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Tajikistan 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Tajikistan. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Tajikistan-specific webpage for original reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

 

Travel Advisory

 

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Tajikistan at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Dushanbe as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

 

Crime Threats

 

Crime directed toward Western expatriates and foreign entities is relatively low. Although there are few indications that criminals target Westerners, outsiders are quickly and easily identifiable, and perceived as being affluent. Petty theft and unarmed robbery are common. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.

 

The levels of corruption at all levels of the government and the private sector are very high. Transparency International ranked Tajikistan 153 out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019.

 

Be careful in establishments that serve alcohol; nefarious actors have slipped drugs into unwatched drinks, leading to criminal acts. Insist servers open any drinks in your presence. Follow the same smart personal security rules you would follow in any major city, particularly one in the former Soviet Union. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad. Dushanbe does have a nightlife, and some clubs have prostitutes. Prostitution is illegal in Tajikistan; engaging in it may also lead to U.S. prosecution under some circumstances.

 

Tajikistan faces a number of economic, political, border, and overall security challenges that can affect the crime rate. Exacerbating this is the local police’s inability and occasional unwillingness to detect, deter, and investigate criminal activity.

 

Tajikistan is overly reliant on migrant labor remittances from the large Tajik diaspora working in Russia; thus, when the Russian economy suffers, the Tajik economy suffers. That, in turn, leads to economic hardship, even desperation, and possibly a correlation with increased crime.

 


 

Be mindful when renting an apartment. Try to choose an apartment that has secure doors and windows, employs a security service or guard, and limits access to the building at the main entrances. Expatriates are vulnerable to home robbery, so the physical security aspects of housing are important such as having grilles on lower floor windows, ensuring well-illuminated streets and entrances, and choosing residences in good neighborhoods. Secure valuables in your home or hotel. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

 

Cybersecurity Issues

 

Internet service providers are widely available and affordable. Instances of cybercrime are comparatively infrequent and unsophisticated, making this a low priority for law enforcement, which has minimal cybersecurity capability. Because Tajikistan is within Russia’s “near abroad,” significant Internet traffic routes through Russia, a recognized source of cybercrime. Tajikistan authorities monitor Internet content and periodically block websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) and news sources at the national level. Virtual private networks (VPNs) generally work with most Internet providers; however, they are illegal. Some Internet providers are also able to block VPN traffic, so your results may vary by both Internet provider and VPN provider. Review reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

 

Other Areas of Concern

 

There is a history of territorial dispute along the Tajik-Uzbek and Tajik-Kyrgyz borders, with the potential to develop into limited armed conflict. There have been several instances of armed skirmishes between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards over the past five years, particularly in the area of Isfara and the Vorukh enclave. Find information about travel restrictions or areas of concern on the U.S. Embassy website. A recent warming of Tajik-Uzbek relations has eased concerns on that border.

 

Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) in the Pamirs is a restricted region for non-Tajik citizens. GBAO, beginning on the west side of the border with Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, covers most of the eastern portion of Tajikistan. To cross into GBAO, an expatriate must use designated checkpoints and have special permission in the form of a passport stamp one can only obtain from the Interior Ministry’s Department of Visas and Registration in Dushanbe. This permission is usually not difficult to obtain, but processing can take up to two weeks. The government closes GBAO to foreigners periodically. In 2018, there were heightened tensions between the Tajik government and GBAO authorities when the President visited GBAO, fired several government officials, and deployed additional police and security officials to counter the perception of widespread corruption. From Dushanbe into GBAO, the initial posts for checking GBAO permission sit near Shurobod in the Khatlon Region and just north of Qalai-Khum in the Darvos Region.

 

Transportation-Safety Situation

 

Road Safety and Road Conditions

 

Transportation infrastructure is gradually improving, though erratic driving and car accidents are common. Drivers should have a thorough knowledge of Tajik traffic regulations and practice defensive driving techniques. In Dushanbe, the police make heavy use of traffic cameras. These cameras are often calibrated to register violations for cars at stop lights that pull all the way up to the white line marking the intersection, even though the car stops for the light. Tajik drivers tend to stop several meters short of crosswalks to avoid these fines. U.S. drivers should note in particular that turning right on red is illegal. Also, some traffic lights indicate that it is ok for traffic in specific lanes to continue or turn by use of green arrows. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

 

Pedestrians do not cross streets at dedicated crossing points, and often do not look both ways before crossing. Any driver who strikes a pedestrian will be considered at fault, regardless of pedestrian negligence. Expect taxis and marshrutkas (shared taxis) to stop unexpectedly or swerve to pick up and drop off passengers. Tajik drivers often do not check traffic before merging onto a roadway, and they frequently drive the wrong way down one-way streets. Traffic lights often do not work, and the right-of-way in major traffic circles can depend on the circle. Drivers should pay careful attention to marked turn lanes (even if the paint is faded) because these lanes are often covered by traffic cameras, and those cameras will photograph a turn made outside that turn lane, even if the vehicle is only partially outside the turn lane.

 

Traffic police regularly pull cars over to check documents or charge fines, both official and unofficial. Occasionally, armed men in camouflage uniforms, usually from the security services, accompany the traffic police. In most cases, this occurs prior to and during major events, VIP movements, and security exercises.

 

Tajikistan has zero-tolerance laws regarding drinking and driving. Police will charge those caught driving after consuming any amount of alcohol.

 

Provincial travel, especially in winter, can be dangerous, as avalanches, mudslides, rockslides, and flooding often block major routes. In January 2018, a rockslide killed a local driver in western GBAO along the major Pamir Highway. The roads from Dushanbe to Khujand and from Dushanbe to GBAO can close for long periods due to avalanches and snow accumulation. These major routes sometimes consist of a single gravel lane along a mountain that can barely handle the large cargo trucks that supply the more distant regions. Provincial roads that traverse mountainous terrain along the Afghan border are difficult to navigate year-round. Take sufficient emergency equipment (e.g. satellite phone, shovel, snow chains in the winter, food, water, and blankets) on road trips. Distracted driving can easily result in a fatal accident because of the lack of guard rails on roads traversing plunging gorges. The scenery along these routes can be truly stunning, but memorial stones to those killed in such accidents dot these roads.

 

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

 

Public Transportation Conditions

 

In Dushanbe, public transportation is often overcrowded and not operated at Western-level safety standards. Travelers without a basic understanding of Russian or Tajik languages may find it difficult to navigate and communicate with the drivers of public transportation, as most drivers do not speak any English. Avoid crowded electric trolley buses and marshrutkas. Taxis are generally safe, but female travelers should use caution, as there have been several reports of taxi drivers sexually harassing female passengers. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Aviation security generally conforms to international standards. However, flights are often subject to short notice cancellation due to weather or other technical considerations, and domestic flights are often overloaded. Foreigners have reported harassment and bribe requests at Dushanbe International Airport (DYU), often over allegedly incorrect documentation or made-up violations at the security checkpoint that follows passport control in the departures area. Find a list of aviation incidents and accidents on the Aviation Safety Network website.

 

Terrorism Threat

 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Dushanbe as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

 

Supporters of regional terrorist groups, like Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), and Jamaat Ansarallah (JA), as well ISIS aim to overthrow Central Asian governments and create an Islamic state. Because Afghanistan and Tajikistan share more than 800 miles of common border, these groups are a significant concern. As of 2017, local authorities reported that approximately 1,900 Tajik citizens had joined militant groups outside the country over the past several years. Some specific examples of recent incidents:

 

·         November 2019: A group of 15 Tajiks who had sworn allegiance to ISIS attacked and killed five Tajik border guards at two remote outpost along the Tajik-Uzbek border.

·         December 2018: Authorities arrested two Tajiks who swore allegiance to ISIS and planned an attack on the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs.

·         July 2018: ISIS claimed responsibility for a vehicle and knife attack on a group of international cyclists, resulting in four deaths, including that of two U.S. citizens.

 

Several reports of varying reliability over the past several years note unexploded IEDs found within Tajik borders. Because of increased security at official U.S. facilities, terrorists may seek softer civilian targets. Avoid large public gatherings when possible.

 

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

 

Tajiks primarily receive outside news and television programming from Tajik government-approved media outlets, which screens the stories for any unfavorable content. Much of the news programming comes from Russia, exposing Tajiks to Russia’s increasingly anti-U.S. media. Despite this, Tajiks generally hold positive view toward Westerners, and anti-U.S. behavior is rare.

 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Dushanbe as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

 

Tajiks generally support their President, crediting him with ending a devastating civil war and maintaining peace in a country otherwise prone to divisiveness on regional and religious bases. They recognize him as having the strength, skill, and experience to balance all sides. However, in 2015, a Deputy Defense Minister staged an apparent coup attempt that left nine attackers and eight police officers dead in Dushanbe and a nearby city. The Deputy Minister and surviving supporters fled to the mountains about an hour outside Dushanbe, generating little popular support. He was killed two weeks later in a prolonged gun battle.

 

Civil Unrest

 

The potential for spontaneous civil unrest exists, but incidents are rare. Local authorities are very effective at controlling demonstrations. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

 

The specter of the civil war more than two decades ago is never far from Tajik thoughts. However, only the most extreme perceived injustices would bring people into the streets. Government cronyism, pervasive corruption, and low standards of living are potential sources of discontent. Much of the working male population is abroad, not only limiting participants in potential unrest but also supplying much needed remittances that make up more than a third of GDP, even during regional economic downturns.

 

Post-specific Concerns

 

Environmental Hazards

 

Tajikistan is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, and flash floods. Even minor tremors could result in significant damage to public infrastructure and poorly constructed houses. Read OSAC’s report, Central Asia Earthquake Preparedness.

 

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

 

Although the situation is improving, the majority of the country lacks consistent power; blackouts and brownouts are frequent. Many expatriate residences and hotels have backup generators they must use at least weekly.

 

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft

 

Changing U.S. dollars for local currency (“somoni”) with unofficial moneychangers is illegal. You must go to an official state bank branch for exchange. ATMs are an excellent alternative for obtaining local currency. Dushanbe has many ATMs that accept U.S. ATM cards, but it is safer to use ATMs in hotels, banks, or larger stores rather than those exposed on the street. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

 

Personal Identity Concerns

 

Consider local customs and sensibilities when dressing. Tajikistan is nearly 100% Muslim and is socially conservative, especially in rural areas and provincial towns. Learn the basics of local customs, and show respect for those norms.

 

Western attire is common, especially among men, but women should take care to dress somewhat more conservatively, particularly in areas outside Dushanbe. A specific area of concern involves sexual harassment and assault. Tajik cultural norms, especially outside Dushanbe, differ from those in Europe and the United States. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, local society is becoming progressively more religiously conservative. Western women, particularly those who travel alone in the evening or night, should be sensitive to situations that put them at risk. Women walking alone -- especially younger women who look Tajik -- may be verbally accosted; direct eye contact with male strangers may lead to unwanted attention. This is relatively common in Dushanbe, but less common in some areas of GBAO. Western-looking women are less likely to fall victim to this behavior, but all female visitors should be aware that this sort of behavior is unfortunately common. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

 

Tajik culture is conservative and generally not tolerant of the LGBTI community; recent government actions include drawing up “lists” of local LGBTI individuals. LGBTI individuals should exercise caution, especially with public displays of affection; they can easily fall victim to verbal or even physical abuse. Same-sex sexual activity is legal for those over the age of 16. Tajik law allows a change of legal gender on a passport provide a medical professional attests to the individual having undergone sex reassignment surgery. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

 

Buildings, public transportation, communication, and road crossings are generally inaccessible to travelers who require accessibility assistance. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

 

People of African descent rarely visit Tajikistan, and African-Americans are likely to be stared at or attract attention, mainly due to the novelty of their presence. Sometimes this attention can be both rude and quite forthright, but generally not physically harmful.

 

Drug-related Crimes

 

Tajikistan is a major conduit for illicit drug traffic from Afghanistan. Tons of heroin pass through Tajikistan every year from Afghanistan. The majority of the drugs likely enter Tajikistan by the truckload at official points of entry along the Afghan border. There are killings and skirmishes between Tajik border guards and Afghan drug traffickers. Most of the skirmishes occur in Hamadoni and Shurobad Districts in Khatlon Region (about two hours southeast of Dushanbe). Beyond the drug transit issue, narcotics are in use in Tajikistan. Hashish use is illegal but common, and heroin usage rates rise every year. Local drug enforcement is spotty, selective, and fraught with corruption.

 

Police Response

 

The police primarily focus on the prevention and disruption of security threats. There are reliable reports of police extortion and bribery, and police are generally unable to respond to crimes in progress. Lack of resources, low salaries, and inadequate training contribute to high corruption and a lack of professionalism among law enforcement agencies.

 

Carry your passport and visa (or copies); if you encounter a situation involving the police, they will ask for it. Police may attempt to extort a small bribe from you. Bribery is illegal. Travelers confronted with a demand for a bribe should ask for the official’s name and official identification number, and report the incident at the nearest police station.

 

Crime Victim Assistance

Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure. Victims of crime should go to the nearest police station promptly to file a report.

 

Ministry of Internal Affairs

29 Tehron Street, Dushanbe

Duty Officer: 21-08-30; 227-98-98; 227-22-24

Operators only speak Tajik or Russian

 

·         Sughd Region Militia Directorate: Unit on Duty (83422) 606997 or 63038

·         Hatlon Region Militia Directorate: Unit on Duty (83222) 22515 or 22536

·         GBAR Region Militia Directorate: Unit on Duty (83522) 29114 or 24203

·         Rasht Region Militia Directorate: Unit on Duty (83131) 21769 or 22255

 

Police/Security Agencies

 

The primary government bodies for policing and security are the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Committee on National Security (GKNB).

 

·         The Ministry of Internal Affairs handles routine policing and internal security functions.

·         The GKNB is responsible for national security, counterterrorism, and border security.

·         The separate Drug Control Agency is the primary agency for investigating drug possession and trafficking cases.

 

Medical Emergencies

 

Tajikistan’s inadequate public healthcare infrastructure has given rise to private medical facilities offering varying degrees of quality care in some specialties. Medical first responders (ambulance crews) do not meet Western standards, and are not widely available, likely poorly equipped, and often poorly trained. Expatriates almost exclusively use private clinics for these reasons.

 

Smoking in public, including on the street, is also illegal; police selectively enforce this rule. You may still encounter smoking in restaurants.

 

Significant disease outbreaks are possible due to population shifts, large numbers of migrant workers returning from Russia, and a decline in some immunization coverage among the general population.

 

·         A polio outbreak in 2010 accounted for almost a third of the world’s cases that year, and killed/paralyzed children in remote villages.

·         There are periodic outbreaks of typhoid in Dushanbe and in the south.

·         There is some risk of malaria, cholera, and water-borne illnesses.

·         Throughout Central Asia, rates of infection of various forms of hepatitis and tuberculosis (including drug-resistant strains) are on the rise.

·         Drug use has also contributed to increases in HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

 

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

 

The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Tajikistan.

 

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

 

OSAC Country Council Information

 

There is no formal OSAC Country Council in Dushanbe. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South & Central Asia team with any questions.

 

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

 

109-A Ismoili Somoni Ave, Dushanbe 734019

 

Hours of Operation: 0900-1700 Weekdays

 

Embassy: +992-37-229-2000

After Hours Emergency: +992-98-580-1032

Fax: +992-37-229-2050

Consular: +992-37-229-2300

Fax: +992-37-229-2009

Website: http://tj.usembassy.gov

 

Helpful Information

 

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

 

·         OSAC Risk Matrix

·         OSAC Travelers Toolkit

·         State Department Traveler’s Checklist

·         Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

·         Tajikistan Country Information Sheet

 

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