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Tajikistan Warns Citizens Against Travel to Russia Amid Rising Xenophobia

Photo: Reuters

In the wake of a devastating terrorist attack in Moscow and subsequent reports of increasing xenophobia, the Tajikistan Foreign Office has issued an advisory urging its citizens to “temporarily refrain” from traveling to Russia. This recommendation comes at a time when the social climate in Russia has grown increasingly hostile towards Central Asians following the March 22 attack on a Moscow concert hall, which resulted in the tragic loss of at least 130 lives. The Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), an Islamist terrorist organization, has claimed responsibility for the carnage. Notably, all four individuals accused of carrying out the assault are reported to be nationals of Tajikistan. The advisory, a rare public acknowledgment of deteriorating conditions for Tajik nationals abroad, reflects the Tajik government’s concerns for the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. The Foreign Office’s statement draws attention to the potential risks that Tajiks, and possibly other Central Asians, might face due to a surge in prejudicial attitudes and xenophobic sentiments in Russia, where a significant number of Tajiks go to work and live. Human rights organizations have been swift to document and express alarm over the uptick in discrimination and violence targeting the Central Asian community in Russia. These groups have highlighted a range of xenophobic acts, from verbal abuse and social ostracization to physical assaults, which have intensified since the terrorist incident. They stress that the actions of a few individuals should not be used to stigmatize an entire ethnic or national group and that collective punishment based on nationality is a violation of human rights norms.

The Moscow concert hall attack has been labeled as one of the deadliest terrorist incidents in Russia in recent years. The swift claim of responsibility by IS-K, a group that is known for its violent and radical agenda, has exacerbated fears and prejudice against Central Asians, a demographic that is often associated with migrant labor in Russia and faces varying degrees of societal acceptance and discrimination. The accused gunmen’s Tajik nationality has placed Tajikistan in a delicate diplomatic position. While the Tajik government has condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with the victims, it also faces the task of defending its citizens from collective blame and ensuring their protection abroad.
Russia, for its part, has been a destination for economic migrants from Tajikistan for many years, with remittances from workers in Russia playing a significant role in Tajikistan’s economy. The current situation, therefore, not only has implications for the safety of Tajik nationals but also for the economic ties between the two countries. In the aftermath of the attack, Russian authorities have ramped up security measures and have been under pressure to respond to public outcry over the incident. While the Russian government has the responsibility to safeguard its citizens and prevent further attacks, there is also a need to address the rise in xenophobia and ensure that the rights of all individuals within its borders are respected, regardless of their nationality.
The situation remains fluid, and both Tajikistan and Russia are likely to be closely monitoring developments. The international community, meanwhile, is watching with concern as the events unfold, with the hope that dialogue and cooperation between the nations involved will lead to measures that protect individuals against xenophobia while combating terrorism effectively. 
By Sara Colin

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