Rise in Human Trafficking in Tajikistan

Officials in Tajikistan recorded a big rise in the number of people trafficked in and out of Tajikistan last year, 679 compared with 524 in 2012.

They included 72 women and 25 female minors, most of them sent abroad to work as sex slaves in Gulf states, Turkey, and increasingly also China and Iran.

Sometimes they are lured into going voluntarily with the offer of waitressing work, and then find themselves prisoners, their passports taken away.

As interior ministry spokesman Jaloliddin Sadriddinov told IWPR, poverty and ignorance contribute to the trafficking problem. Nodira Abdulloeva, coordinator of the Human Rights Centre’s migration programme, says that as the Tajik economy has slumped, unemployment and other social problems make women more vulnerable to exploitation.

For those who are returned to Tajikistan, a handful of refuges exist where they can try to rebuild their lives. Often they are sent there by the police, who freely acknowledge that many other victims stay off their radar because of the social stigma attached to such cases.

Seven criminal cases have been launched against suspected people-traffickers in the last eight months.

Civil society activist Umeda Sadriddinova says the profile of the pimps and traffickers has changed, and many of those now involved in the business used to be part of Tajikistan’s thriving trade in illegal narcotics.

“They earn an income from one person over a five-year period, whereas narcotics would bring only one-off earnings,” she said.

Mahasti Dustmurod is an IWPR contributor in Tajikistan. 

This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.