Country report and updates: Tajikistan

Last revision: 28 Apr 1998
28 Apr 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

The legal basis of conscription is the 1994 Law on Military Service and the 1997 Law On amendments and additions to the law of the Republic of Tajikistan on general military responsibilities and military service. [9]

Ever since the 1980s Tajikistan has suffered from a civil war, which heightened after gaining independence in 1991. The government and the Islamic opposition forces signed a latest peace treaty in June 1997, but the situation is still unstable. Owing to the civil war the Tajik government effectively controls only the western part of the country. In this context, establishing Tajik armed forces is a difficult process. In some parts of western Tajikistan the government relies on local warlords, who agreed to call their loyal troops a unit of the Tajik armed forces. [8]

Military service is performed in the Tajik armed forces and in the Russian border guards, the latter in fact being larger than the Tajik armed forces. The border guards are stationed at the Tajik-Afghan border and are officially only required to defend the this border, but they have periodically been drawn into the civil war. The border guards are under Russian command, but are mainly composed of Tajik conscripts. According to President Rakhmanov in 1997, 93 percent of the 16,000 soldiers in the Russian border guards are Tajik citizens. [4] [9]

military service

All men above the age of 18 are liable for military service. [1]

The length of military service is two years. [4]

Occasionally the duration of military service seems to be increased. As the 1996 autumn call-up failed to produce the requisite number of recruits, serving conscripts were not released even though they had completed their two years' service. [4]

postponement and exemption

Postponement and exemption are possible under arts. 17 and 18 of the 1994 Law on Military Service. [5]

Postponement is possible in the case of students, shepherds, sole family breadwinners and those whose brother had died while performing military service. [1]


Call-up for military service takes place at the age of 18. There are two call-ups a year, in spring (May-June) and autumn (November-January). [5]

The armed forces have difficulties achieving the requisite number of recruits. According to the Ministry of Defence, the local recruitment commissions are badly organised and sometimes refuse to abide by national recruitment regulations. For instance, in 1996 it was reported that the war committee of the province Berg Badachshan refused to call up any recruits. [4] [5]

Conscripts are known to be poorly trained and poorly motivated. According to a Russian report, not only are the rank-and-file ill-prepared for combat, but 90 percent of the officers were appointed as such after a mere three-month training course. [8]

Russian officers of the border guards regularly voice complaints about the quality of Tajik troops, describing them as "physically unfit, unable to speak Russian, lacking secondary schooling, and prone to desertion or surrender". [11]

forced recruitment

As legal recruitment methods have failed to attract sufficient recruits the armed forces have turned to forced recruitment on various occasions. There have been reports of the press-ganging of young men on the streets by the militia. The commander of the Russian border guards has complained about competition between Russian and Tajik military units for new recruits, and has accused the Tajik of using press-ganging to obtain them. [10]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized and there are no provisions for substitute service. [1] [2]

After gaining independence in 1991, the previous government was believed to draft legislation on conscientious objection and substitute service. [12]

Since the Tajik Communist Party gained power in late 1992, there have been no known proposals for legislation on conscientious objection.

3 Draft evasion and desertion


No information available.


Draft evasion and desertion are widespread, the reasons including poor conditions and human rights violations within the armed forces and fear of being sent to serve in the frontline.

During the 1996 autumn call-up, for instance, only five per cent of all liable conscripts was recruited into the armed forces, and in the province Leninabad no one was recruited. [5]

During the first 8 months of 1996, 1,000 deserted from the Russian border guards. [10]

Several methods of draft evasion are employed. Some sources claim it is common to obtain false medical certificates through bribery and thus get exempted on medical grounds. Manipulations of exemption procedures for the benefit of wealthy families' and public officials's sons have been subject of public debate. [5]

Others simply do not respond to call-up or move to another town or province when receiving call-up orders. In the latter case the military authorities are often unable to find them as national registration of conscripts is poor and some local authorities do not cooperate over recruitment. (see: recruitment) [4]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are estimated to comprise 7,000 to 9,000 troops, that is about 0.15 percent of the population. [13]

Every year approximately 60,000 men reach conscription age. [13]


[1] DIRB, 5 July 1994. [2] Amnesty International 1997. Out of the margins, the right to conscientious objection in Europe. AI, London. [3] Sadoi Mardum, 31 August 1996. [4] Sadoi Mardum, 19 October 1996. [5] Sadoi Mardum, 4 December 1996. [6] Sadoi Mardum, 7 December 1996. [7] Kangas, Roger D. 1996. 'With an Eye on Russia, Central Asian Militaries Practice Cooperation', in: Transition, 9 August 1996. [8] Pannier, Bruce 1996. 'Rebels Strike at the Strategic Center', in: Transition, 28 June 1996. [9] 'Parliament amends military service law'. Tajik radio, Dushanbe, 1 August 1997. [10] 'Tajik border guards deserting'. OMRI Daily Digest, 30 August 1996. [11] 'Tajik border guards in Russian service deemed unreliable'. OMRI Daily Digest, 2 July 1996. [12] Amnesty International 1992. Concerns in Europe: November 1991 - April 1992. AI, London. [13] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Tajikistan

18 Nov 2021

December 1st is Prisoners for Peace Day. On this day (and every day) we encourage you to show solidarity with the activists and conscientious objectors imprisoned due to their peace work and their refusal to take arms and perform military service.

30 Jun 2021

Conscientious objectors to military service continue to be imprisoned in many countries today. WRI regularly updates its list of imprisoned conscientious objectors and organise solidarity for them. In this story, you will see conscientious objectors who are known to be behind bars or serving in labour camps by June 2021.

07 Jan 2021

Conscientious objector Rustamjon Norov, 22, was jailed despite his offer to perform alternative civilian service for three and a half years, the longest known sentence.

27 Nov 2020

A list of some of those currently in prison for their work for peace. Write to them on 1st December, Prisoners for Peace Day, help us grow our solidarity!

06 Nov 2020

Rustamjon Norov, a 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness from Tajikistan, is imprisoned and facing prosecution for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. He faces two to five years' imprisonment if convicted.

03 Mar 2020

The trial of 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience may begin at Dushanbe Military Court in early March. One official of the Court told Forum 18 that the criminal case is close to completion.  If convicted, he faces between two and five years in prison. He has become "emotionally and physically exhausted" since he was seized in October 2019, Jehovah's Witnesses say.

29 Jul 2013


21. The Committee reiterates its previous concern (CCPR/CO/84/TJK, para 20) about the State party’s lack of recognition of the right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service, and at the absence of alternatives to military service (art. 18).

27 Nov 2007

Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir




H. Conscientious objection

18 Jul 2005

18 July 2005


20. The Committee is concerned that the State party does not recognize the right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service (art. 18).

The State party should take all necessary measures to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted from military service.


01 Nov 2002
by Silke Makowski

In the region of Caucasus and Central Asia, no country offers a free choice between military service and alternative service, most of them even having no legal basis for a substitute service at all. The few states that passed a law on some kind of alternative service haven't implemented it according to international standards: in Georgia, substitute service isn't available in practice and in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, large bribes are necessary to perform it.