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Tajik Dissidents Running Out of Safe Havens

Turkey is increasingly hostile to religious exiles and other opponents of harsh Dushanbe regime, Tajik activists claim.

8 March 2018

Claims that Turkey is actively enabling Tajikistan’s suppression of dissent are resurfacing after a religious exile’s sudden return from Turkish exile.


Namunjon Sharipov, a prominent member of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), told RFE/RL’s Tajik service on 20 February he had “voluntarily returned” to Tajikistan from Istanbul, his home since 2015. Turkish police detained Sharipov on 5 February, and he was apparently put on a plane to Tajikistan on 16 February.


Sharipov is one of many IRPT members who fled the country when the party was banned three years ago. The Muslim party had co-existed with the secular establishment since the end of Tajikistan’s civil war in the 1990s until an assault on government buildings in 2015 was blamed on its sympathizers, leading to the IRPT being labeled a terrorist organization.


Many IRPT members hoping to find asylum in the European Union enter the bloc in Poland, mainly for logistical reasons. Tajiks need no visas to travel to Russia and on to Belarus, from where they attempt to cross into Poland, writes.


Poland has granted asylum to about 100 IRPT members, although the total number of Tajiks seeking asylum fell from a 2016 high of 882 to 154 last year. Polish authorities rejected 153 applications from Tajik nationals in 2017, Eurasianet says.


Turkey, once seen as a safe refuge for Tajik dissidents, has reversed course since the Tajik government’s crackdown on the IRPT began, Tajik opposition activists say.


Since Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon (pictured) called on Turkey to extradite what he called Tajik terrorists in 2016, Turkey has permitted Tajik agents to “kidnap, monitor, and intimidate Tajik exiles,” Central Asia analyst Edward Lemon writes.



  • The IRPT won a rare reprieve this month when Interpol removed its leader Muhiddin Kabiri from the international police bureau’s wanted list. This could be a sign that international law enforcement organizations are being “more diligent” in vetting requests from authoritarian governments, RFE comments hopefully.


  • Research by Exeter University’s Central Asian Political Exiles project identified 47 cases of foreign-based Tajik citizens being targeted by the authorities. The number has “vastly increased” since the study was conducted in early 2016, Lemon and two other project members wrote in October.


  • Russia has also been accused of abetting extralegal extraditions of Tajiks, Eurasianet writes.


  • In 2015, Tajik opposition figure Umarali Quvatov was shot dead in Istanbul, with many assuming a political connection. Tajik authorities had sought the “detention and forcible return” to Tajikistan of peaceful political activists in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, and elsewhere, activists from Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee charged at the time.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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