On July 29, terrorists attacked a group of tourists in Tajikistan, killing four (including two Americans) and wounding three others. While Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, the attackers themselves seemed to have received training in Iran and were possibly working with a pro-Tehran group within Tajikistan. The former Soviet republic has a population that, unlike Shiite Iran, is 85-percent Sunni Muslim; but Tajik, the dominant language, is closely related to Persian. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs documents the Islamic Republic’s recent attempts to sow discord there:
[S]enior Tajik interior-ministry officials told the BBC that Islamic State was not connected to this incident, but rather that an affiliated Islamic movement, the Tajik Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) whose activities were legally banned three years ago, planned and carried out the attack. . . . IRPT, which was founded in 1990, has strong ties with Iran. It was first outlawed in Tajikistan in 1993 [but after 1997] its activities took place openly . . . In 2015, . . . two of its representatives [were] elected to the 63-seat parliament. However, Tajikistan declared again in 2015 that the party was a terror organization. . . . Yet the ties between the party and Iran strengthened.
In December 2015, Iran not only invited Muhiddin Kabiri, chairman of the IRPT, to a conference that took place in Tehran, entitled “Islamic Movements around the World,” but there was also a meeting between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kabiri that aroused the anger of Tajikistan. . . . Relations between Tehran and Dushanbe continued to deteriorate [thereafter]. . . .
[T]he official news agency of Tajikistan published an article in the spring of 2017 emphasizing that Iran is gathering militias [affiliated with] IRPT that fought in the Syrian civil war on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. According to the news agency, the movement’s militias . . . are located in training camps along that border with the purpose of carrying out further attacks in the area. . . .
The Iranian [state-controlled] media . . . interview Kabiri often. In an interview with the Tasnim agency in June 2018, Kabiri refers to “the natural right” of his party as an Islamic party to have strong ties to Iran “as every Islamic organization or movement needs to have connections with Iran, which is an Islamic country with an Islamic leadership.” According to him, his movement also maintains “strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
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