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The fight against extremism in Tajikistan is aimed at preventing extremism and punishing those who are involved in extremist activities.  The necessity of fighting extremism is used by the government to justify its restrictions on religious freedom and its control over religious education and circulation of religious literature.  Organizations and individuals can be held administratively and criminally liable for violating antiextremist legislation or committing other crimes if these crimes were motivated by hatred.  Such offenders are most often accused of disseminating religious hatred.

I.  Background Information

The long-lasting civil war in Tajikistan during the 1990s reflected the conflicts that had long existed in the society and, according to some scholars, motivated the engagement of the followers of radical Islamic ideology in the political life of the country.[1]  Backed by support from radical groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, these Islamists proposed their own path of reforms, which required building a society based on Islam, implementing Shari‘a law, and opposing efforts of the ruling elite to build a secular country.[2]  Even though the government has been successful in pursuing its policy of building a secular society, Tajikistan more than any other Central Asian state is considered susceptible to Islamic extremism, a fact that has shaped the reality of strict government control over freedom of religion.[3]

About 85% of Tajikistan’s population consists of Sunni Muslims, while 5% follow Shi‘a Islam and 10% profess other religions.[4]  Islam is especially strong among the rural population.[5]  It appears that the unemployed and those who have experienced dramatic changes in social status are the most active followers of Islam.[6]

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II.  Perception of Extremism

The Unified Concept of the Republic of Tajikistan on the Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism was introduced in 2006 by the decree of the Tajikistani President.[7]  This Decree follows the scholarly approach toward extremism, which views extremism as a social phenomenon of the highest degree of intolerance that culminates in terrorism.[8]  The phrase “terrorism and other forms of extremist manifestation” is used throughout the text of this Decree.

According to some Tajikistani scholars, extremism is based on the idea of group supremacy and feelings of contempt and hatred for those who are “below them” on the social ladder.[9]  These scholars suggest that extremist ideas become dangerous when their adherents take concrete steps toward implementing them,[10] and that it is imperative to fight against such supremacist propaganda and the dissemination of extremist ideas, which inevitably engender hatred among various social groups.[11]  Therefore, the core of the fight against extremism lies in prohibiting the “communication” of such ideas to others.[12]  This fight is usually conducted through banning the activities of varied religious organizations that have been recognized as extremist.  However, the government has not been transparent about how it reaches the determination of what constitutes “extremism” or “terrorism.”[13]

The Law on the Fight Against Extremism (Antiextremism Law) was adopted by the Tajikistani legislature in 2003.[14]  The Law defines extremism as “radical activity of individuals and organizations, aimed at destabilization, subverting the constitutional order in the country, seizing power, [or] inciting racial, national, social, or religious hatred.”[15]  The Law does not distinguish among various types of extremism, including religious extremism.

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III.  Legal Framework for Fighting Extremism

A.  Domestic Legislation

Provisions countering extremism can be found in various Tajikistani legal acts.  Article 8 of the Constitution of Tajikistan states that “[t]he establishment and activity of public associations and political parties which encourage racism, nationalism, social and religious enmity, and hatred, as well as advocate the forcible overthrow of the constitutional state structures and the formation of armed groups shall be prohibited.”[16]  Similar norms are included in other laws.  The Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations (Freedom of Religion Law) prohibits provoking religious-based hatred, enmity, or conflict, as well as humiliating and harming the religious sentiments of other citizens.[17]

While regulating freedom of religion, the state acknowledges its responsibility for conducting tolerance-building policies and preventing religious fanaticism and extremism.[18]  This is why the state pays special attention to the way freedom of religion is implemented.  The government believes that in order to fight extremism and prevent extremist manifestations and fanatic expressions, it is important to maintain control over the exercise of religious freedom, religious education, and circulation of religious literature.[19]  This point of view is not supported by the civil society, however.  International NGOs claim that Tajikistani authorities interfere with the exercise of freedom of religion, and sometimes exceed the limits of necessity in fighting extremism and terrorism.  They report that the “government policy establishing far-reaching controls over religious education and worship goes hand in hand with the restrictions on general religious freedoms, including traditional Muslim and minority Christian beliefs.”[20]

According to Human Rights Watch, in recent years the Tajikistani government has destroyed a synagogue, a church, and three mosques, and has closed down hundreds of unregistered mosques.  In August 2012, media reported that Tajikistan’s Committee on Religious Affairs, a government agency, had launched the installation of surveillance cameras in mosques, and that 40% of mosques had already been equipped with the cameras.  Tajikistani authorities have also placed a ban on minority Muslim and Christian groups on the grounds that they are involved in “extremist” activities.[21]  Besides the restrictions previously mentioned, the government interferes with citizens conducting religious rites and pilgrimages,[22] and restricts those who are suspected of association with extremist organizations from entering the country.[23]

Relevant provisions of the country’s Criminal Code and Code of Administrative Violations are used for punishing extremist activities.

B.  International Treaties and Cooperation

Tajikistan’s participation in regional international organizations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, defines the methods used by the country to fight against extremism.  The Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism outlines the major principles guiding activities in this field.  It describes extremism as “any activity aimed at the violent seizure of power or violent holding of power, and at the violent subversion of the constitutional order of the state, as well as the violent encroachment on public security, including the establishment of an organization or illegal armed groups for this purpose, or participation in [such activities].”[24]  The Convention requires that such activities be criminally prosecuted according to the national legislation of the parties to the Convention.[25]  This broad conception of extremism and reference to the national legislation of the member states implies that the goal of the Convention is not to create a uniform approach toward the fight against extremism, but rather to facilitate cooperation between the member states in prosecuting the crimes mentioned without limiting the states’ independence.[26]  The Convention emphasizes the member states’ obligation to cooperate in the sphere of preventing, discovering, and countering activities considered extremist using means provided by national legislation.[27]

Bilateral international treaties related to fighting extremism have been signed with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.  These agreements address regional specifics of fighting terrorism, separatism, and extremism; regulating the exchange of information on individuals involved in religious extremism, transnational organized crime, and other threats to the stability and security of the parties; defining measures aimed at preventing such individuals from crossing state borders; and formulating rules for conducting joint actions, including military actions.[28]

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IV.  Methods Used to Fight Extremism

A.  Control over Religious Education

Religious education is regulated within the framework of fighting extremism.  In a 2011 speech, Tajikistan’s President, Emomali Rakhmon, stated that it is the common responsibility of parents, scholars, and the clergy to build a peaceful society, and expressed concerns that those who study in religious schools abroad have more chances to become terrorists and extremists than mullahs or religious workers.[29]

This statement corresponds with the policy implemented by the Tajikistani government.  On August 2, 2011, the President signed the Law on Responsibility of Parents for Educating and Raising Their Children.[30]  The Law states that parents must not allow persons under eighteen (who are referred to as children) to watch pornography and films containing violent, extremist, and terrorist scenes; read and disseminate books, pamphlets, newspapers, journals, or electronic text messages containing pornography and violent, extremist, or terrorist content; and participate in religious associations, except when they are officially enrolled in a religious institution.[31]  In addition, parents must not allow their children to study abroad unless they have received approval from authorized agencies.[32]  Parents who fail to comply with the requirements of this Law are subject to severe legal penalties (including fines and imprisonment) under the Tajikistan Criminal Code’s provision against obstructing compulsory education.[33]

Tajikistani police authorities have reportedly initiated criminal cases against individuals whose minor children are studying in Islamic religious schools in foreign Muslim countries.[34]  According to Abdulakhin Kholikov, Chairman of the government’s Religious Affairs Committee, almost 2,400 school-age children were studying at religious schools abroad at the beginning of 2011, and 1,870 of them returned home recently.  Half of the students reported upon returning home that the teachers at these foreign religious schools had attempted to recruit them for violent Islamic groups.[35]

In 2013 at a meeting with youth, President Rakhmon addressed the involvement of young people in terrorist and extremist Islamist parties and movements, and the detention of dozens of these young “extremists” by Tajikistani police.  According to the President, Tajikistani authorities are aware of the fact that some young people are involved in alien religious movements and groups, and are “taking steps to solve this problem.”[36]

Religious education is addressed by the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations.  It states that children aged seven to eighteen are permitted to receive religious education within the country upon written consent of their parents or other representatives.  Such education must not interfere with general public education.  All religious educational establishments must be licensed.[37]  In July 2013, five out of six existing Islamic religious schools (madrasas) in Tajikistan were temporarily closed for not having licenses to provide religious education.[38]

The Amendments of June 28, 2011, to the Freedom of Religion Law regulate religious education abroad.[39]  The Amendments followed the President’s request of August 25, 2010, that all Tajikistanis studying abroad return home.[40]  In 2013 Tajikistani authorities announced that 1.6 thousand people who had been illegally enrolled in religious studies abroad were brought back to the country.[41]  Reportedly, more than 620 people have been detained in Tajikistan over the past five years after being accused of joining various terrorist organizations and extremist movements following their graduation from unrecognized religious schools in foreign countries.[42]

Religious education abroad is not prohibited in Tajikistan, but it is subject to a number of specific requirements, such as prior religious education in Tajikistan and the written consent of the authorized government agency for regulating religious affairs.[43]  Noncompliance with the provisions requiring authorization to teach religion is punishable by fines of up to the equivalent of US$3,360.[44]  Tajikistani citizens who violate the provision against receiving religious education abroad can be fined an amount equivalent to US$420–840.[45]

B.  Control Over the Circulation of Religious Literature and Related Items

The government also controls the production and distribution of religious literature and related items with the aim of preventing extremism in Tajikistan.  The Freedom of Religion Law provides for state theological evaluation and authorization of the production, export, import, sale, and distribution of religious literature and other related items.[46]  Religious literature and related items must display the name of the religious organization producing it.[47] 

The state theological evaluation is conducted by an authorized government agency in order to identify the specifics of the teachings of certain religious organizations, obtain correct information regarding their doctrine and practices, and review the content of their literature and items of religious significance.[48]  The unauthorized publishing, export, import, sales, and distribution of religious literature is a misdemeanor under the Code of Administrative Violations[49] and is punishable by fines, which were substantially increased in 2011.[50]  A special provision of the Code outlaws producing, stockpiling, importing, transporting, and distributing banned media products or other banned published materials.  Violations of this provision are punishable by fines up to US$3,360, with confiscation of the items in question.[51]  Even stricter fines are imposed for opening unregistered religious publishing houses.[52]

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V.  Punishment for Extremist Activities

A.  Responsibility of Individuals

A variety of activities containing elements of extremism can qualify as crimes or administrative violations under Tajikistani legislation.  Punishment for such activities differs depending on whether the perpetrator is an ordinary person or an official of a public organization, the punishment being much more severe when the activity is carried out by an individual holding an official position in an organization.[53]

Criminal liability for extremist activity is regulated by the Criminal Code of Tajikistan.  The core provisions against religious extremism can be found in article 189, entitled “Inciting National, Racial, Regional, or Religious Hatred.”  The definition of religious extremism includes “any actions aimed at inciting hatred based on national, racial, regional, or religious criteria[;] humiliation of national dignity[;] and propaganda of supremacy based on religion, nationality, [or] racial or regional origin, if these actions have been committed publicly or through mass media.”  Such actions are punishable by imprisonment for up to five years.[54]

It appears that the following three criteria must be met for an action to qualify as extremist:

  • The ultimate purpose of committing the act must be inciting enmity and hatred toward various religious groups and conflicts among them.
  • The hatred must be directed against a group or groups formed on such criteria as religion, race, ethnicity, etc., and not against an individual.
  • The act must be committed publicly or through the use of mass media.[55]

Article 189 of the Criminal Code states that a hate crime that is committed more than once, employs violence or the threat of violence, involves the abuse of official position, is committed by a group of persons, or is based on a prearranged agreement must be considered an aggravating circumstance.[56]  In addition, the commission of any crime out of racial or religious enmity is an aggravating circumstance and leads to a more severe punishment.[57]  The intention to cause national, religious, regional, or racial hatred is also considered an aggravating circumstance for prosecuting other crimes listed in the Code: assassination (article 104), intentionally inflicting harm on a person’s health (articles 110–112), torture (article 117), and desecration of dead bodies and graves (article 243).

Creating an extremist organization and participating in this organization’s activities are also crimes under Tajikistani legislation.[58]  Article 3072 of the Criminal Code defines an extremist organization as a group of persons organized for the purpose of perpetrating crimes prosecuted under articles 157 (interfering with activities of religious associations), 158 (interfering with activities of nongovernmental organizations or political parties), 160 (disrupting meetings, assemblies, and rallies), 185 (setting up illegal armed groups), 188 (creating public disorder), 189 (inciting hatred), 237 (hooliganism), 237.1 (vandalism), 242 (destroying monuments), and 243 (desecration of dead bodies and graves), if these crimes are committed out of national, racial, political, ideological, or religious hatred.  It is also considered a crime to manage such a group or a part of it, or to plan to commit the aforementioned crimes.

Creating an extremist organization is punishable by deprivation of freedom (criminal legislation provides for different forms of restrictions on freedom, e.g., arrest, imprisonment, obligatory labor, exile) for a term of five to eight years, with a prohibition on occupying certain positions for a period of between two and five years after the sentence has been served.[59]  Participation in such organizations is also punishable by up to five years of imprisonment followed by a three-year period of occupational restrictions.  Those who voluntarily end their participation in an extremist group are relieved of criminal responsibility “if they have not committed another crime.”  The motivation of hatred in committing these crimes is the most important factor qualifying their perpetrators for prosecution.[60] 

Article 3073 of the Criminal Code provides for the punishment of those engaged in activities related to banned political, religious, or nongovernmental organizations.  The Code distinguishes between simple participation in such organizations and organizing their activities.  Activists of the banned organizations can be imprisoned for up to eight years, with further professional restrictions for a term of up to five years.[61]  Individual members of such organizations can be fined or imprisoned for a term of up to five years.[62]  Motivation appears to be immaterial for prosecuting individuals under article 3073.

Religious education or study groups recognized as extremist are specifically addressed by the Tajikistani Criminal Code.  Managing such groups or taking part in their activities is punishable by imprisonment for no less than five and no more than eight years, with confiscation of personal assets.[63]  Seemingly, the intention to commit a hate crime is not considered a motivation required to bring charges against a person taking part in studies provided by an extremist educational group.  The Law is not clear whether prosecuting a person for studying with such a group first requires proving that the person understood the extremist character of the organization.

B.  Responsibility of Organizations

The responsibility of organizations involved in extremist activities is established by the Antiextremism Law and the Freedom of Religion Law.  Both Laws provide for enforcement measures such as the following: notifying an organization that activities it is conducting are considered extremist and impermissible in the opinion of the supervising government authority (impermissibility does not amount to illegality, however); issuing a warning to such an organization; banning an organization’s activities; and liquidating a religious organization.[64]

If there is a reason to suspect that an organization is preparing to engage in illegal actions of an extremist nature, and there are no grounds for bringing criminal charges, the Prosecutor General of Tajikistan or other subordinate prosecutor sends a notification to the organization, pointing out the impermissibility of committing such actions and stating the facts that have caused suspicion that illegal actions might be conducted.[65]  Warnings are issued by the Prosecutor General or other subordinate prosecutors, or by a state agency designated to fight against extremism, in cases when government authorities discover facts demonstrating the existence of extremist elements in an organization’s activity.[66]  The warning must also identify measures that need to be taken to correct the situation and the time frame during which the situation must be rectified.  Under law, this term cannot exceed one month from the day of the warning.[67]  If during the time period specified in the warning the violation is not rectified, or another violation is committed by the same organization within a twelve-month period, the Prosecutor General must file a claim to the court for the liquidation of the organization or banning of the religious community.[68]

Notifications and warnings issued by the Prosecutor General and other government officials can be appealed in a lower-level court in the area where the organization is registered.

The liquidation of an organization or ban on a religious community can be imposed by the court for failing to rectify the violation indicated by the Prosecutor General in his warning during the specified time; for committing another violation within a twelve-month period after the warning has been issued; for conducting extremist activity that results in the violation of human rights, causing damage to people, their health, the environment, public security, or the economic interests of the state and individuals; or creating the threat of such damage.[69]  During the court hearings on liquidating an organization or banning a religious community, the government may request the court to order the organization or community under trial to halt its activities until the court makes its decision.[70]

The penalties applicable to mass media outlets for disseminating extremist materials are similar to those imposed on other organizations.[71]

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Prepared by Peter Roudik*
Director of Global Legal Research Directorate
May 2014

*Foreign law consultants Virab Khachatryan and Svitlana Vodyanyk contributed to the report.

[1] Elena Burkhanova et al., Ekstremism v Central’noi Azii [Extremism in Central Asia] 21 (Almaty, 2000) (in Russian).

[2] Lena Jonson, Tajikistan in the New Central Asia: Geopolitics, Great Power Rivalry and Radical Islam 96 (I.B. Tauris, 2006).

[3] Burkhanova et al., supra note 1.

[4] Tajikistan, in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The World Factbook, publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ti.html (last visited Apr. 29, 2014), archived at

[5] Burkhanova et al., supra note 1, at 37.

[6] Lena Ionson et al., Religioznii Ekstremizm v Tsentral’noi Azii: Problemi I Perspektivi [Religious Extremism in Central Asia: Problems and Perspectives] 93 (Dushanbe, 2003) (in Russian).

[7] Unified Concept of the Republic of Tajikistan on the Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism, Approved by the Decree of the President of Tajikistan No. 1717, (Mar. 28, 2006), available at RULAC/pdf_state/Concept-of-Combating-Terrorism-and-Extremism-TJ.pdf (in Russian), archived at

[8] Davliat Nazirov, Religiozno-Politicheskii Ekstremizm i Terrorizm v Tsentralnoi Azii [Religious and Political Extremism and Terrorism in Central Asia] 6 (Dushanbe, 2003) (in Russian).

[9] Id. at 15.

[10] Id. at 6.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. at 15.

[14] Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on the Fight Against Extremism [Antiextremism Law], adopted on Nov. 21, 2003 available at (in Russian), archived at

[15] Id. art. 3.1 (translated by the author).

[16] Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, adopted Nov. 6, 1994, amended June 22, 2003, English translation available on the President of Tajikistan website, at, archived at

[17] Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations [Freedom of Religion Law], adopted on Mar. 12, 2009, art. 4.5, available at (in Russian), archived at

[18] Id. art. 5.5.2.

[19] Nargiz Zokirova et al., The Human Rights Situation in Tajikistan, 2011, at 32 (Human Rights and Rule of Law Bureau, 2011) (in Russian), available at 0b4d0bdd0b8d0ba_2011_d180d183d181d181-d0b2d0b5d180d181d0b8d18f.pdf, archived at (click “Uploaded page” tab).

[20] Id. (translation by the author).

[21] Human Rights Watch, supra note 13.

[22] Freedom of Religion Law arts. 20–21.  

[23] Id. art. 9.5.

[24] Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism art. 1.1.3, June 15, 2001, available at (in Russian) (translation by the author), archived at

[25] Id.

[26] Vladimir Antipenko, Institutional Mechanism of Fighting Terrorism, Gosudarstvo i Pravo No. 11, at 70 (2004) (in Russian).

[27] Shanghai Convention, supra note 24, art. 2.2.

[28] Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, Responses by the Delegation of Tajikistan to the Questionnaire on the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security (Apr. 20, 2012), available at (in Russian), archived at

[29] First Criminal Cases Against Parents Whose Children Are Studying Abroad Are Initiated in Tajikistan, (Apr. 13, 2011), at (in Russian), archived at

[30] Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on the Responsibility of Parents for Educating and Raising their Children, adopted on Aug. 2, 2011, available at vospitanie_ detei.doc (in Russian), archived at

[31] Id. art. 8.

[32] Id. art. 9.

[33], supra note 29; Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, adopted on May 21, 1998, art. 164, available at (in Russian), archived at, unofficial English translation available at 207b8150765af2 c85ad6f5bb8a44.htm/preview, archived at

[34], supra note 29. 

[35] Id.

[36] Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon Concerned with Facts of Youth Involvement in Terrorist and Extremist Parties and Movements, Asia-plus (May 23, 2013), (in Russian), archived at

[37] Freedom of Religion Law art. 8.

[38] Studies for 300 Students from Sogdian MadrassasSuspended, Radio Ozodi (July 12, 2013), content/five-tajik-medreseh-in-sughd-region-temporarily-closed/25044427.html (in Russian), archived at

[39] Freedom of Religion Law art. 8.6.

[40] Tajikistani Prosecutor General’s Office Is Dissatisfied with the Work [Being Done] with Youth Returning from Religious Educational Institutions Abroad, Islam in (June 19, 2012), news/4920 (in Russian), archived at

[41] Id.

[42] More Than 620 Terrorists and Extremists Detained in Tajikistan over the Past Five Years, (Jan. 24, 2013), (in Russian), archived at (click “Screen capture” tab).

[43] Freedom of Religion Law art. 8.6.

[44] Code of Administrative Violations of the Republic of Tajikistan, adopted Dec. 31, 2008, art. 474, available at (in Russian), archived at, unofficial English translation available at (full text by subscription only).

[45] Id

[46] Freedom of Religion Law art. 22.3.

[47] Id.

[48] Id. art. 17.

[49] Code of Administrative Violationsart. 474.

[50] Penalties for Unlawful Dissemination of Religious Literature Stiffened in Tajikistan, (Jan. 2, 2011), (in Russian), archived at

[51] Code of Administrative Violationsart. 474.

[52] Id. art. 4741.

[53] Id. art. 462.2.

[54] Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan art. 189.

[55] Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Id. art. 62.

[58] Id. art. 3072.

[59] Id.

[60] Id.

[61] Id. art. 3073

[62] Criminal code of the Republic of Tajikistan article 3072.

[63] Id. art. 3074.

[64] According to the Freedom of Religion Law, liquidation cannot be applied to religious communities because they do not have the status of a legal entity.

[65] Antiextremism Law art. 10.

[66] Id. art. 11.

[67] Id.

[68] Id. art. 11.

[69] Id. art. 12.

[70] Id. art. 13.

[71] Id. art. 14. 

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020