After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan plunged into civil war, which ended in 1997. In spite of some developments and laws passed on domestic violence and agreeing on an International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which eliminated the death penalty, the current government which, now in its fourth consecutive term, still enforces a repressive law on religion and restricts media freedom and civil society groups. Tajikistan is a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

 
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Constitution and government

The secular constitution of Tajikistan theoretically protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, the laws and policies restrict and violate these freedoms. There is no official state religion. However, the government recognizes the ‘special status’ of Islam. The law tightly regulates and restricts religious freedom and how religious organizations may operate.

Religious controls

According to the Human Rights Watch and a statement by the international religious freedom watchdog Forum 18 issued in August, authorities continued to try to suppress unregistered Muslim education throughout the country, brought administrative charges against Muslim teachers, and closed unregistered mosques. For example in May authorities closed Muhammadiya mosque.
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The government is steadily tightening its state controls. For example, the Parental Responsibility law, which President Emomali Rahmon signed in August 2011, stipulates that parents must prevent their children from participating in religious activity, except for state-sanctioned religious education, until they are 18 years old.

“Authorities added further punishments, through changes to the administrative code that were enacted in July, for violating Tajikistan’s restrictive religion law and increased the powers of the State Committee for Religious Affairs to administer punishments without investigation by police or prosecutors. The new provisions impose significant fines on those violating the religion law’s tight restrictions on sending citizens abroad for religious education, teaching religious doctrines, and establishing ties with religious groups overseas.”
<hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/tajikistan?page=2>

The government also tightly controls the publication, importation, and distribution of religious literature. The law against “inciting national, racial, regional, and religious hatred” is used by the government to prosecute unauthorized speech. As a result, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, the press, civil society groups and independent journalists face harassment and intimidation. In 2012, Tajikistan witnessed further restrictions on media freedoms when authorities frequently blocked access to critical websites, and continued to intimidate journalists. While in July, decriminalization of libel was a step towards freedom of speech, the new legislation retained criminal sanctions for insulting the president.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Beginning in March 2013, authorities ordered internet providers on several occasions to block access to independent local and international news and social networking sites. Following the publication of a critical article, the government blocked the Russian analysis site zvezda.ru. Three news sites that subsequently published the article were also blocked, as was Facebook, following user discussions deemed overly critical of the government.

In July and August, armed clashes in Gorno-Badakhshan prompted authorities to restrict, and at some points completely shut down, Internet and telephone communications. News sites including the independent news site Asia Plus, Lenta.ru, and Centrasia.ru that reported on the violence were blocked. Access to YouTube was also blocked after videos of demonstrations were posted.

Despite the absence of a clear definition of libel under Tajik law, state telecommunications chief Beg Zukhurov announced in July the formation of a “citizens’ organization” to monitor online publications and websites for insulting or libellous content. Journalists continue to suffer threats and violent attacks.

The authorities also restrict freedom of assembly and association. Public meetings and demonstrations must receive prior approval from local authorities, and approval is routinely denied.