Alwaght- West Asia events are developing so fast that not only make impacts on neighboring regions such as the Central Asia but also they make the political observers and analysts fully confused. The emergence of the ISIS terrorist group with a joint Western-Arabic design, beside the Turkey’s negative role and attendance in Syria and Iraq have paved the way for persistence and growth of the so called Islamic takfiri and ideological movement in the susceptible and acceptant region. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is among the most vulnerable countries open to the ISIS's rise and development, however, not an ISIS whose members fight for their ideology but a local and instrumental one whose members are mercenaries who only aim to make more money. Such a movement would be able to get access to the Central Asia, Tajikistan in particular. Some experts familiar with the region's development predict that that after decrease in the ISIS’s activities in Syria and Iraq and after settling down the Yemeni crisis, penetration of the ISIS in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan would be the priority of the US and its allies.
Touching on fast developments in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, many reports are circulated speculating on the existence or absence of the ISIS group in these countries. The objective and neutral reporters who neither seek exaggeration and promoting nor ignorance and dismissing claim that the US and its allies will make efforts to contaminate Cantal Asia region especially Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan with extremist groups in the name of Islam, using the terrorist groups like ISIS and Afghanistan’s susceptible geography. The attempt intends to engage powers such as China, Russia, and Iran in dealing with security threats to pave the way for the West to easily proceed toward its objectives.
The fact is that the security and political arena in the Central Asia, including Tajikistan, is facing new challenges and security crises, and the activities of the takfiri extremists in the country could be interpreted as a continuation of Afghanistan and even the West Asia developments. New developments have taken place after recent attacks carried out by a group led by Abdulhalim Nazarzadeh, the former Tajikistan’s deputy defense minister, on the country’s security and government’s centers, resulting in killing of dozens of government forces. The attacks have provided Tajikistan’s president Emomali Rahmon with the pretext to counteract and even try to remove the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. The Tajik government argued that the recent terrorist attacks on the capital Dushanbe and Abdulhalim Nazarzadeh’s insurgent band are both linked to the party.
There are two different viewpoints about the Central Asian new developments. The first viewpoint stresses that all regional development, including developments in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, stems from foreign interventions, insisting that the world's domineering hegemonic powers utilize the regional governments’ weaknesses, ethnicism, poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment to spread chaos, and propagate Takfiri and extremist currents there. The first view overcomes the second view which takes absence of a strong central government or inefficiency of the governments as well as internal differences and ignoring the political, religious and economic rights as the main factors helping create the grounds for growing and increasing of extremism and insecurity.
Taking into account the issue of Takfiri movement's spill over into Tajikistan some questions raises, such as: what is the aim of Takfiri groups in the present time? How susceptible is Tajikistan’s security and political circumstance to these groups? How the Tajikistan government, regional and international players would react to these groups?
Political and security situation of Tajikistan
Being a Central Asian country, Tajikistan feels the largest threat from the religious hardline groups. The feeling of threat is serious for several reasons. First, Tajikistan has a religious and conventional community, and there had been a religious and belief vacuum during the Soviet Union period, that provide grounds for the activity of extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hizb ut-Tahrir and ISIS. The second reason is that Tajikistan one the one hand shares borders with the instable Afghanistan and on the other hand shares borders with other countries like Kirgizstan and Uzbekistan in Fergana Valley, where radical religious groups are active.
Moreover, since onset of the US-led campaign against terrorism, so many of the leaders of religious movements like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have established links with Al-Qaeda and Taliban, an issue which has added to Central Asia countries' concerns. A very crucial point to consider is the Tajikistan government's concerns over the expanding wave of extremism and ISIS that urged it to imprison the members of extremist groups in the country. Meanwhile, in the recent weeks, on the pretext of Abdulhalim Nazarzadeh’s terrorist actions, the government has mounted pressures on leaders of the moderate Islamist groups like Islamic Renaissance Party, detained religious leader and adopted anti-religious laws in the country. These events come while the Islamic Renaissance Party has expressed its deep concerns over the security conditions and the recent conflicts in the country, asking its members and supporters to fully cooperate with the government to help ease the tense conditions in the country. The leadership of the party, in a statement on September 11, has condemned any illegal, violent and anti-government action, expressing its condolences to the families of the victims of September 4, 2015 attacks.
Although the Islamic Renaissance Party has blamed the September 4 attacks against government personnel, the Tajik officials have detained dozens of people, charging them with having links to extremist and terrorist groups such as ISIS. Meanwhile, the Tajikistan’s Ministry of Justice issued a statement, accusing the country’s Islamic Renaissance Party of several cases of “systematic violations of the law”, and asked the leaders of the party to stop the party's activities.
Omar Hussein, the deputy leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party, Tajikistan’s major opposition party and the only religious party in the country, was also detained by security forces. Intending to travel to Kazakhstan’s Almaty on September 16, Omar Hussein was detained while he was on board a plane in Dushanbe airport. Additionally, Muhammadali Hayet, another deputy leader in the party, had been arrested previously, as Rahmatullah Rajab and Vahed Khan Ghasedudinov, the two activists in the party, were banned from travelling out of the country. These arrests take place while the government is carrying out operations against the insurgent group of Abdulhalim Nazarzadeh, the former deputy defense minister. During a military operation in a mountainous area called Ramit Valley, the government forces killed the insurgent leader Nazarzadeh and 11 of his accomplices.
Following the 2015 legislative elections, Muhidddin Kabiri, the leader of Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, left the country, and since then he has been living abroad, and Omar Hussein, his deputy had been in charge of the party’s affairs in the country. During this period, the Tajik officials have launched an expansive campaign to ban this opposition party, though some of human rights institutions including Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Central Asian Institute for Human Rights in a joint statement have warned that the closure of the party violates the rights and the political and civil liberties of the citizens, as it could possibly break the peace and destabilize the country.
Being the second most influential political party after Tajikistan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party led by President Emomali Rahmon, and having over 40,000 members, the Islamic Renaissance Party was a major side in the five-year civil war from 1992-1997 in the country , which ended after signing a peace and power-sharing deal between the government and the opposition forces.
Nevertheless, the Tajik government’s pressures on opposition forces, specifically the Islamic Renaissance Party, have kept mounting, as the government published books of Sayid Abdullah Nuri, the party’s founder, labeled as sources of extremism.
Tajikistan’s security authorities accused the party’s leadership of planning the attacks against the security committee, airport, TV station and some other strategic organizations. The government also claimed that the party’s Chief Muhiddin Kabiri has advised his supporters to hesitate for some more days until the ground and situation is proper to join the president Rahman regime’s opposition forces.
The claims come while the government authorities have detained 13 top leaders of the Islamic party on September 17, accusing them of having links to the insurgent group of former army general Abdulhalim Nazarzadeh. Denying the accusations, Muhiddin Kabiri has described them as politicized and biased, adding that the government’s objective is banning the Islamic Renaissance Party’s activities in the country.
The fact is that since the country's independence, the Tajik government has opposed the Islamic movements, specifically the Islamic Renaissance Party, and recent attacks which hit the government forces and resulted in killing of dozens provided the government with the much-needed excuse to repress and remove the Islamic party, and at the same time adopt an iron fist and violent policy in dealing with the Islamists possibly having links to the Islamic Renaissance Party.
The Tajikistan’s government launching a widespread propagandistic campaign against the insurgents, and relating them to the country’s Islamic party, and then arresting the party’s some top leaders as well as imposing travel bans on some others will only complicate and deteriorate the country’s political and security circumstance because the charges that the Islamic party had a hand in attacks against the security forces are not only unproven but also such measures, having in mind the West and US propaganda on the rise of ISIS in Central Asia, could trigger the extremism wave.
This is while the Islamic Renaissance Party has been involved in enlightening activities, and always resisted the different plots arranged against it by the extremist takfiris in the country. Being close to Islamic Republic of Iran, the party has been a target of the government-backed Wahhabi and takfiri groups on the one hand, and on the other hand it has been exposed to the security authorities’ suspicions and repressions. Participation of the party's officials in religious and political conferences in Iran has led to an increase in the attacks on the party by the Tajik government and radical groups, causing remarkable problems for it. Actually, the wave of arrests of the Islamic Renaissance Party members has begun since two years ago, when he representatives of the party were detained in the early 2014 in Badakhshan, capital of Kharogh province, and Khujand, capital of Saghand province, and all the business places owned by the party were confiscated.
While Tajik Governments are detaining Islamic Renaissance Party's leaders, the extremist groups linked to the terrorist group ISIS and Wahhabism or other fundamentalist movements seduce the Tajik youths to join to Takfiri groups and be deployed to fight in Syria and perform the so-called jihad duty.