This case note is a part of our series of case notes that document the occurrence of sexual violence in violent conflict. It contains explicit mentions of different forms of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
The Tajikistani Civil War began in May 1992 and continued until June 1997. It emerged after regional groups from the Garm and Gorno-Badakhshan regions of the country rose up against the then newly formed government under President Rahmon Nabiyev, on the ground that the elections were flawed. The Nabiyev regime, supported by Russian border guards, was dominated by people from Khujand and Kulob, whereas the rebels were liberal democratic reformers, and subsequently, Islamists who mobilized under the title of “The United Tajik Opposition” (Dubovitsky, 2003). The country descended into a full-fledged civil war. Moscow backed the government, and the opposition was led by Islamists. The conflict ended in 1997 with a UN-brokered peace agreement. The conflict resulted in the death of 20,000 (Pannier, 2007) to 150,000 people (Radio Liberty, 2021). Around 1.2 million people were refugees or internally displaced by the end of the war (IRIN, 2004).
Prevalence of Sexual Violence
Women were targeted with rape and sexual violence during the conflict by armed groups (ADB, 2000; WHO, 2000). The World health Organization noted that women were forced to share living premises with large groups of people owing to the destruction caused by the war – making them vulnerable to domestic violence, as well (WHO YEAR). It found that 1 in 3 women had reported facing some form of forced sex. The post-conflict context witnessed an upswing in the trafficking of women and girls. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM, 2000), over 300 women from Tajikistan were working in the sex trade in the UAE, and that over 1,000 Tajik women had been trafficked to the Middle East and other CIS countries.
Basis of Sexual violence
Sexual violence and rape were deliberately used by Islamists in the conflict to target women, oftentimes purporting “moral grounds” as the basis. Women were forced to adhere to Islamic behaviour and dress codes (IRIN, 2004). The use of sexual violence and rape targeting women was essentially to dehumanize and degrade women. Further, women and girls were targeted with forced marriage and trafficking (IRIN, 2004), with the aim of coercing women into sexual slavery.
1. "The Peace Deal That Ended Tajikistan's Bloody Civil War". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. https://www.rferl.org/a/anniversary-of-the-end-of-tajikistan-s-bloody-civil-war/31330072.html
2. IRIN “Our Bodies – Their Battle Ground: Gender-based Violence in Conflict Zones”, Web Special, September 2004, 25
3. Asian Development Bank (2000) Women in Tajikistan: Country Gender Assessments.
4. World Health Organization (2000) Violence against Women: Report on the 1999 Pilot Survey in Tajikistan.
5. WHO (1999). Violence against Women: Report on the 1999 WHO Pilot Survey in Tajikistan. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/108339/E69952.pdf;jsessionid=4CFB3B0BCD5C66467C6488690109FC76
6. International Organization for Migration (2001) Deceived Migrants from Tajikistan: A Study of Trafficking in Women and Children
7. Dubovitsky, Viktor (February 2003). "Features of the ethnic and confessional situation in the Republic of Tajikistan" (in Russian). https://web.archive.org/web/20080411201135/http:/www.analitika.org/article.php?story=20060307230526550&mode=print
8. Pannier, Bruce (26 June 2017). "The Many Agents Of Tajikistan's Path To Peace". Radio Liberty. https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-civil-war-peace-20th-anniversary-rahmon-nuri/28579612.html