Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Dushanbe does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
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.
Please review OSAC’s Tajikistan-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Crime in Tajikistan and its capital, Dushanbe, directed toward Western expatriates and foreign entities is relatively low; however, levels of corruption and transnational drug trafficking are very high. Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index 2016” ranked Tajikistan 151 out of 176.
Although RSO has seen few indications that Westerners are being targeted by criminals, outsiders can be quickly and easily identified and will be perceived as being affluent. Petty theft and unarmed robbery are fairly common.
Be careful in establishments that serve alcohol – being “slipped a mickey” can easily happen, especially if you do not have that drink opened in your presence. Follow the same smart personal security rules you would follow in any major city, particularly one in the former Soviet Union. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.” Dushanbe does have nightlife, and some clubs will have prostitutes. Prostitution is illegal and may also lead to U.S. prosecution under some circumstances.
Tajikistan also faces a number of economic, political, border, and overall security challenges that can affect the crime rate. Exacerbating this is the inability and even unwillingness of local police to detect, deter, and investigate criminal activity.
Tajikistan is overly reliant on migrant labor remittances; thus, when the Russian economy suffers, the Tajik economy suffers. That, in turn, leads to economic hardship, even desperation, possibly correlation to increased crime.
Ensure valuables are secure in any residence. Be careful when renting an apartment. Try to choose an apartment that is well-protected from strangers, and look at lower-rise buildings to minimize vulnerability to earthquakes. Expatriates are vulnerable to home robbery, so the physical security aspects of housing are important: grilles on lower floor windows, well-illuminated streets and entrances, nicer neighborhoods. A common robbery tactic is to push an apartment resident into the apartment as the resident attempts to enter the apartment. Then the assailant can more easily rob the apartment while possibly injuring the resident.
Internet penetration is increasing rapidly as connectivity improves. Instances of cybercrime are comparatively infrequent and unsophisticated, making this a low priority for law enforcement, which has only a minimal cybersecurity capability. Because Tajikistan is within Russia’s “near abroad,” quite a bit of traffic runs through Russia, a recognized source of cybercrime. Tajikistan often blocks websites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) at the national level. Virtual private networks (VPNs) generally work with most Internet providers but are considered illegal by the government.
Other Areas of Concern
Territorial disputes along the Tajik-Uzbek and Tajik-Kyrgyz borders have the potential to develop into armed conflict. There have been several instances of armed skirmishes between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards over the past three years, particularly in the area of Isfara and the Vorukh enclave. Information about travel restrictions or areas of concern can be found on the Embassy’s website.
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 that can only be obtained in Dushanbe from the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Visas and Registration. This permission is usually not difficult to obtain but can take up to two weeks to receive. The government will periodically close GBAO to foreigners. This occurred for several weeks in summer 2012, when government forces clashed with local criminal gangs, resulting in a number of deaths.
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, and those cameras miss very little. They also tend to be calibrated so that a car pulled up to a stop bar will still be photographed. Tajik drivers tend to stop several meters short of crosswalks to avoid fines. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
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. Drivers of personal vehicles should expect taxis and marshrutka (shared taxis) to stop unexpectedly or swerve in front of them to pick up/drop off a fare. Tajik drivers 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.
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 especially along major routes. In most cases, this occurs prior to and during major events and VIP movements.
Provincial travel, especially in winter, can be dangerous, as avalanches, mudslides, rockslides, and flooding often block major routes. The roads from Dushanbe to Khujand and from Dushanbe to the Pamirs can be closed for lengthy periods due to avalanches and snow accumulation. These major routes sometimes consist of a single wide, gravel lane along a mountain road that can barely handle the cargo trucks that supply the more distant regions. Provincial roads that traverse mountainous terrain along the Afghan border are difficult to navigate year-round. Sufficient emergency equipment (satellite phone, shovel, snow chains in the winter; food, water, blankets) should be taken on upcountry trips. Distracted driving can easily result in a fatal accident because of the lack of guard rails on roads along plunging river gorges. The scenery along these routes can be truly stunning, but memorial stones to those killed in such accidents are ubiquitous.
Public Transportation Conditions
In Dushanbe, public transportation is often overcrowded and not always safe. RSO generally recommends expatriates avoid the crowded, electric trolley buses but considers taxis to be generally safe.
The addition of a new terminal building has increased the functionality of Dushanbe International Airport. Aviation security generally conforms to international standards. Flights are subject to short notice cancellation due to weather, and domestic flights are often overloaded. Foreigners have reported harassment and requests for bribes at Dushanbe International Airport, often over allegedly incorrect documentation or made-up violations at the security checkpoint that follows passport control in the departures area. A list of aviation incidents and accidents can be found on the Aviation Safety Network’s website.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED DUSHANBE AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Supporters of regional terrorist groups (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), and Jamaat Ansarallah (JA)) aim to overthrow Central Asian governments and create an Islamic state. Militants affiliated with these groups are thought to be responsible for the 2009 and 2010 attacks on government troops and skirmishes in the Rasht Valley. Al-Qa’ida, and ISIS are not known to operate in Tajikistan; however, both have a presence in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan and Tajikistan share more than 800 miles of common border, these groups are a significant concern. As of late 2016, local authorities reported that as many as 1,100 Tajik citizens have joined militant groups outside the country over the past several years. Some examples of incidents in the previous seven years:
- In December 2014, four Tajik border guards were kidnapped along the Afghan border and held for ransom by a group reportedly affiliated with the Taliban.
- In January 2013, 18 members of banned organizations (reportedly IMU) were arrested. A police officer and one IMU member were killed, and an IMU member was wounded, during a skirmish in Matcha district of Sughd region.
- Also in January 2013, a traffic police officer was killed and his partner wounded in Konibodom in the Sughd region. Members of IMU were accused. One of murderers was killed on the spot, and another was arrested.
- Also in January 2013, a police officer was wounded by an IMU member who set off a hand grenade during a police raid in Khujand in the Sughd region.
- In September 2010, a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated outside a police headquarters building in Khujand, killing two police officers and wounding 26 others. JA claimed responsibility.
Because of increased security at official U.S. facilities, terrorists may seek softer civilian targets. The RSO recommends avoiding large public gatherings when possible.
Tajiks primarily receive outside news and television programming from Russia and are exposed to Russia’s increasingly anti-American media. Despite this, Tajiks generally hold positive view toward Westerners, and anti-American behavior is rare.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED [CITY] AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
In September 2015, a Deputy Defense Minister staged an apparent coup in which nine attackers and eight police officers were killed 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. This was exceptional, as Tajiks generally support President Rahmon, crediting him with ending a devastating civil war and maintaining peace in a country otherwise prone to divisiveness on regional and religious basis. He is recognized as having the strength, skill, and experience to balance all sides.
The potential for spontaneous civil unrest exists, but incidents are rare.
The specter of the civil war more than two decades earlier is never far from Tajik thoughts. 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.
In October 2014, the externally-based opposition movement Group 24 released a video calling for demonstrations in several cities. While public response was muted, the government reacted by blocking Internet access and dramatically increasing the visible security presence in Dushanbe.
Tajikistan is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, and flash floods. Even minor tremors could result in significant damage to infrastructure and poorly constructed houses.
The majority of the country lacks consistent power, and blackouts and brownouts are frequent. Many expatriate residences and hotels have backup generators that are used at least weekly.
Roads can be bad and dangerous outside the larger cities.
Changing U.S. dollars for local currency with unofficial money changers is illegal. Use larger hotels or banks for currency exchange. 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. Many ATMs state they have currency withdrawal limits, but if you select a higher amount, some machines will still allow withdrawals.
Personal Identity Concerns
Travelers should consider local customs and sensibilities when dressing. Tajikistan is nearly 100% Muslim and is becoming more socially conservative each year – especially in rural areas and provincial towns/cities. 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– especially in areas outside Dushanbe -- than in Western countries. A specific area of concern involves sexual harassment/assault. Tajik cultural norms, especially outside Dushanbe, differ from those in Europe and the U.S. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the 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, especially younger women who look Tajik, walking alone in many areas may be verbally accosted on the street. 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.
Tajik culture is conservative and generally not tolerant of LGBTI individuals. LGBTI people should exercise caution, especially with public displays of affection; they can easily fall victim to verbal/physical abuse.
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.
Tajikistan is a major conduit for illicit drug traffic from Afghanistan. According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, approximately 100 tons of heroin pass through Tajikistan every year. 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 three 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 do not perform the protect and serve function that American citizens expect from their police agencies. The primary mission of the police agencies is to guarantee the security of the state. There are reliable reports of police extortion and bribery. 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.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Travelers confronted with a demand for a bribe should ask for the official’s name and badge number and report the incident at the nearest police station. Bribing officials is illegal.
Crime Victim Assistance
If you are a victim of a crime, you should promptly go to the nearest police station 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
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 Drug Control Agency is the primary agency for investigating drug possession and trafficking cases.
Tajikistan’s inadequate public healthcare infrastructure has given rise to private medical facilities that offer quality care in some specialties. Medical first responders (ambulance crews) do not meet Western standards, are not widely available, are poorly equipped, and are often poorly trained. Expatriates almost exclusively use private clinics for these reasons.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Avicenna (“Iranian”) Clinic
34 Foteh Nyazi St.
Tel: +992 918 626414
Tel: (+992 37) 640 0104: (+992) 446400102; 446400103; 446400105
The Avicenna Clinic (Iranian Clinic) specializes in the treatment of kidney failure and heart disease and provides emergency medical services as needed. While emergency medicine is not their specialty, they are capable of resuscitating and stabilizing a patient.
Prospekt Medical Clinic
34 Foteh Nyazi Street
Dushanbe, Tajikistan 734001
Cell: (+992) 900005501: 900005503
Prospekt Medical Clinic is a Western-style medical clinic that provides general medical care.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
As of January 2017, smoking in public, including on the street, is also illegal, and police are already selectively enforcing this rule.
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.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Tajikistan.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is no formal OSAC Country Council in Dushanbe, but the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Officer is always available to assist or answer questions. The Regional Security Officer may be contacted through the Embassy operator or via e-mail 1 and email 2. Please contact OSAC’s South and Central Asia team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
109-A Ismoili Somoni Ave
Dushanbe, 734019 Tajikistan
Hours of Operation: 0900-1700 Weekdays
Embassy Contact Numbers
After Hours Emergency: 992-98-580-1032
Americans are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website. Americans without Internet access should register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe as soon as possible after arrival. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
Tajikistan Country Information Sheet