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Tajikistan: The Rise of a Narco-State

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 37 Issue: 4 Dated: Fall 2007 Pages: 951-980
Letizia Paoli; Irina Rabkov; Victoria A. Greenfield; Peter Reuter
Date Published
30 pages
This article details information on the opiate market in Tajikistan.
Given the expanse of drug trafficking and the country’s limited means, Tajik state structures will not be able to effectively control drug trafficking and will need the continued guidance, supervision, and financial support of the international community. In less than 10 years, Tajikistan has become a narco-state; drug trafficking permeates the country’s economic and political systems and seriously threatens its recovery from the 1990s civil war. While heroin was virtually nonexistent in the country up until the mid-1990s, and opium was produced only for modest local consumption, Tajikistan has now become a key transit country for Afghan opiates bound north and west, while rapidly developing a domestic heroin dependency. At least 30 percent of the Tajik recorded gross domestic product comes from the opiate industry. Gangs, headed or protected by corrupt high-ranking government officials are responsible for a preponderant part of the drug trade, and significant portions of the population, including many low-ranking law enforcement agents, all supplement their legitimate image incomes with opiate revenues. In addition to those directly involved in the drug trade, there are also those who profit from it indirectly by working in legitimate companies funded with drug money, or by supplying goods and services to wholesale drug traffickers and their families. The first part of the article discusses the main factors perpetuating the growth of illicit opiate industry in Tajikistan. The second part details the phases of growth and the progressive involvement of the growing number of regions participating in the opiate trade. The third section provides a typology of drug trafficking enterprises. The last section briefly discusses the connection between heroin trafficking and Islamic movements. A report on opiate trafficking prepared by the Analytical Center of the Drug Control Agency of Tajikistan (DCA, 2004) provides the data. Tables, notes, references