Tajikistan. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the March parliamentary elections gave
President Emomali Rachmon's regime another five years in
power. According to official figures, the ruling People's
Democratic Party received over 65% of the vote, but election
observers from the OSCE and the European Parliament spoke of
widespread electoral fraud and tough restrictions on
candidates as well as regime-controlled media. The power
party got 51 of the parliament's 63 seats, while the leading
opposition party, the Islamic Renewal Party, dropped out of
parliament with its two members.
In March, opposition politician Umarali Quvatov was
murdered in his exile in Turkey. He was one of the regime's
harshest critics and led the banned opposition movement
Group 24. That same month, two activists in Tajikistan were
sentenced to 16.5 years in prison, accused of, among other
things, membership of Group 24 and insulting the president.
The President appointed his son Rustam Emomali to lead
Tajikistan's Anti-Corruption Agency. The son was formerly
head of the customs office.
After the parliamentary elections, the regime launched a
campaign against the Islamic renewal party. Growing economic
problems in Tajikistan and Central Asia were believed to be
a reason why the regime wanted to silence all domestic
critical voices when the country was heading into a trying
period. Loyal imams were used to demand ban on the party,
which was accused of being the tool of extreme Islamists. In
April, a conference was held in which Tajikistanis were
invited to demand a ban on the party.
The government tried to make links between the Islamic
Renewal Party and the Islamic State (IS) terrorist movement
in Syria and Iraq. However, Islamic Renewal Party leader
Muhiddin Kabiri had stressed that the party was against IS,
which in turn issued death sentence against Kabiri. In the
state-controlled press, Kabiri was accused of fraud in
connection with property deals, and he went into exile
himself. The EU criticized the regime for persecuting the
Islamic renewal party.
The regime banned young Tajikistanis from making a
pilgrimage to Mecca, and Parliament legislated that
Tajikistanis entering foreign terror groups lose their
citizenship. One problem for the regime was that the most
known of the hundreds of Tajikistanis who joined the IS was
a former police chief who appeared in a video on the
Internet. When the video was published, the regime blocked
popular Tajikistani websites, which were then gradually
allowed after US pressure.
Harassment against the Islamic renewal party resulted in
many leaving the party. It was then used as an argument by
the regime, which claimed that the party no longer had legal
representation in the regions. In July, state prosecutors
declared that the party no longer lived up to a political
party status. In August, the government banned the party,
the last Muslim orientation allowed in Central Asia.
In September, fighting broke out east of the capital
Dushanbe, where the military claimed to have killed a large
number of Islamists accused of ties to IS. The dismissed
Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda was said to have
been at the head of the uprising, and the regime claimed to
have been a member of the banned Islamic renewal party,
which was now also labeled as a terrorist movement.
According to the prosecutor, Nazarzoda acted on the orders
of the party's leader Kabiri. This man, who was in exile,
rejected all such accusations, but a number of party members
According to Kabiri, the regime had used the uprising of
the general to stamp the party's people as extremists.
Kabiri warned that the regime's hard line would lead to a
radicalization of society. Several international
organizations expressed concern over the actions against
Islamists in Tajikistan and urged the regime to respect
In October, President Rachmon met his Russian colleague
Vladimir Putin. Moscow then decided to station combat
helicopters in Tajikistan. The Russian military presence in
Tajikistan, about 6,000 soldiers, is the largest Moscow