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Tajikistan: Using Force to Maintain a Standing Army

The brutal hazing of conscripts – as well as the practice of kidnapping conscripts who will not go – is endemic in the Tajik military. (Photo: David Trilling)

Hunger, unheated barracks, beatings and regular outbreaks of disease: it could be life in a penal colony. But in this case, it describes the existence of a fresh military conscript in Tajikistan.

The brutal conditions are the reason many young Tajik men go to great lengths to evade their country’s biannual military drafts. “Many draftees emigrate, while those that have the means enter university because students are exempt until the end of their studies,” said Khursheda Rahimova, a lawyer for Amparo, a legal-support non-governmental organization based in Khujand that monitors the draft.

Consistent shortages of draftees willing to serve prompt some recruitment officers in Tajikistan to resort to impressment, or the quasi-legal kidnapping of military-age men. It is a practice with a long historical tradition. Most famously, Britain relied on impressment during the 18th and early 19th centuries to fill out the crews of naval vessels. It was a major cause of the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.

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Tajikistan: Using Force to Maintain a Standing Army

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