(June 8, 2015) On May 29, 2015, Central Asian and Russian news agencies reported that the Supreme Court of Tajikistan has recognized the organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a terrorist group and banned its activities in Tajik territory. This decision allows Tajik authorities to prosecute anyone accused of association with ISIS as a member of a terrorist organization and participant in terrorist activities. The ruling was passed in response to a request submitted to the Court by the Office of the Prosecutor General in late April, but it was not publicized at that time. (Supreme Court of Tajikistan Recognized ISIS as a Terrorist Organization, TADZHIKISTAN-ONLINE (May 29, 2015) (in Russian).)
According to news reports, this decision was classified as a state secret immediately after pronouncement. While Tajik human rights defenders complained that making court rulings in secret violates the country’s procedural legislation, a Court official clarified that information about individual organizations placed on the list of banned institutions can be classified. (Supreme Court of Tajikistan Recognized ISIS as a Terrorist Organization, SEDMITSA.RU (May 29, 2015) (in Russian).).
SWAT Colonel Reportedly in ISIS Video
Information about designating ISIS as a terrorist group was leaked approximately at the same time that Tajik mass media reported that the head of the national SWAT team at the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs (national police), Colonel Gulmurad Khalimov, appeared in an ISIS video published on YouTube during which he claimed allegiance to ISIS and denounced the “anti-Islamic policies” of the Tajik government. Khalimov had been reported missing in Tajikistan on April 23, 2015. (Escape of Tajik SWAT Team Head to ISIS, PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT OF UZBEKISTAN (May 29, 2015) (in Russian).)
Religious Tensions in Tajikistan
According to police reports, the authorities have information concerning 386 Tajik citizens who joined ISIS. Forty of them left the country with their families. (Supreme Court of Tajikistan Recognized ISIS as a Terrorist Organization, SEDMITSA.RU, supra.)
In response to growing religious extremism, authorities are attempting to discourage people from expressing their religious views. In April 2015, the State Committee on Religious Affairs, under the Cabinet of Ministers, prohibited travel to Saudi Arabia to visit Islamic holy places for Tajiks younger than 35 years of age. (Tajikistan Has Banned Young Muslims from Making Pilgrimage, SEDMITSA.RU (Apr. 14, 2015) (in Russian).) There were reports that local authorities are imposing restrictions on women’s wearing religious dress and are detaining and forcefully shaving men with beards. (Tajikistani Police Started Fight Against Hijabs, SEDMITSA.RU (Mar. 30, 2015) (in Russian).)
During the first five months of 2015, about 50 people were reportedly sentenced to prison terms of from 9 to 18 years for alleged membership in Muslim organizations whose activities are prohibited in Tajikistan. (Nineteen “Allah Followers” Were Sentenced in Tajikistan, SEDMITSA.RU (May 7, 2015) (in Russian).)