Small, impoverished Tajikistan, which suffered a disastrous civil war in the 1990s, now faces a potentially destabilizing return of thousands of its migrant workers from Russia in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as a worsening human rights record. Although as part of the settlement of the civil war, Tajikistan became the only country in the region with a registered Islamic political party, the government banned the party in 2015 and jailed many of its members on allegations of ties to terrorism. Countering terrorism has been used as a justification for repressive policies that restrict religious freedom, media freedom, and the space for civil society and human rights activists to function. In 2016, President Rahmon’s rubber-stamp parliament approved legislation allowing him to run for unlimited terms in office. The OSCE established the OSCE mission to Tajikistan in 1993; its mandate has been updated three times, and it is now called the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe. The OSCE had observed Tajikistan’s national elections since 2000 and found them not to be conducted in accordance with international standards; in 2020, the OSCE decided not to conduct a full observation of the parliamentary elections as previous recommended changes had not been implemented and the level of respect for fundamental freedoms had declined further.
The Helsinki Commission has closely followed developments in Tajikistan since its independence in 1991, and has held hearings on Tajikistan’s democratic development as well as on regional issues that affect it.
Staff Contact: Janice Helwig, senior policy advisor