Nationless Ethnic Groups of Tajikistan (Pamiri, Jughi, Yaghnobi): From Non-Recognition to Discrimination

09.08.2017
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Alternative Report on Tajikistan’s Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Connection with the UN CERD Consideration of the Republic of Tajikistan’s Ninth to Eleventh Periodic Reports for 2012–2015

This report by the ADC Memorial examines the problems faced by some of Tajikistan’s ethnic minorities who (unlike, for instance, Uzbeks, or Kyrgyz, or Russians who also live in Tajikistan) do not have their own state: Jughi, Pamiri, and Yaghnobi.

For reasons of history, geography, and politics, these minorities each face substantially different challenges in Tajik society. Although each of these groups has its own particular situation, they share a number of common problems: their ethnic distinctiveness and the value of their languages and culture have not been recognized by the government, they lack government support in the area of education, and they are little represented within government bodies. It leads to neglect of the cultural and social needs of ethnic minorities, giving rise to overt or subtle discrimination that can take different forms in the case of each of these ethnic groups.

Jughi (sometimes spelled Dzhugi and also known as Lyuli or Central Asian Gypsies/Roma, with the autonym Mugat or Mughat) formerly led a nomadic life and even now often migrate in search of work, both within and beyond the borders of Tajikistan. Typical problems faced by this community include structural discrimination, lack of education, extreme poverty, unemployment, unregistered housing and the associated risk of expulsion or demolition, harmful traditional practices (early arranged marriages, polygamy, the exploitation of children, and begging), and multi-discrimination against women and girls. The Jughi remain a despised and marginalized group, and the government of Tajikistan denies the existence of discrimination against this community and the need to adopt a complex of government programs to improve its situation.

Pamiri are made up of a number of peoples (Shughni, Rushans, Wakhi, Ishkoshimi, Yazgulami, and several others) populating a vast mountainous area in eastern Tajikistan who speak their own languages and are visually and culturally distinct from the ethnic majority. They primarily practice Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam, unlike the majority of Tajiks, who are Sunni Muslim. Prejudice against Pamiri has ethnic, cultural-linguistic, religious, and political dimensions: they are visually and linguistically distinct and are looked on as the “wrong kind of Muslims” and suspected of separatist leanings. Many Pamiri feel like outsiders in the country, and Pamiri are generally more liable to migrate than people in other regions.

Yaghnobi have historically lived in isolated settlements in the mountains around the Yaghnob River Valley. In the 1970s they were forcibly resettled to other parts of Tajikistan, where an absolute majority of Yaghnobi still live. The Yaghnobi language and culture are under threat of extinction, and the small population remaining in the Yaghnob Valley (less than 1,000 people) does not receive the government support it needs.

The report is based on field research performed and on publicly available sources. It contains recommendations on improvement of the situation of the described minorities.