purpose of exploitation. Some suspected trafficking offenders were investigated under the non-trafficking statute Article 132, prohibiting the recruitment of people for sexual or other exploitation; this article does not contain force, fraud, or coercion as a necessary element of the crime. In December 2013, the Tajik parliament added several amendments to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan that somewhat expanded the scope of prohibitions of trafficking crimes: Article 1302, “Use of Slavery”; Article 241.1, “Production and turnover of materials and products with pornographic pictures of children”; and Article 242, “Use of children (minors) with the purpose of production of pornographic materials and products.”

“The government investigated and prosecuted four trafficking cases in 2013 under Article 130.1, an increase from the previous year. The government also reported one conviction of a trafficking offender who was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment under Article 130.1 in 2013, compared with no convictions in 2012. In January 2014, a court in the Sughd region sentenced a woman to five years’ imprisonment for “recruitment of people for exploitation” in violation of Article 132.3 of the Criminal Code; the woman was arrested in September 2013 after two women were removed from a flight to Dubai at Dushanbe airport on suspicion that they were victims of sex trafficking. The Tajik government compiled law enforcement data across a variety of agencies and might count trafficking cases multiple times. In response to forced child labor cases in the cotton harvest that were identified through monitoring by IOM, the government levied fines against farms, but did not take law enforcement action.

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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.

Last updated April 2016

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