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Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon accused a jailed opposition group of attempting to build an “Islamic state” and triggering civil war in the secular country, in a speech shown on state TV on Friday. In the address marking the ex-Soviet country’s 25th independence anniversary, Rakhmon blasted the “destructive plans” of an Islamic party recently banned as a “terrorist” group by the government.
“Malicious forces and misguided people working to the plans and instructions of their foreign masters…planned to build an Islamic state, and dragged Tajikistan into the vortex of a fratricidal war,” Rakhmon said. The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan which styled itself as moderate was declared a “terrorist” group following lethal political violence in the country last year.
Tajikistan in August said it had jailed 170 people over a purported mutiny led by a deputy defence minister last September that the government said the IRPT organised. At least 26 people died in the fighting that ensued, according to the country’s interior ministry.
Earlier this month Rakhmon said the civil war that raged from 1992 to 1997 and cost tens of thousands of lives “came from the mosques of that era…by the initiative of the IRPT.” Ex-collective farm boss Rakhmon, who has been impoverished Tajikistan’s president since 1994, has publicly stated his dislike of Islamic dress. Reports of police forcibly shaving believers’ beards in the country of 8 million are widespread.
The US, European Union and an array of rights groups have aired concerns about the imprisonment of a dozen members of the IRPT leadership. Rights groups have also raised concerns that party members are being tortured while behind bars.
The banned party’s leader Muhiddin Kabiri escaped the country before he could be detained, but has since been placed on Interpol’s wanted list. One member of the party, female lawyer Zarafo Rahmoni, was released this month following reports she was considering suicide.
The party’s emergence after the civil war was a product of the peace process to end a conflict which pitted pro-government forces led by Rakhmon against Islamic, regional and pro-democratic factions. IRPT was represented in Tajikistan’s parliament for 15 years but came under increased state pressure before disputed elections to last year that saw it fail to win a seat.