The United States designates Tajikistan as a Country of Particular Concern again

2 years ago Web Desk 0

The United States is designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”


It is also placing the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.” Additionally, we are designating al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.


The United States has not renewed the prior Entity of Particular Concern designations for al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan, due to the total loss of territory formerly controlled by these terrorist organizations.


The 2020 Annual Report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIFR) in April this year, in particular, says the Tajik authorities pursued a crackdown on various attributes of faith, including restrictions on wedding and funerary banquets, and pursued extralegal bans on beards and hijabs.


Many religious minorities reportedly hide their affiliations for fear of government scrutiny and social backlash.


According to the report, Tajikistan’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim— around 86 percent Sunni—while Shi’a Muslims, mostly located in the mountainous east, comprise roughly 4 percent. The remaining 10 percent reportedly includes Russian Orthodox, Protestants, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Jews, Baha’is, and Zoroastrians.


The report says Tajikistan’s legal environment for freedom of religion or belief sharply declined after the adoption of several highly restrictive laws in 2009.


Despite constitutional guarantees of separation between religion and state, the government maintained strict control over both the Muslim clergy and Islamic practice, according to the report. Imams are often salaried by the government and act as agents of the state.


The U.S. Department of State has designated Tajikistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) repeatedly since 2016, most recently in December 2019, but has maintained a waiver on imposing any related sanctions on the country “as required in the ‘important national interest of the United States.’”


Source: Asia Plus