Tajikistan takes pride in counter-terrorism legislation
DUSHANBE -- Tajik officials are crediting recent laws with reducing militancy nationwide.
The effort to defuse radicalisation comes as the government acknowledges that more than 1,000 Tajiks have joined the militancy in Syria and Iraq since 2011.
Tajik and foreign officials convened in Dushanbe June 8 for the annual meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)-Tajikistan Task Force.
Topics included such legal reforms, as well as a plan for "national and regional co-operation" in 2017, according to an OSCE statement.
Amnesty for the repentant
A particularly successful policy was the enactment in July 2014 of a law granting amnesty to ex-militants who express remorse and who come home from foreign battlegrounds, officials in Tajikistan say. Amnesty applies as long as the ex-militants do not have a record of past crimes requiring punishment.
The law has been a factor in preventing domestic terrorism, authorities argue, noting that since it took effect, about 150 former militants have received amnesty.
A major challenge to society and the state is Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that Lead to Terrorism (VERLT), Fejzo Numanaj, head of the Politico-Military Department of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan, said in his speech at the forum.
One problem in fighting terrorism is that no universal remedy exists, he said.
"Today we see different interpretations of religion," Numanaj said. "If someone who is considered an authority speaks in the name of religion, everyone believes him."
The Tajik government and the OSCE have separately developed plans to fight extremism, he said.
"We invited experts to adapt our strategy to international standards," Numanaj said. "In accordance with the strategy designed by the OSCE, we need to perform work with teachers, parents and schoolchildren themselves."
"We will keep working to raise awareness among religious communities, youth organisations and among different groups ... in preventing terrorism and extremism," he said.
The Tajik government is asking the OSCE to review the Tajik strategy and to make recommendations, Numanaj observed.
The Tajik general prosecutor's office has drawn up a strategy to fight extremism and will soon send it to President Emomali Rahmon for his approval, Usmonali Kholikzoda, a prosecutor in the general prosecutor's office, said in his speech.
"We consider preventing radicalisation a priority," Kholikzoda said, citing the amnesty as a way to meet that goal.
"Our experience [in Tajikistan] shows that we need to act in a timely manner," German Ambassador to Tajikistan Holger Gren said in his address. "This is a long-term process. It involves working with families and schools."
Security agencies in Tajikistan are constantly engaged in preventive work, Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman Ali Bobonazarzoda said in his speech.
Militants lose heart
After the major powers began to hit the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) hard in Syria and Iraq in 2015, militants lost heart and began streaming to Afghanistan, Turkey and Tajikistan, Faromuz Imomberdiyev, an advisor who sits on the Tajik Security Council, said in his speech.
"Our evidence confirms that Tajik citizens who joined ISIL are going to Afghanistan," he said. "That worries us. The Taliban are active in Afghanistan too."
The Tajik government's main priority is ensuring public safety, Foreign Ministry official Manuchekhr Faizulloyev said in his speech.
"Tajikistan is located at the check-point for confronting contemporary threats and challenges from Afghanistan," Faizulloyev said. "We understand what threats our country encounters."