Central Asia   Tajikistan

Tajikistan civil war

by Sang Yoon Kim

Tajikistan, a newly independent country, is the smallest and also the poorest country among the former Soviet republics of Central Asia region including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. For example, “93 percent mountainous, which at 54,000 square miles is roughly the size of Wisconsin.” (fas) and GDP is $6.2 billion (1999) Furthermore, Tajikistan is located at a crossroads of her strong neighbors like Russia, China, India-Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran. Therefore Tajikistan has been strongly influenced by each country. Moreover “particularly Russia and Uzbekistan maintain great influence over the course of internal Tajik politics and neither state has behaved as if it considered Tajikistan a genuinely sovereign and independent country.” (fas) Russia, China and India want to restrain Islamic Fundamentalism, while Iran and Pakistan want to support Islamic identity of Tajikistan. 

In May 1992, the disastrous civil war which left between 20,000 and 40,000 dead, 300,000 refugees and the devastated land which are 1/3 of the Tajikistan’s territory occurred between the communist government of President Imomali Rakhmonov and the opposition including both democratic Islamic groups and Islamic fundamentalists in Tajikistan. Russia and neighbors of Tajikistan including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan supported the communist government side because first, “these four countries have been concerned about drug and gun running across the borders as well as Islamic fundamentalism.”(fas) 

Secondly, Especially Russia has been concerned about the security of the 90,000 ethnic Russians of Tajikistan. Also, Uzbekistan has been concerned about the safeguard of the 1.5 million ethnic Uzbeks who mostly inhabit in the western area from the threat of Islam fundamentalism. “Russia makes 25.000 troops be stationed in Tajikistan, with 15.000 deployed along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan frontier. In 1992, it started out as an unquestioning supporter of the secular Communist regime in Dushanbe, with president, Boris Yeltsin describing the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border as the ‘border of Russia’” (oneworld) Also, “Uzbekistan sent helicopter gunships, tanks, and ground troops into Tajikistan in support of the communist side.” (Washington) According to these facts, 

The new Tajik army is made with considerable input from both Russia and Uzbekistan. While the new armed forces of Tajik communist government were set up under the control of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Joint Armed forces, the opposition including democratic Islamic groups and Islamic fundamentalists operated mainly from Afghanistan. Taleban, Sunni Islamic Fundamentalist, -leading Afghanistan provided the most suitable base for the opposition comprising Islamic fundamentalists. Moreover, “the opposition forces were strongly supported by mostly fundamentalist Afghan forces, posed a serious military challenge to the government and to Commonwealth of Independent States (principally Russian) units by staging frequent raids across the border in southern Khalton province and western Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). Although these raids and incursions did not threaten central government control outside the border areas, they caused casualties, blocked roads, and interfered with the movement of relief supplies and refugees” (fas) 

“Iran also has exerted influence on the events in Tajikistan although it lacks a common border with Tajikistan. This has to do with history, religion and culture. Alone among the five former Soviet socialist republics in Central Asia, Tajikistan has a national language, Tajik, which is alike akin to Persian. Like Iranians, most Tajiks are Shia. And again like Iranians, in the pre-Islamic era, Tajiks were Zoroastrians. 

Finally, the religious opposition in Tajikistan wanted to emulate the example of Iran and set up an Islamic state although only through the democratic process and in stages.” (oneworld) However, the relation between the two major countries exerting strong influence on Tajikistan, Iran and Afghanistan has not been friendly since Afghanistan was controlled by Taleban. “Iran disapproved of the Taleban movement for more reasons than one. It found the Taleban’s interpretations of Islam regarding the role of women in society too regressive, even ‘unislamic’. Iran, an overwhelmingly Shi’a state, frowned on the hostile attitude that the Taleban, consisting of orthodox Sunnis, towards Shi’as. 

Finally, the Iranian government disapproved of the links that the Taleban was forging with Saudi Arabia and the United States.”(oneworld) As Kabbl, the capital of Afghanistan, was captured by the militant fundamentalist Taleban movement in September 1996, both Russia and Iran enforced the reconciliation between the communist government and the opposition including democratic Islamic groups and Islamic fundamentalists in order to block the Taleban advance to the Tajik-populated area in north-eastern Afghanistan. After all, “the ground for the signing of the Moscow peace accord in December had been prepared by intense talks between the Tajik adversaries in Teheran earlier. And, significantly the second signing ceremony took place in Mashhad, a holy place for Shi’as worldwide.” (oneworld) 

As a matter of fact, Iran and Russia did important and main roles together towards bringing about peace in Tajikistan. After the Moscow peace agreement, there were three important and positive achievements of the peace settlement and the political stability of Tajikistan. One of the achievements is that “In June 1999, President Imamali Rahmanov approved amendments to the Tajik constitution demanded by the United Tajik Opposition. The changes, adopted in a national referendum in September, allow the formation of religious-based political parties. They also stipulate the creation of a professional bicameral parliament and extend the president’s term in office from five to seven years. The landmark shift-making Tajikistan the only former Soviet Central Asian republic that tolerates registered Islamic parties followed two other major achievements.” (fas) 

The first achievement is that the United Tajik opposition leader, Sayed Abdullah Nuri practically transformed the opposition from a military faction into a political force. The first achievement by Sayed Abdullah Nuri resulted in the cancellation of ban on four opposition parties by the Tajik Supreme court which is the second achievement. “These developments reduced the risk of renewed armed conflict in Tajikistan.”(fas) In conclusion, The main players of Tajikistan civil war is neither the communist government of President Imomali Rahmanov nor the United Tajik opposition including democratic Islamic groups and Islamic fundamentalists but the neighbors, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan who are much stronger than tiny and weak Tajikistan. Sometimes, the civil war of Tajikistan looks like the proxy war of these four countries. Finally, in accordance to all the facts above, the civil war of Tajikistan was not only facilitated but also ended by these four countries.

References

http://www.fas.org/man/dad-101/ops/war/tajikistan.htm (title:Tajikistan civil war) http://www.oneworld.org/ips2/feb/tajik.html (title:Tajikistan:End of Tajik Civil War Boosts Iran-Russia Friendship, author:Dilip Hiro) http://www.washington-report.org/backissue/0393/9303020.htm (title:Uzbek Role in Tajik Civil War is Ominous portent for Central Asia, author:Michael Collins Dunn) http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/1999/01/F.RU.990128135830.html (title:Tajikistan: Civil War Challenged Russian Policy, author:Ben Partridge)

 

 

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