Staunton, May 20 – Yesterday, Tajik officials brutally put down a rising in the Vakhdat prison near Dushanbe in violence that left at least 32 dead. The prison revolt was led by Islamic State adherents, some 500 of whom are in Tajik’s prison population of 12,000 and follows another deadly clash with prisoners in November.
The number of Islamists imprisoned has risen dramatically in recent years, especially after 2015 when the Tajik government banned the Islamic Rebirth of Tajikistan Party in 2015. Indeed, the situation has become so bad that last year officials prepared a report on radicalization in Tajik prisons although they have not released it (fergana.agency/articles/107500/).
Aleksey Malashenko, a leading Russian specialist on Islam in the post-Soviet space says that in his view, the cause of the problems in Tajik prisons is the Tajik government’s efforts to take control of Islam in the republic, starting with but not limited to the ban of the party which he describes as “moderate” (fergana.agency/news/107521/).
Because of this official pressure, Muslims in Tajikistan have been radicalized, and now the government there faces a problem of its own creation. “From my point of view,” the Moscow expert says, “it is better to have a moderate Islamic party” which obeys the laws and constitution “than to have such episodes.”
Indeed, the brutal suppression of prison revolts of this kind, he says, will only attract more attention to the Islamists. Such “punitive methods” are thus not only “ineffective” but counterproductive. What is needed is individual work, but once there are so many radicals behind bars that becomes almost impossible. They form a community and defend themselves.
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