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Country Conditions: The Persecution Of The Tajik People In Uzbekistan

Author: Alena Shautsova

The Republic of Uzbekistan, formerly part of the defunct Soviet Union, operates a presidential system of government (as provided for in the Constitution of Uzbekistan). The President functions as both the head of state and head of government. Like many of its contemporaries, the government has three arms namely: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.

With ethnic Uzbeks forming the majority of Uzbekistan's population at 84.4%, Tajiks as a minority only account for 4.9%, with the rest of the statistics being a host of other minorities. The majority of Tajiks can be found in Tajikistan where they make up 84.3% of the population.

The relationship between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan cannot be described as healthy. It is often referred to as an unofficial "Cold War."The unhealthy nature of the relationship between both countries has grown to be reflective of the treatment of Tajiks residing in Uzbekistan.

What could have been the cause for the conflict between Tajiks and Uzbeks? How are Tajiks treated in Uzbekistan? What is the nature of the treatment meted out to Tajiks in Uzbekistan? These are some questions this article aims to answer.

Relationship Between Uzbeks and Tajiks

Tajik's are a Central Asian people of an Iranian/Persian heritage that speak in the Persian tongue. They are predominant in Tajikistan and are the second-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. On the other hand, the Uzbeks are of Turkic descent. Although spread across Central Asia like the Tajiks, they form the majority in Uzbekistan.

The Uzbeks and Tajiks, belonging primarily to the nations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan respectively, were part of the Soviet Union.

Hostility against Tajiks can be traced back to the period of the Basmachi Revolt led by Enver Pasha when Tajiks and people of non-Turkic descent were refused to possess a separate identity in Central Asia.

In 1924, due to the creation of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, as a move to delimitation by the Soviet Union. This creation prompted the enforced inculturation of Uzbek culture on the Tajik people. This act widened the crack in the already strained relationship until the creation of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic in 1929. In 1991, both republics got their independence from the Soviet Union

In 1991, the Tajiks attacked Uzbek goods brought into Tajikistan in retaliation to the ban placed on Tajik goods in Uzbekistan. This was after the breakup of the Soviet Union, further straining the relationship of both nations.

The Civil War of 1992-1997 in Tajikistan forced many Tajiks to flee the country and a great number fled to Uzbekistan. Although the Uzbek government tried to quell the war, the already strained relationship prevented this.

The prevention of the Rogun Dam creation by Uzbekistan which was to establish Tajikistani energy independence and the superiority exerted by the Uzbek government in the export of gas to Tajikistan worsened the Uzbek-Tajik relationship.

It wasn't until the death of Islam Karimov, the former President of Uzbekistan, that both nations started on the path to possible peace.

Treatment Of Tajiks In Uzbekistan

Following the delimitation of the Soviet Union, certain Tajikistani regions originally housing Tajiks were given to Uzbekistan. These regions being the most flourishing agriculturally and with the majority being Tajiks posed a setback for Tajikistan.

Observers believe that over 30% of Uzbekistan's population are Tajiks and that they only identify as Uzbeks on their national identity cards to keep their citizenship status and also their jobs. Although many Tajiks reside in Uzbekistan, they are indigenous dwellers who found themselves on the other side of the divide.

The Uzbekistani political and social policies have been unfavorable to Tajiks. Forms of communication, schooling, and all cultural and social orientation are done in Uzbek with no thought to the Tajik life. Hence provoking a fall in the Tajik culture and heritage which could lead to a total loss.

Following a 1998 executive edict, the Uzbek government started the destruction of books foreign to the Uzbek dialect. Over 90% of the books marked for destruction were in the Tajik language. According to reports, some villages occupied by only Tajiks had no Tajik books in their libraries.

In the spring of 2001, the Uzbek government implemented the expelling of Tajik migrants from the period of the Tajik Civil War. Not minding that these migrants moved to join their relatives after selling all they owned in Tajikistan.

Most of the Tajiks in Uzbekistan have their origins there. The lands and regions are Tajik-owned but were incorporated in Soviet Uzbekistan. Even if they are asked to leave, they have nowhere to go, especially since they reside in their homeland. Given the unstable economic nature of Tajikistan, Tajik emigrants are reluctant to go back, since there may be nothing for them there.

Recently the new President of Uzbekistan (Shavkat Mirziyoyev) and the President of Tajikistan(Emomali Rahmon) have met to work on the improvement of living conditions for Tajiks in Uzbekistan and Uzbeks in Tajikistan. If agreements are followed through, there could be hope for these minorities.


12 January 2022
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