Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Battling Human Trafficking in Tajikistan

By Kamar Ahror











Rudoba, a 19-year-old from the city of Khujand in northern Tajikistan, arrived in Istanbul last September hoping to get a job as a waitress. Instead, she was met at the airport by a woman who took away her passport and brought her to an apartment where two others told her what awaited her.

“They told me I’d been deceived and that this trade was in the bodies of girls – it was prostitution,” she said.

After being forced to work in the sex trade for some time, Rudoba fell ill and some of her older colleagues helped her escape. She eventually made it back to Tajikistan.

In Khujand, prosecutor Suhrob Samizoda investigated two local women who he believed formed a sex-trafficking ring with the one who met Rudoba in Istanbul. Early this year, the pair were convicted and sentenced to five and five-and-a-half years respectively. In June, two other women in Khujand were convicted of conspiring to traffic a woman to the United Arab Emirates.

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.

Women are often lured under false pretences to Turkey and Gulf states, where they are forced into the sex trade.

“Women with a low level of education, and with no work or trade, fall prey to a web of deceit,” says Khayrinisso Rasulova, who was part of a group that organised an opinion poll on trafficking in Khujand.

Trafficking in women from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as well as Tajikistan is a recognised problem. Legal expert Fayzinoso Vohidova explains the background with regard to Tajikistan.

“At the start of the 2000s, many Tajikistan nationals, mainly women, were prosecuted for human trafficking. At one point, when these [traffickers] were brought back to Tajikistan, these offences became less common,” she said. “In the last two or three years, crimes involving the recruitment of young women for sexual exploitation have become more frequent. There are several reasons for this, one of which is of course social condition. People are unable to find work or decent pay. They don’t have a stable income so women are forced to work at whatever they can.”  

Kamar Ahror 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.