Tajikistan. According to COUNTRYAAH, Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan which is located in Central Asia. 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 were arrested.
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 international law.
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 abroad.