Tajikistan Country Report
This underdeveloped, landlocked, and mountainous country (population 8 million) is located in Central Asia and shares a border (as well as crises) with troubled Afghanistan. Travelers should be aware of the risks they could face during a trip to Tajikistan, stemming notably from insecurities fueled by a weak central government, high levels of corruption, ineffective security forces, and limited government control over strategic zones.
AREAS TO AVOID
Most Western governments formally advise against all travel to the frontier area with Afghanistan (to the south of Tajikistan) due to well-developed drug and human trafficking networks operating in the region, as well as the incursion of extremist militants in Tajikistan's southwestern Khatlon province. The M41 highway linking the capital Dushanbe to Khorog along the Afghanistan border is usable but not recommended.
Most of the border with Uzbekistan should be avoided due to the presence of landmines, following Uzbekistan's decision to mine rural areas along its border with Tajikistan in an attempt to prevent drug trafficking and cross-border infiltrations by militants. Although the mines were allegedly placed on Uzbek territory, borders are poorly delineated and mines may be found on either side.
Crossing the Afghan border from Tajikistan through Khatlon province is strongly advised against even via guarded crossings on major highways (Afghan visa holders should also be cautious). Tajikistan continues to make progress in improving border security, however there are still sporadic reports of illegal border crossings, usually by drug smugglers.
Twenty years after the end of the civil war in 1997, which caused between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths, clashes between security forces and armed groups (former warlords, Afghan fighters, mafia groups, religious leaders and radicals) occur sporadically.
Crime in Tajikistan and its capital Dushanbe directed towards Westerners is relatively low. However, levels of corruption and drug trafficking are very high; Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index 2016 ranks Tajikistan 151 out of 176.
Nonetheless, foreigners are quickly and easily identified by criminals, due to their presumed affluence. As such, petty theft, unarmed assaults, and robberies are fairly common in urban areas.
Individuals present in the capital Dushanbe should remain vigilant when going out at night to restaurants, bars, and clubs, where a high concentration of drug users congregate. Some clubs offer prostitution services, which is illegal under Tajik law.
The country may have some connection to the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). At the end of June 2015, the government announced that the former head of the special police forces, who mysteriously disappeared in April of that year, had joined IS in Syria. Tajikistan's Interior Ministry claimed that security forces thwarted 36 terrorist attacks in 2016 and prevented around 50 individuals from mounting attacks on government buildings. According to unofficial sources, approximately 1000 Tajik citizens have joined IS, and according to government sources, 31 citizens were detained while attempting to leave the country to join IS. Criminal proceedings have been instituted against 166 Tajiks suspected to have fought alongside IS.
In September 2015, clashes with security forces near the airport in Dushanbe left several dead. Further violence occurred in the neighboring Romit valley in the same month, lasting several days. A heightened security presence has since been reported. In July 2009, several explosions took place in various public places in the capital Dushanbe.
Travelers should be aware that that vast majority of power is concentrated in the hands of President Emomali Rakhmon, who has been in power for 23 years (he garnered 84 percent of the vote in the first round of the 2013 presidential election).
The next presidential election is not set to take place before 2020.
In 2016, the Tajik government adopted a national strategy to counter violent extremism and terrorism, that civil society groups condemned for being used as a tool to further limit political expression in Tajikistan. Human rights are barely respected amidst an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression for political opposition groups, as well as independent lawyers and journalists. As of 2017, the government continues to censor various websites, restrict media freedoms, and tightly control religious expression.
The LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning, and others) population in Tajikistan is frequently subjected to wide-ranging discrimination and homophobia.
The potential for spontaneous civil unrest exists but incidents are rare. Tajiks are still living in the shadow of the 1992 civil war and the estimated 20,000-100,000 deaths that had ensued by 1997. As such, only the most extreme perceived injustices would bring people into the streets.
Health risks in the country are particularly high.
Diarrheal diseases, including typhoid fever, are common.
The country is also plagued by malaria; the risk of contracting this disease is highest between June and October particularly in southern areas (Khatlon region), and in some central (Dushanbe), western (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region) and northern (Leninabad region) areas. Anthrax and botulism are also present in Tajikistan.
Tuberculosis is common. The measles outbreak that began in mid-April 2017 in the Rudaki district spread to the capital city Dushanbe as well as to the surrounding districts.
Occasional cases of tick-borne encephalitis have been reported (principally between April and June), as have cases of leishmaniasis in the south.
Travelers should also note that the quality of medical and hospital infrastructure falls far below Western standards; shortages of materials, medicines, and qualified personnel are the norm. In case of a significant health issue, a medical evacuation abroad should be seriously considered. Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.
The country is situated in a highly active seismic zone, with an average of 2000 earthquakes reported each year. There has been an increase in the number of earthquakes of Tajikistan during 2016 and 2017. Risk is particularly high in Gharm Valley, located in the center of the country (an earthquake that hit the area in 1949 left 50,000 dead), and in and around the city of Kulob (southwest).
The threat of floods is significant in Khatlon province (southwest), Gharm Valley (center), and Khorog region (southeast). Flooding and heavy rains can cause landslides and avalanches in the regions of Khatlon (southwest), the Gharm Valley (central), and Khorog (southeast); the risk is particularly pronounced in the spring when levels of precipitation are high.
Fergana Valley is exposed to serious levels of pollution. Radioactive waste is being stored in Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, not far from the Tajikistan border, in an area vulnerable to landslides. If a major landslide were to occur, the Fergana Valley could be contaminated, threatening the three million people that inhabit the area.
Transportation and hotel infrastructure remain largely below Western standards. Poor road maintenance and erratic driving makes driving in Tajikistan dangerous. Pedestrians do not cross streets at dedicated crosswalks and often do not look both ways before crossing. Taxis and marshrutka (shared taxis) often stop unexpectedly or swerve in front of other vehicles to pick up or drop a fare. It is not advisable to drive alone but rather hire an experienced local driver to minimize the risk of an accident.
In Dushanbe, public transportation is often overcrowded and not always safe.
Traveling outside urban areas is dangerous in winter as avalanches, mudslides, rockslides, and flooding often block major routes. The roads linking Dushanbe to Khujand and Dushanbe to the Pamirs can be closed for lengthy periods due to avalanches and snow accumulation. Air travel is recommended. Sufficient emergency equipment (satellite phone, enough fuel; shovel, snow chains in the winter; food, water, blankets) should be taken on upcountry trips.
French authorities advise against using the Anzob tunnel, located 80 km (50 mi) from Dushanbe on the M24 highway, during winter.
Tajikistan has a primarily continental climate with significant fluctuations in temperature between seasons or even over the course of a single day. Summers are hot and winters are cold. In the lowlands, located in the southwest of the country, the climate is arid and subtropical. Average temperatures range between 23°C to 30°C in July and between -1°C to 3°C in January. In the Pamir Mountains, temperatures are much lower (5°C to 10°C in July and -20°C to -15°C in January).
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +992 Police: 02 Fire Dept.: 01 Ambulance: 03
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Tajikistan: Eid al-Adha expected to begin September 1
TIMEFRAME: from 8/31/2017, 12:00 AM until 9/1/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Dushanbe).
Tajikistan: Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) June 25
TIMEFRAME: from 6/25/2017, 12:00 AM until 6/25/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Dushanbe).