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Tajikistan in the face of instability: Rahmon’s attempt to liquidate the opposition is like a “suicide attempt”

Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan

The conflict between the government and the opposition in Tajikistan is escalating. The key problem is the ban of the country’s second biggest political force, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). Its leader Muhiddin Kabiri was forced to leave the country right after the party’s defeat at the last parliamentary election on Mar 1 2015. The ban of the IRPT shows that the ruling regime is going prevent any opposition moods in the country. But experts warn that this may end in one more civil war as the Tajik society is also facing serious economic problems.

This year the population of the poorest country in the CIS has become even poorer as the ruling regime is much more active in fighting its political rivals than in solving the country’s economic problems. The leader of non-registered opposition force, Group 24, Umarali Kuvvatov, hid in Istanbul but was killed recently under some strange circumstances. As a result of constant pressure the once popular IRPT failed to enter the parliament this year. But that was not the end: the ruling regime continued discrediting the party. All this ended in the Prosecutor General’s verdict saying that the IRPT can no longer be a political party as it has no offices in some regions of the country. But the real motive was the call on the guarantors of the inter-Tajik peace process to force the Tajik authorities to stop pressuring the party. On July 14 the Tajik Justice Ministry said that the party could not be closed without a court verdict. But Kibiri is sure that his party will be brought to a ban.

“It is the right time for this. Today everybody is concerned for the problems of Iraq, Syria and Ukraine and for the threats coming from the ISIS. More and more people are beginning to hate Islamists. So, the authorities may use this chance to get rid of all dissidents both secular and religious. They need a splendid little war. They are trying to provoke us so as to call us radicals and extremists. This will be chance for them to get rid of us,” Kabiri says.

Meanwhile, some experts are sure that this may lead to a new civil war. Once the IRPT is closed, lots of active religious people will find themselves “in the street.” And some of them will have no other choice but to join more radical organizations. As a result, Tajikistan may face a recurrence of the 1990s. Hundreds of Taliban fighters have already been seen deployed near the Tajik border.

This conflict has coincided with the 18th year of National Unity. 18 years ago, the united Tajik opposition was guaranteed representation in the government. Today you will find no single oppositionist there. It seems that the Emomali Rahmon regime is seeking absolute domination of the country.

Today the whole opposition has gone underground. Growing social-economic problems are giving rise to protests, with the protesters becoming more and more radical.

According to expert on Central Asia Alexander Knyazev, this may result in a new civil war.

Member of Lali Badakhshan Party Ulfat Khanum Mahmadshoeva is worried that the current authorities are committing the same mistakes as their predecessors committed in 1992.

“I hate thinking about civil war. It was a horrible page of our history. But I am afraid that we have not learned that bitter lesson,” she says.

The war in the Middle East and the economic crisis in Russia are making things even worse in Tajikistan. Formerly, the Tajik authorities were able to control people by sending many of them to Russia. Now that lots of labor migrants are coming back home, Islamist moods are growing. Here President Rahmon hopes for Russia’s support.

“Unfortunately, in Tajikistan the Russian authorities prefer supporting the ruling regime. So, if a new civil war breaks out in that country, Russia will be involved,” Knyazev says.

According to the expert, the attempt to liquidate the IRPT is like a suicide attempt for the Tajik authorities.

“For many years that force has acted as a kind of cushion for the ruling regime by keeping those displeased back from radical steps. The party’s closure will become a signal for religious extremists that it is no longer possible to come to terms with the authorities and that their only option now is to fight the regime,” Knyazev says.

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