Suicide fighters training in Afghanistan religious schools a danger to CSTO nations, warns likely next Tajik leader

Suicide fighters training in Afghanistan religious schools a danger to CSTO nations, warns likely next Tajik leader
Rustam Emomali: "The situation in Afghanistan remains complicated and there is no real progress there." /
By bne IntelliNews June 6, 2024

Religious schools in Afghanistan are "training suicide fighters" that pose a threat to members of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the eldest son and probable successor to Tajikistan’s president has warned.

Rustam Emomali, son of President Emomali Rahmon, who serves as speaker of Tajikistan's parliament and mayor of Dushanbe, assessed the spread of religious extremism from Afghanistan in an address to a meeting of heads of parliaments of the CSTO—which groups Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan—held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on June 3, according to Russian state news provider TASS. Tajikistan is under pressure over a disturbing number of radicalised Tajik citizens who have allegedly committed a series of terrorist attacks in various countries on behalf of Afghanistan-based jihadist groups. The most deadly attack was an assault by gunmen on outer Moscow concert venue Crocus City Hall in March. At least 145 people died.

Emomali reportedly stressed that more than 1,000 religious schools, or madrassas, “have been established in Afghanistan, most of them in Afghanistan's border provinces”.

The risk of extremism infiltrating from Afghanistan into CSTO countries has increased more than ever, he added, saying that allowing the current situation in Afghanistan to continue would have very devastating consequences for Central Asian countries in the long run.

"The situation in Afghanistan remains complicated and there is no real progress there," said Emomali.

"Afghanistan has again become a centre of terrorism. Dozens of extremist and terrorist groups have strengthened their positions on Afghan soil. The cultivation and production of narcotics in Afghanistan is increasing,” he also remarked.

It was, Emomali was also cited as saying, important to approve a CSTO plan to strengthen the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, although the relevant plan was currently only in the signature phase.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the fundamentalist Islamist Taliban, who rule the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan—and whom most of the militant and terrorist groups in the country are opposed to—said in an interview with Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) on June 4 that the Taliban have repeatedly assured countries, especially neighbour Tajikistan, that no-one will be allowed to attack them from Afghan soil.

Mujahid claimed that with the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan, security has been ensured.

It is important to the Taliban to project an image of control over Afghanistan, especially as countries including Russia and Kazakhstan appear to be moving in the direction of recognising them as the legitimate rulers of the country. A Taliban government delegation is taking part in the ongoing St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), while on June 5 Russian leader Vladimir Putin told heads of international news agencies it is necessary to build relations with the Afghan leadership formed by the Taliban movement.  

Since the Crocus City Hall massacre, there has been a noticeable intensification of efforts in Tajikistan to contain Islamic traditions openly expressed in society.

The country seems set to outlaw the wearing of the Islamic hijab, or headscarf, after years of an unofficial ban, RFE/RL reported on June 4. That stands in stark contrast to fellow Persian-speaking country Iran, where women are notoriously persecuted by authorities for not wearing the hijab.

Tajikistan has also long unofficially banned bushy beards, a defining visual aspect of Islam. Thousands of men in the past decade have reportedly been made by police to have their beards shaved against their will.