Category Archives: Radicalism

“Infidel Santa Claus” Killed By Angry Youths in Tajikistan

When people in Tajikistan discuss whether the celebration of New Year can be reconciled with religious beliefs of the country’s population, it is one thing. But when angry youths kill a man dressed as Santa Claus, calling him an “infidel”, you know that things are getting worrisome.

Parviz Davlatbekov, 24, was murdered in a knife attack in a residential area of Dushanbe early in the morning on January 1. He had dressed as Santa Claus (known more commonly in Tajikistan by its Russian name, ‘Ded Moroz’ or ‘Father Frost’) and was on his way to a party at his relatives’ place when some 30 young men attacked him. According to witnesses, the men shouted “infidel” as they beat Davlatbekov, referring to the Christian origins of Santa Claus as a character. Davlatbekov was rushed to the hospital, where he died the next day of wounds inflicted in the attack.

Tajikistan was part of the officially atheist Soviet Union for almost 70 years. During the Soviet rule, most Tajik families began celebrating the New Year and accepted Santa Claus as the holiday’s main attribute. Following the country’s independence in 1991, most Tajiks continued celebrating the New Year, and Santa Claus remained a widely accepted symbol. However, the increasing religiosity of Tajikistan’s population, more than 95 percent of which are Muslims, has recently given rise to debates over whether the celebration of the New Year and the holiday’s attributes contradict Islamic beliefs. For instance, Saidmukarram Abdulkodirzoda, the head of the Council of Ulems (the highest religious authority in Tajikistan), recently announced that the New Year holiday is “alien to our people and our religion.” Yet, New Year has remained an official holiday in the country, and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon delivers a televised New Year address every year.


Filed under Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan

Tajik Authorities Impose Heavier Restrictions on Islamic Education

With little discussion, Tajikistan’s parliament recently approved a number of government-proposed amendments to legislation. These amendments impose additional restrictions on religious education for Tajik nationals both at home and abroad. Young Tajiks seeking to study Islam abroad will now find it increasingly difficult or impossible to do so, and their options for studying religion at home will be limited to a few government-sanctioned schools. As a result, people wishing to learn more about the religion will have little other choice but to seek such education from clandestine groups.

BACKGROUND: On May 25, the lower chamber of Tajikistan’s parliament approved changes to the 2009 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, most commonly known as the “Religion Law”. The changes introduce two mandatory requirements for Tajik citizens wishing to study religion abroad. The first requirement is to graduate from a similar level school offering religious education within Tajikistan. The second prerequisite is permission from the country’s Ministry of Education and Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA). These restrictions effectively bar young Tajiks from foreign Islamic schools because few people in the country would be able to meet both requirements.
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Education, Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan

Hizb-ut-Tahrir Leaders, BBC Journalist Arrested in Tajikistan

In June, two alleged leaders of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) were arrested in Tajikistan. On June 8, police detained a 46 year-old resident of Bobojon Ghafurov district in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd province. The detainee, whose name has not been disclosed, purportedly served as head of the banned group’s cell in the province and was in charge of disseminating HuT literature and recruiting new members in the region (, June 9).

On June 14, police announced that they detained Sharifjon Yoqubov (43) in the previous week in Dushanbe. According to Tajik interior ministry press service, Yoqubov has been among key HuT leaders in the country. His arrest reportedly became possible after his email correspondence with HuT’s London-based leadership and the movement’s cell in Russia was monitored by investigators. According to media reports, Yoqubov already spent 10 years in jail for membership of the forbidden group (,, June 14).

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Filed under Authoritarianism, Islam, Media, Radicalism, Tajikistan

Mosques and Islamic Education Under Increasing Scrutiny in Tajikistan

The Tajik government has recently taken steps to put the country’s mosques, imams (prayer-leaders) and madrasahs (Islamic schools) under greater centralized control. Speaking at the country’s Security Council meeting on February 10, President Emomali Rahmon urged more decisive measures against the unchecked proliferation of mosques. According to official estimates, 3,700 mosques have been registered with the government to date, while another 1,250 mosques continue to operate without a license (, February 10). The authorities believe that 5,000 mosques is too large a number for the country, compared, for instance, with only 3,800 schools.

Tajik officials view unregistered mosques with suspicion because they have no control over what is preached there. According to Rahmon, some mosques are used for fomenting religious radicalism and “recruiting young people to the ranks of extremists.” The Tajik president also asserted that such mosques had served as a starting point for the “events in Rasht,” referring to the recent conflict in the Rasht valley. The conflict claimed the lives of at least 80 government troops, becoming the most serious episode of violence in the country since the late 1990’s (, February 11). The government closed and demolished dozens of unregistered mosques in recent years. In 2011, only 10 mosques have so far been shut down in the country (, January 10).
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Education, Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan

Security Situation in Tajikistan Deteriorates After a Bold Prison Escape

Tajikistan faces a deteriorating security situation following the escape of 25 high-profile prisoners from a detention center in Dushanbe run by the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) on August 23. The convicts escaped less than one week after they had been sentenced to lengthy terms in prison on charges related to terrorism and drug trafficking. Some of the escapees reportedly have ties with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), designated by the US State Department as a terrorist group, and rebel militants in Russia’s North Caucasus republics (,, August 23).

According to the justice ministry, the escape occurred due to the “negligence” of GKNB guards. The ministry claims that an inmate, former Guantanamo detainee, Ibrohim Nasriddinov, killed one of three guards at the detention center, seized another two guards and opened all the cells. Afterwards, the 25 convicts stole firearms and escaped, killing another four guards (Nigoh, September 2).
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Filed under Insurgency, Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan, Terrorism