Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination discusses anti-discrimination efforts in Ecuador and Tajikistan with civil society

GENEVA (7 August 2017) – The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning held an informal meeting with civil society representatives from Ecuador and Tajikistan, whose reports will be considered this week.

In her opening remarks, Anastasia Crickley, Committee Chairperson, welcomed civil society representatives from Ecuador and Tajikistan, and underlined the importance of a dialogue between the experts and civil society.

During the discussion, representatives of civil society raised issues that they were working on.  Those from Tajikistan focused on the situation of underrepresented and vulnerable ethnic minorities that lacked comprehensive State protection, such as the Jughi, Pamiri and Yagnobi.  Representatives of civil society from Ecuador drew attention to the challenges faced by various indigenous communities in terms of extractive business activities in their traditional areas and privatisation of their water resources.  Organizations also drew attention to multiples forms of discrimination faced by indigenous women, and discrimination of Ecuadorians of African descent, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Speaking in the discussion were ADC Memorial, Pueblo Kitu Kara, Land is Life, Acción Ecológica and Fundación Alejandro Labaka, Coalición Nacional de Mujeres del Ecuador, Ecuarunari, Grupo de Pensamiento Afrodescendiente, and CAPAJ.

Statement by a Non-governmental Organization on Tajikistan

ADC Memorial explained that the organization was not based in Tajikistan.  There was a constant risk in Tajikistan of the adoption of laws similar to those adopted by the Russian Federation on the so-called “foreign agents.”  The organization focused on ethnic minorities that did not have their own national countries, such as the Central Asian Roma (the Jughi), the Pamiri and the Yagnobi.  The Government of Tajikistan did not support them in education and did not recognize their languages.  They lacked political representation and experienced subtle discrimination due to the neglect of their cultural and social needs.  The Jughi minority led a nomadic life and according to official statistics amounted to some 2,500.  However, that data was not accurate.  At least 3,000 of them lived in and around Dushanbe, in addition to a number of other settlements in the country.  Typically they faced structural discrimination, extreme poverty, unemployment, risk of expulsion, and harmful practices, such as exploitation of children, early and forced marriage, and polygamy.  The Government of Tajikistan denied that there was any discrimination of the Jughi.  Their passports contained a Russian page and a Tajik page indicating their ethnicity as “Roma/Tsigan.”

The Pamiri were not allowed to mention their ethnicity in their passports, and were recorded as Tajik.  They lived in mountainous areas, and they faced prejudices and stereotypes.  They were considered as “bad Muslims” because they belonged to the Shia Ismaili religion, while the majority of the Tajiks were Sunni Muslims.  They were often suspected of separatism because during the civil war they had supported opposition groups.  They were denied education in their native language.  The third community were the Yagnobi, who lived in isolated mountainous settlements around the Yagnobi River.  There were between 5,000 to 15,000 Yagnobis in the country.  Their language and culture were under the threat of extinction.  As for the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, there were schools in their languages, but no opportunity to pass State exams in those languages.  As a result, Uzbek and Kyrgyz parents preferred to place their children in Tajik schools.   Attitudes towards the Uzbeks were quite negative due to the bad relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  The Uzbeks made up about 14 per cent of the population, but their political representation stood at around 6 per cent.

Questions by the Committee Experts

YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Tajikistan, noted the lack of information in the country report.  Refugees and asylum seekers were not allowed to live in certain parts of Tajikistan, such as Dushanbe, and they did not have access to work, adequate housing and healthcare.  There was also the issue of the definition of racial discrimination and hate crime.  The change of names of certain villages and towns was another problematic issue, which had to do with the change of Russian and Soviet-era names.  That change had taken place without any consultation with the local population.

Responses by the Non-governmental Organization

ADC Memorial clarified that the problem of stateless persons was common in all former Soviet republics.  Part of the problem was the weak documentation of the Jughi minority, connected with their poverty and slow collection of birth certificates.  Some Jughi could not change their Uzbek passports, due to bad relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  Tajikistan rejected the need for the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.  As for the name change of villages and town, that was a real problem which, in fact, represented “Tajikisation.”

Questions by Experts

Had there been any discrimination cases brought to court?  Was there a Tajikisation of all residents of the country?  Were the Jughi recognized as citizens of Tajikistan or not?

Responses by the Non-governmental Organization

ADC Memorial explained that there had been no cases of racial discrimination in front of courts in Tajikistan.  In various censuses over the years, there were different ways of reporting on ethnic minorities.  The Yagnobi migrated from their traditional areas due to mass labour migration to the Russian Federation.  The Jughi were not fully regarded as regular Tajik citizens because their Jughi ethnicity was recorded in their passports.

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