On March 16, 2017, the National bank of Tajikistan published a list of more than 200 people wanted for committing serious crimes and 15 banned organizations that recognized by the Supreme Court of Tajikistan as terrorist or extremist units, including the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). The authorities ask to avoid any cooperation with those persons or organizations.
In fact, the situation is much worse and actions of the Tajik authorities are not enough and effective to fight or hold back the Islamic aggression. It is believed around 1,100 Tajik citizens are fighting for the ISIS with additional 300 killed during the past years. Two Tajiks were behind the March 8th Kabul military hospital attack that left at least 49 dead. One of the recent attacks occurred in the Tajik city of Qurghonteppa on March 12 left one person dead near the military prosecutor’s office.
Tajikistan’s economic growth significantly slowed down from 7.8% in 2013 to 3.8% in 2016 accompanied by the 8.5% inflation rate. And the cancellation of China’s Line D oil and gas pipeline also means that Tajikistan’s economic hardship will continue. That makes a lot of the Tajik people to look for any kind of job and here the moment when the ISIS recruiters are coming to enlist them.
These problems would be enough for any country, but Tajikistan’s location in the middle of one of the most volatile regions also puts the whole country in the face of danger with its entire mountainous southern border facing Afghanistan with the narrowest point of 40 kilometers from Pakistan tribal north, troubled China’s Xinjiang province also poses a threat.
According to Ramazon Rahimzoda, Tajik Minister for Internal Affairs, there are 10,000-15,000 militants between the Afghan-Tajik border that have cross-border connections and they receive support from people from both sides. The returning Tajik members of ISIS or other illegal militant groups are pushing the radical Islamist goals in Tajikistan and make the radicalized individuals to fight the government alongside with the local anti-government groups.
Tajikistan’s government takes potentially dangerous path by marginalizing the political opposition. It uses wide range of hardline tactics against the variety of Islamic opposition groups, but the same time uses ‘soft’ tactics against the terrorist threat. The efforts to deter citizens from Islam may push some of the believers to more dangerous streams of the religion and that is the main reason why Tajikistan runs the risk of becoming a hot spot like Syria or Iraq.