Tajikistan

Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
2
100
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 1.79 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 1.11 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
2 100 Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.

header1 Score changes in 2022

  • No score changes in 2022.

header2 Executive Summary

Tajikistan’s authoritarian president, Emomali Rahmon, further consolidated his grip on power in 2021. The regime used the COVID-19 pandemic to continue curtailing the work of the country’s remaining independent institutions. A border conflict with Kyrgyzstan and the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan helped Rahmon to reestablish himself and his family as the guarantors of peace and stability in Tajikistan,1 and to implicitly justify their intensifying restrictions on civil rights as necessary to hold the country together.

As in previous years, the regime governed Tajikistan as a nepotistic kleptocracy. Rahmon’s family maintained close control over the economy and its biggest public and private assets, 2 including the state-owned Tajik Aluminum Company (a leading national exporter)3 and the country’s main airline Somon Air.4 Corruption at the highest levels of the government remains pervasive while the authorities periodically make a show of punishing low-level corruption.

The citizens who seek to engage independently in political affairs continue to face numerous obstacles and serious repercussions. There was constant pressure on activists and opposition political figures in 2021. Those based outside Tajikistan faced the threat of abduction and forcible extradition,5 and even the relatives of exiled opposition leaders and journalists were subject to harassment within the country’s borders. Opposition politician Mahmurod Odinaev was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of hooliganism and “calls for extremism.”6 A month later, his son Shaikhmuslihiddin Rizoev was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of hooliganism and attempted rape, while his second son, Habibullo Rizoev, was convicted of hooliganism and fined.7 Rahmatillo Zoirov, the leader of Tajikistan’s opposition Social Democratic Party, stepped down after more than two decades in the post, citing lingering health problems stemming from a September 2020 assault that he described as politically motivated.8 A former member of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Mirzo Hojimuhammad, was sentenced to five years in prison in June for being “a member of a banned extremist organization.”9 The health of Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda, a 70-year-old journalist and former member of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan serving out a 16-year sentence, declined significantly in prison and is endangering his life.10 Barakatullo Ghoziev, son of a late Islamic cleric and a leading opposition figure Said Qyomiddin Ghozi, was arrested in Russia in September and is facing extradition to Tajikistan and a possible 25-year prison sentence.11

The Rahmon regime also exerted pressure on independent media outlets and continued to monopolize the information space in Tajikistan. While there are 33 private TV channels and 22 private radio stations registered in the country, most of them are dysfunctional and are overshadowed by 13 state-sponsored TV channels and 10 state-sponsored radio stations.12 The government now requires privately owned radio stations and television channels to submit all their proposed editorial productions in a foreign language to the state Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting for prior approval. Independent television channels are also required to broadcast content provided by the state media when requested by the authorities, and they are obliged to send journalists to all official events while “strictly following the country’s policy on information.”13 The government implicitly acknowledged using “troll factories” to discredit critics,14 and it inspired a disinformation campaign on social media designed to smear media outlets such as Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.15 Eight accreditation requests for Radio Ozodi journalists have still not been granted by the Foreign Ministry; several Radio Ozodi staffers received accreditation only for a matter of months in violation of Tajik legislation on media accreditation.16 In October, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to President Rahmon urging him to end the pressure and threats to Radio Ozodi journalists and their families.17 The website of Asia-Plus, one of the most visited online independent media outlets in the country, remained blocked for the third year in a row due to “technical issues” on the .tj domain, which is administered by a government agency.

Social media activity of citizens continued to be curtailed. The 2020 amendments to the administrative code that introduced fines for “disseminating incorrect or inaccurate information” about the COVID-19 pandemic18 made it impossible to fact-check official statements and made the public wary of sharing information about COVID-19 on social media. Facebook users who posted nongovernmental data about COVID-19 said they were subsequently summoned to prosecutors’ offices and given official warnings.19 The government also amended the tax code, requiring social media bloggers to register and pay taxes on any profits from their activities20 and to obtain license to conduct online lotteries – a major source of ad revenue and subscriptions.21 While these amendments are one of the ways in which the government attempts to make up for its budget shortfalls,22 it also gives the government another form of leverage over citizens’ online activity. Many bloggers subsequently stated that paying any taxes would force them to the end their activities.23

Tajikistan remains in an economic downturn, now exacerbated by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the economy has rebounded in the first half of 2021,24 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita fell from pre-pandemic level of $873.5 to $839.18 in 2021, its lowest since 2018.25 The average salary is currently lower than it was in 2014.26 Facing the economic downturn, particularly in the country’s rural regions, Tajiks continue to seek employment and income abroad. As pandemic travel restrictions to Russia eased, the number of Tajik labor migrants who entered Russia for work purposes reached the historic high of 1.6 million.27 The flow of remittances from labor migrants—which amounted to more than 28 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP in 201928 —sharply decreased over the past two years and has just started to fully recover, leading to serious hardships for labor migrants’ families, particularly in rural areas. Despite continuing promises of energy stability and independence, Tajikistan’s rural areas still suffer from annual electricity rationing that last from October well into late winter.29 The Rahmon regime continues to navigate these significant economic difficulties and associated social unrest with the help of financial support from the US, Russia, China, the EU, and international financial institutions.30

The long-awaited transfer of power from President Rahmon to his son Rustam Emomali did not occur in 2021. While the tightly controlled 2020 elections resulted in a predictable victory for regime forces,31 the effects of the pandemic hurt Rahmon’s popularity in practice and scrambled the succession plans.32 The short successful military conflict with Kyrgyzstan in the spring of 2021, however, demonstrated that Rahmon was still capable of mobilizing the country in the face of danger and gave him a popularity boost.33 The Taliban victory in Afghanistan in August gave Rahmon another opportunity to invoke security concerns34 as justification for his tight grip on the country and use nationalistic rhetoric to further boost his falling popularity. The situation in Afghanistan also helped the regime to play regional powers against one another and extract further concessions from international donors.35

header3 At a Glance

Tajikistan’s constitutional system is nominally democratic, but both national and local elections are not free, and its politics are still dominated by President Emomali Rahmon and his People’s Democratic Party. The country is governed in practice as a nepotistic kleptocracy, with Rahmon’s family maintaining tight control over the economy and key public and private assets. The media are heavily restricted by the government, which denies independent journalists accreditation and sets the agenda for broadcast content. The civic sector plays an active role in public life and has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it suffers from inadequate funding and constant government interference. Political and other forms of dissent are strictly discouraged and are severely punished by a pliant judiciary that fails to uphold basic due process guarantees. Corruption at the highest levels of the government remains pervasive while the authorities periodically make a show of punishing low-level corruption.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 1.001 7.007
  • Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rahmon, has been in power since November 1992. He has held the title “Leader of the Nation” since 2015, which exempts him from presidential term limits and allows him to retain substantial authority even after resigning as president.1 While Tajikistan has seven officially registered political parties, six of which are represented in the bicameral parliament, the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan dominates the country’s national and local politics, and Rahmon’s extended family has a tight hold on all major economic and social institutions.2
  • Rustam Emomali, the president’s 33-year-old son, serves as chairman of the parliament’s upper chamber, meaning he is constitutionally designated to succeed his father if Rahmon steps down or is unable to fulfill his duties.3 Rustam is also the mayor of the capital, Dushanbe. Rahmon’s daughter Ozoda Emomali runs the presidential administration, which allows her to play a decisive role in selecting and dismissing key government figures.
  • The regime’s unofficial policy of detaining political opponents, activists, and dissidents and exerting pressure on their families inside and outside the country continued in 2021.4 In January, the government admitted to arresting at least 10 people for allegedly “collaborating” with opposition groups based abroad; independent media sources put the number of those arrested much higher.5 In February, Tajikistan was named among the top perpetrators of transnational repression,6 particularly for its prolific abuse of Interpol to target critics living in other countries.7 In June, lawyers for Uyghur advocacy groups provided the International Criminal Court with alleged evidence that the government of Tajikistan has cooperated with Beijing to forcibly repatriate Uyghurs to China, where they face extreme forms of persecution.8
  • In 2020, the Tajik government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in a limited manner following a wave of initial closures. In early 2021, the government dubiously declared the country free of COVID-19.9 In July 2021, after months of rumors about the spread of the virus and reports that the president’s sister had died of COVID-19, the government admitted the existence of new cases but refused to introduce lockdown measures.10
  • Tajikistan remains in an economic downturn, now exacerbated by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the economy has rebounded in the first half of 2021,11 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita fell from pre-pandemic level of $873.5 to $839.18 in 2021, its lowest since 2018.12 The average salary is currently lower than it was in 2014.13 Facing the economic downturn, particularly in the country’s rural regions, Tajiks continue to seek employment and income abroad. As pandemic travel restrictions to Russia eased, the number of Tajik labor migrants who entered Russia for work purposes reached the historic high of 1.6 million.14 The flow of remittances from labor migrants—which amounted to more than 28 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP in 201915 —sharply decreased over the past two years and has just started to fully recover, leading to serious hardships for labor migrants’ families, particularly in rural areas. Despite continuing promises of energy stability and independence, Tajikistan’s rural areas still suffer from annual electricity rationing that last from October well into late winter.16 A two-day border conflict over water resources between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in late April killed over 50 people and injured hundreds, most of them civilians.17 Approximately 58,000 people, most of them in Kyrgyzstan, fled their homes or were evacuated, dozens of houses and at least 3 schools were damaged or partially destroyed.18 While this was an unprecedented escalation of a long-brewing conflict, it was built on over thirty minor military incidents since 2014 on the 971-kilometer border between the two countries, of which only 519 kilometers are properly delineated.19 The Tajik government did not initially publicly acknowledge the conflict20 and used the resulting information vacuum filled with rumors, disinformation,21 and low quality reporting by Tajik media22 to shore up nationalistic sentiment among its citizens to improve Rahmon’s popularity.23 The conflict blurred the lines between the roles of the country’s military and ordinary citizens amidst the rumors that the government distributed weapons among the residents of the villages bordering Kyrgyzstan24 and calls on social media for residents of Khatlon region to take up arms to defend Tajiks.
  • As the Taliban re-captured Afghanistan in the aftermath of the US and NATO withdrawal, Tajikistan remained the only regional player who did not establish ties to the new government in Kabul. Since August, Rahmon has returned to the topic of Afghanistan in every public appearance he has made, demanding representation of Afghan Tajiks in the new government in Kabul,25 promising to take in Afghan refugees,26 and posthumously awarding ethnic Tajik anti-Taliban leaders.27 But while the government mobilized hundred thousand troops and conducted joint military exercises in border regions28 amidst rumors of its support of the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan in Panjshir province,29 the government also sent thousands of refugees back to Afghanistan without publishing accurate statistics30 and renewed its electricity exporting contract with Afghanistan.31 Rahmon’s regime, reeling from economic difficulties and population’s fatigue from its almost thirty-year rule, used the crisis in Afghanistan to boost its popularity at home with tough nationalists rhetoric and to receive international spotlight and aid. In October, Rahmon visited Brussels and Paris, where he parlayed his public position against the Taliban into continued engagement with Europe.32
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 1.001 7.007
  • Emomali Rahmon and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have dominated every presidential and parliamentary election since Tajikistan’s 1991 independence. Although the 1994 constitution and 1999 Law on Elections provide the basis for a multiparty system, elections have been marred by irregularities and allegations of fraud, including widespread ballot stuffing, proxy voting, and intimidation. Elections are conducted within an environment tightly controlled by state authorities and characterized by long-standing restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms, including of association, assembly, expression, media, and harassment and intimidation of dissenting voices. There is no central voter register. Instead, each local electoral commission compiles voter lists, making elections susceptible to voter fraud. Opposition rallies are not permitted, and the state media campaigns for the ruling PDP. After the 2020 presidential election, observers from the OSCE said the electoral process “lacked credibility and transparency, including on election day”, repeating their conclusions in the country’s previous parliamentary and presidential elections.1
  • The PDP controls the Assembly of Representatives (Majlis Namoyandagon), holding 47 seats in the 63-seat body. Following the 2020 parliamentary elections, five nominally opposition parties hold the remaining 16 seats in the assembly. None of these parties offers substantive opposition to government policies. The most vocal critic of the government—the Social Democratic Party—does not hold seats in the assembly.2 The National Assembly (Majlisi Milli), the upper house, has 34 members, all of whom are appointed. Rustam Emomali, the president’s 33-year-old son, serves as chairman of the parliament’s upper chamber, meaning he is constitutionally designated to succeed his father if Rahmon steps down or is unable to fulfill his duties.3
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 1.251 7.007
  • As the Rahmon regime consolidated its control over Tajikistan, the civic space was narrowed down to topics that are not directly confrontational to the regime and are less controversial. In areas such as rights of the children with disabilities, there is still some space for criticism of practical failings, particular legislation, and specific issues with lower-level systems while any direct criticism of the President, his family, or of the nature of the regime remains off-limits for those seeking to stay operational in the civic space.1
  • Civil society actors in Tajikistan continue to face a heavily regulated environment for public engagement. The 2019 Law on Public Organizations significantly tightened the rules for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs). The government annually rejects some two-thirds of applications to register a political party or a public association. Almost half of Tajikistan’s 2,510 registered NGOs depend on foreign funding,2 and the Ministry of Justice strictly monitors the groups’ adherence to a 10-day deadline to report any projects financed from abroad to the Register of Humanitarian Assistance to Public Associations under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts.
  • The government carefully controls large public organizations. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan (FNPT) remains under close supervision and unequivocally supports any major initiatives of the government. The FNPT and the Youth Union of Tajikistan remains as the only two NGOs in the country that have the right to nominate candidates for the presidency. The representatives of the government attempted to influence, albeit unsuccessfully this time, the outcome of the 2021 elections of the chairman of the trade union of workers in education and science, an FNPT member and nominally an independent organization.3
  • Amid the chaotic government response to the pandemic and the total unpreparedness of the health and social welfare systems, Tajikistan’s civil society has undergone a sort of a revival. The crisis led to the unprecedented formation of a volunteer movement and the self-organization of citizens, most of whom have never been affiliated with political parties or participated in public activities.4 In 2021, NGOs and volunteer groups continued to play a significant role in informing the population about the pandemic, providing support to the most vulnerable groups, and pressing authorities to respond with greater urgency. The Tajik diasporas around the world and especially the ones in the UK and Russia were particularly active at organizing and providing aid since the start of the pandemic.
  • While most of Central Asia is witnessing the emergence of Islamic civil society movements, the phenomenon has not spread to Tajikistan. Since the end of the country’s civil war, the government has created arguably the most hostile legal environment for religion in the region. The state administers and monitors the activities of Islamic civil society groups, tightly controls local mosques, and discourages the population from pursuing religious education abroad.5 In October, the parliament started consideration of amendments to the country’s criminal code that would make penalties for illegal religious education, including online education, even harsher.6
  • To help fortify its own popularity, the regime continues to orchestrate an information campaign in progovernment media that glosses over the achievements of volunteer groups and promotes the state’s own humanitarian efforts.7
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 1.001 7.007
  • While the country’s media sector was long deprived of independence and freedom of expression prior to 2020, the Rahmon regime has used the COVID-19 pandemic to justify increased restrictions, adopting legislation to pressure individual journalists and bloggers and to obstruct the work of international media in the country.
  • Amendments to the administrative code in 2020 introduced fines for “disseminating incorrect or inaccurate information” about the COVID-19 pandemic.1 However, these amendments do not specify how to determine the inaccuracy of such information. Even before the amendments were passed, a website where civic activists had kept an alternative count of coronavirus deaths in Tajikistan was blocked.2 Since the administrative code changes were adopted, local media have mainly relied on dubious governmental statistics on the spread of COVID-19. Journalists report that it has become close to impossible to fact-check official statements, and the public has become wary of sharing information about COVID-19 on social media. Facebook users who posted nongovernmental data about COVID-19 said they were subsequently summoned to prosecutors’ offices and given official warnings.3
  • In the spring of 2021, the government introduced new legislation that further limited freedom of the press in Tajikistan. Privately owned radio stations and television channels are now required to submit all their proposed editorial productions in a foreign language to the state Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting for prior approval. Independent television channels are also obliged to broadcast content provided by the state media when requested by authorities, and to send journalists to all official events while “strictly following the country’s policy on information.”4
  • In early 2021, the government amended the tax code, requiring social media bloggers to register and pay taxes on any profits from their activities.5 While these amendments represent one of the myriad ways in which the government attempts to make up for its budget shortfalls,6 it also gives the government another form of leverage over citizens’ online activity. Many bloggers subsequently stated that paying any taxes would spell the end of their operations.7 In April, the government went even further, requiring bloggers to obtain license to conduct online lotteries – a major source of ad revenue and subscriptions.8
  • The government sometimes implicitly acknowledges using “troll factories” to discredit its critics,9 and it arguably inspired a disinformation campaign on social media designed to smear outlets such as Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.10 Eight accreditation requests for Radio Ozodi journalists have still not been granted by the Foreign Ministry; several Radio Ozodi staffers received accreditation only for a matter of months in violation of Tajik legislation on media accreditation.11 In October, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to President Rahmon urging him to end the pressure and threats to Radio Ozodi journalists and their families.12 The website of Asia-Plus, one of the most visited independent online media outlets in the country, remained blocked for the third year in a row due to “technical issues” on the .tj domain, which is administered by a government agency.
  • Years of government pressure and restrictions have robbed the media in Tajikistan of their capacity to function effectively. This was particularly evident during the brief border conflict with Kyrgyzstan in the spring of 2021, when Tajikistan’s media repackaged old reports from the conflict region as news, published false information, and made editorial and ethical mistakes. The state media exacerbated the situation by remaining mostly silent about the clashes at the border.13
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 1.502 7.007
  • Under Tajikistan’s constitutional and legal framework, there is a separation of powers between national and local government bodies. In practice, however, the Rahmon regime exercises direct control over all processes and ignores international best practices regarding engagement with local governments and civic actors. Regional governors, heads of districts, and city mayors are directly appointed and dismissed by the president without the participation of local communities or legislatures. On paper, only in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast must candidates for governor be approved by the regional assembly.1 Despite that, in early November Yodgor Fayzov, GBAO’s popular and effective governor, was replaced by general Alisher Mirzonabot from the country’s security services2 after President Rahmon criticized the region’s leadership during his October visit there.3
  • In 2009, the parliament passed a law on the local self-government of settlements and villages (jamoats) that allowed their local councils to nominate chairmen. In theory, the law significantly empowered the 370 jamoats in the country, but it was never implemented in practice. Jamoats have only a few thousand inhabitants each and are considered the lowest level of administrative division. City and district councils are the next level above jamoats in this hierarchy.
  • Amendments to the laws on local self-government and education that were adopted in October 2020 came into effect in 2021. The legislation transferred the power to appoint the heads of local education departments from cities and regions to the Ministry of Education, further centralizing control over educational decisions and oversight.4
  • It was reported in July 2021 that Tajikistan’s southern region of Khatlon will soon be split into two, with Rahmon’s native Danghara district set to be upgraded to become the country’s fifth region.5 The upgrade will take political power away from any potential challengers to Rahmon’s rule from Khatlon and reward his home district. The move also revived rumors that the government intends to move the capital of Tajikistan from Dushanbe to Danghara in the future, further illustrating the rise of the country’s southern regions as Tajikistan’s post-Soviet center of power.
  • The authorities continue to strictly discourage any forms of protest activity against the local government. In 2021, Tajikistan recorded only a single protest outside of the country’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, the lowest number in Central Asia and on par with the region’s most autocratic country of Turkmenistan – in May the residents of the Degdonak village in Nurobod district gathered to protest the sale of pastureland by the local government but were quickly dispersed without their complaints addressed properly.6
  • The murder of a local man by police in Khorog, the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, sparked large scale protests in the city on November 25. The protests lasted for four days, resulted in at least two deaths, and ended only after the Khorog government promised to investigate the murder that sparked the unrest.7 Despite the promise, the local government instituted an internet blackout in the region and smeared the victim of the police shooting on state TV.8
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 1.001 7.007
  • Tajikistan’s judicial system is tightly controlled by the Rahmon regime. Politically or socially significant cases are often heard behind closed doors, with civil society representatives and independent media barred from monitoring court proceedings. Occasional mass amnesties, including the one in September dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence, usually apply to women, individuals younger than 18 and older than 55, disabled persons, inmates with serious illnesses, people with state awards, war veterans, and foreign nationals, but ignore political prisoners.1
  • In 2021, the Rahmon regime continued to persecute members of informal religious groups, firmly keeping Tajikistan on the U.S. State Department register of the world's worst violators of religious freedom.2 The trial of 119 Tajik citizens accused of membership in the Muslim Brotherhood began in Dushanbe in July 2020 and ended in April 2021. All but two of the defendants were sentenced to between five and 23 years in prison.3 In June, the authorities initiated a closed-door trial of 18 suspected members of the banned Salafiya movement, with almost no information made public about the defendants or the charges they faced. The defendants denied having any links with the movement or any other religious extremist group.4 In March, Saidnuriddin Roziqov, a Tajik cleric who had lived in Russia for over two decades, was detained in the town of Rezh and forcibly returned to Tajikistan, where he was accused of having links to the Salafiya movement.5 After a two-month detention, authorities released Abdulhaq Obidov, an imam who was arrested in April on extremism charges after he called a late Islamic cleric “one of the great leaders of the country.”6 In October, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed concerns over the worsening health conditions of Shamil Khakimov, a 70-year-old Jehovah’s Witness currently serving out a prison sentence for alleged extremism.7 In October, the parliament started consideration of amendments to the country’s criminal code that would make penalties for illegal religious education, including online education, even harsher.8
  • A pattern in which authorities have denied defendants proper legal representation and extracted confessions under duress continued in 2021. The human rights lawyer Oinihol Bobonazarova reported that the defendants in the June Salafiya trial were not given access to defense counsel in the first five days of their detention, and that at least one of the defendants said his confession was obtained under duress.9 The wife of Imomali Idibegov, a suspected terrorist whose confession was shown on national television, claimed that her husband’s admission of guilt was coerced.10
  • Lawyers who expressed dissent or took up human rights cases experienced increasing government pressure in 2021. Jailed lawyer Saidnuriddin Shamsiddinov, a government critic who had been imprisoned on politically motivated fraud charges, faced new charges of having links with an extremist group11 and could receive additional 7 years in prison.12 Also that month, a Moscow-based Tajik lawyer, Bakhtovar Jumaev, claimed that officials in Tajikistan had opened a case against him for inciting “extremist activity.” After receiving a warning that Russian officials planned to detain him and deport him to Tajikistan, Jumaev left Russia for a third country.13
  • Political dissidents and other critics of the regime remain the principal targets of Tajikistan’s security services, both inside and outside the country.14 Over two dozen residents of Dushanbe were reportedly detained in January in connection with antigovernment graffiti that had been sprayed on the walls of a public school.15 Izzat Amon, a government critic and activist who helped Tajik labor migrants in Russia through his Moscow-based Center for Tajiks, was detained in March by the Russian authorities, stripped of his Russian citizenship, and forcibly returned to Tajikistan, 16 where he was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud in connection with his work and activism in Moscow.17 Izzat’s Center for Tajiks partners Shuhrat Qudratov, Sukhrob Jahon, Bakhtovar Jumaev, and Muhammadkhon Egamov are reportedly under a threat of deportation from Russia to Tajikistan at the moment.18 Ramazon Huseiniyon, a self-exiled activist currently residing in Europe who had been charged in Tajikistan with inciting hatred and involvement in extremist activities, was told by Tajik officials that the charges would be dropped if he signed a letter renouncing his political activism.19
  • The government continues to ignore requests and decisions by the international community to review dissidents’ cases. While Daler Sharipov, an independent journalist imprisoned on charges of inciting hatred and spreading “propaganda” on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, was released in January after completing a one-year sentence,20 the attorney Buzurgmehr Yorov, whose 2015 conviction was described by the United Nations as politically motivated,21 remained imprisoned, even though his sentence was shortened by four years.22 A September open letter from four jailed former members of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) requesting a retrial with participation of international human rights experts was ignored by the authorities.23 Two imprisoned former members of the IRPT, Zubaidullo Roziq and Rahmatullo Rajab, were placed in solitary confinement for two months as punishment for sending a letter to President Rahmon without obtaining preliminary permission from the prison’s warden.24
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 1.001 7.007
  • Corruption is endemic at every level of Tajikistan’s economy and society. Regime’s management of the health and education systems prioritizes corrupt interests and the enrichment of elites rather than the needs of the population. The well-documented misappropriation of revenue from the country’s scarce natural resources—including the profits of the state-owned Tajik Aluminum Company (TALCO), a leading national exporter1 —by the Rahmon family has gutted investment in social welfare.2 The government has adopted multiple anticorruption reforms, including those associated with participation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-corruption Network for Eastern Europe & Central Asia,3 and through collaboration with the Economic Crime and Cooperation Division of the Council of Europe,4 but these have not yielded significant results.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the extent of corruption in Tajikistan’s public sector. Transparency International identified Tajikistan as a country where pandemic-related foreign-aid spending lacked transparency, “making it difficult to track funds and ensure appropriate distribution to the intended recipients.”5
  • In the first half of 2021, authorities identified 96 cases of nepotism.6 Through October of 2021, over 1,800 cases of corruption were also identified.7 Over the same 10-month period, $28.7 million were embezzled. Most of these violations were committed by local officials, by employees of state banks, or by officials in education and land management agencies. The authorities periodically make a show of punishing low-level corruption even as they ignore pervasive corruption at the highest levels of the government.
  • While the previous year was marked by a series of major corruption investigations,8 including allegations that $31 million in state funds were stolen,9 few such developments were reported in 2021. Ilhom Khotamov, a powerful cotton trader, was sentenced for embezzlement of about half a million dollars that he had obtained as a loan from a state bank in 2009.10 Separately, two employees of the Nurek hydropower plant were arrested for embezzling over $200,000.11
  • An investigation by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty suggested that top managers of Tajikistan's debt-plagued national airline, Tajik Air, had orchestrated the company's downfall to the benefit of another major airline, Somon Air, owned by Rahmon's brother-in-law, Hasan Asadullozoda.12 Somon Air’s ties to Rahmon’s family were confirmed by a court in London in a case involving the Tajik aluminum plant TALCO.13
  • Tajikistan’s flight ticketing agency, possessing a monopoly on air routes to Russia, also reportedly belongs to the Rahmon family. As pandemic travel restrictions eased and Tajik labor migrants resorted to desperate measures to return to Russia, the ticketing agency raised its prices and exploited the desperation of income-strapped Tajiks.14
  • In its annual statement on the investment climate in the country, the US State Department noted that enforcement of anticorruption legislation is politically motivated and generally ineffective at combating corruption among public officials. US companies have “identified corruption as an obstacle to investment and have reported instances of corruption in government procurement, awards of licenses and concessions, dispute settlements, regulations, customs, and taxation,” according to the statement.15
  • The authorities do not provide security guarantees and protection for NGOs focused on fighting corruption. Civil society representatives have very limited access to public procurement materials and may not participate in the public expenditure control process.

On Tajikistan

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  • Global Freedom Score

    8 100 not free