Tajikistan is a little freer than Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan but over time has clamped down more and more on political activism. People are relatively free to speak their minds but there have been clamp downs on Islamic practices and democracy does not exist.

Economic and political conditions discourage the development of independent media. The approach of the 2005 parliamentary and 2006 presidential elections brought increased closures of independent and opposition newspapers and attacks on journalists. In 2003 the government blocked access to the only Internet Web site run by the political opposition. Constitutional guarantees of a fair trial are not always observed, and torture often is used against individuals accused of crimes. Pretrial detention often is lengthy, and prosecutors control court proceedings. Prisons are overcrowded, and the incidence of tuberculosis and malnutrition is high among inmates. Some activities of religious groups have been restricted by the requirement for registration with the State Committee on Religious Affairs. Islamic pilgrimages are restricted, and proselytizing groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered occasional persecution. Violence against women is frequent, and Tajikistan is a source and transit point for trafficking in women. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007**]

According to the U.S. Department of State: “Tajikistan is an authoritarian state dominated politically by President Emomali Rahmon and his supporters. The constitution provides for a multi-party political system, but the government obstructed political pluralism. The November 2013 presidential election lacked pluralism and genuine choice and did not meet international standards. Authorities maintained effective control over security forces. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]

The most significant human rights problems included citizens' inability to change their government through free and fair elections; torture and abuse of detainees and other persons by security forces; repression of political activism; and restrictions on freedoms of expression, press, and the free flow of information, including the repeated blockage of several independent news and social networking websites; and poor religious freedom conditions, as well as violence and discrimination against women. *\

Other human rights problems included violence and discrimination against women; arbitrary arrest; denial of the right to a fair trial; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; prohibition of international monitors’ access to prisons; corruption; limitations on worker rights; and trafficking in persons, including sex and labor trafficking. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were very few prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses. The courts convicted one official in December 2013 for torture and two officials during the year for abuse of power. The law provides for the rights and freedoms of every person regardless of race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but there was discrimination against women and persons with disabilities. Trafficking in persons for sexual and labor exploitation remained a problem. *\

Human Rights in the 1990s

Under the extension of emergency powers justified by the government in response to opposition in 1993 and 1994, numerous human rights violations were alleged on both sides of the civil war. A wave of executions and "disappearances" of opposition figures began after antireformist forces captured Dushanbe in December 1992. The People's Front of Tajikistan, a paramilitary group supported by the government, was responsible in many such cases. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In 1993 and 1994, a number of journalists were arrested, and prisoners of conscience were tortured for alleged antigovernment activities. In 1994 some prisoners of conscience and political prisoners were released in prisoner exchanges with opposition forces. The death sentence, applicable by Tajikistani law to eighteen peacetime offenses, was officially applied in six cases in both 1993 and 1994, but only one person, a political prisoner, is known to have been executed in 1994. No state executions were reported in 1995. *

Afghanistan-based oppositionist forces, who labeled themselves a government in exile, were accused by the Dushanbe government of killing a large number of civilians and some government soldiers near the Afghan border. These accusations had not been confirmed by impartial observers as of early 1996. Amnesty International appealed to both sides to desist, without apparent effect. *

Text Sources: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last Updated March 2022

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