The return of the first Tajik woman who spent a year in the Syrian city of Idlib, on the territory of the IS (terrorist and extremist organization banned in Tajikistan – Ed.), gives hope to other parents whose children went to the Arab conflicts zone and did not return.
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Kizilnishon village of Khatlon region is located 240 kilometers south of Dushanbe and about 4 thousand people live here. In recent years, 30 local residents have joined the banned organization IS. Among them were women and children, and nothing is known about those who left.
In total, 60 people joined the IS (banned in Tajikistan- Ed.) from the Qabodiyon district. The authorities claim that they were brainwashed in the cities of Russia, where they went to labor migration.
Farangis Toshmatova, 32, a resident of Kizilnishon village, a few months ago returned to her homeland from Syria and was amnestied. Now Toshmatova is still under observation; psychologists and other specialists work with her and her four children.
In 2014, Farangis together with her husband Erkin Toshmatov left for Moscow, where her husband worked as a taxi driver and she stayed at home with three children. In 2015, Erkin went to Turkey and vanished there.
According to Farangis, a man from Turkey called her, introduced himself as a friend of her husband and invited her to come. He bought her a plane ticket and on November 29 she flew to Turkey with her children, but she did not find her husband there.
“They told me, “Your husband is waiting for you”. I was scared at first, but then I believed them and went to Turkey”, she says.
In Turkey, Farangis, who was pregnant at that time, had a fourth child. There was no news about her husband. After a while, his friend took the woman to the Syrian city of Idlib, and then also disappeared, taking away her passport and other documents.
“We, along with many other women from Dagestan and Kyrgyzstan, were kept in high-rise buildings. We heard shooting, but never saw wounded. I spent a year there, but there was no news from my husband.”
To Forget the Horrors of War
Farangis says that she read online about amnesty for repentant in Tajikistan and then thought about return. But it was difficult and dangerous to do. She says that one group of Dagestan women secretly made escape plan and in September 2018 they crossed the Turkish border at night.
“I did not have a passport, but we paid money to be secretly transferred across the border at night. It was very difficult to cross the border at night with the children, but the women helped each other. Thanks God we made it to Turkey. Then I called my father so that he would take me away from there”, says Toshmatova.
In November 2018, she returned home with her children. At the moment, two children go to school, another two have not reached school age yet. Farangis no longer worries about her children’s lives.
The district administration reported that Toshmatova was amnestied after she repented and told her story. Now she is under the authorities’ supervision, and psychologists work with her family so that they can get adjusted to a peaceful life and forget about the horrors of war.
Azimjon Alimardonov, Farangis Toshmatova’s father, said that he had no hopes to see his daughter and grandchildren again when she called him and asked to help her to return home:
“She said, “Daddy, I came to Turkey, take me away”. With the help of the Tajik authorities, we returned the daughter and now she is doing well. Now she must calm down a bit to recover”.
The return of Farangis gave Azimjon Alimardonov the hope that his other two children would also return from Syria, where they went in 2015 from Moscow. Since then, there is no news about them.
«Those Who Repent Will Be Amnestied»
Khatlon is the largest region of Tajikistan, with a population over 3 million people. The problems of growing radicalism, extremism and joining banned parties and movements appeared here a few years ago. Then it was reported on the number of residents’ accession to such movements and organizations banned in the country as Salafiya, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ansorollah and others. Most of those who joined were sentenced, dozens of others are wanted by authorities.
Last year, it was reported that according to official data, 500 residents, including women and children, left Khatlon region for Syria. Most of them are missing for several years.
According to Iskandar Solekhzoda, the head of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Khatlon region, since the beginning of 2019, two residents of the Vakhsh district have returned to Tajikistan. They were previously members of terrorist and extremist groups. According to the law, they were amnestied and it is expected that several more residents of the region will return.
Solekhzoda underlined that they found the request for the return of these persons to their homeland online.
“Our goal is not to imprison everyone. Those who repent will be amnestied”, he said.
At one of the latest press conferences, Zafar Fayzullozoda, chairman of the Qabodiyon district, expressed concerns about the growth of extremism among district residents. At the same time, he referred to the news of Toshmatova’s return as the result of the district administration’s preventive work.
Last autumn, Mansurjon Umarov, the deputy head of the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan, reported in Parliament that during the last years, 1899 Tajik people left for the war in Iraq and Syria. Many people left with the whole families.
This February, Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that many Tajik women and children have been in tent camps in the Kurdish-controlled territory of Syria for more than a year. In Iraqi prisons today, there are 43 women and 92 Tajik children.
Hope for Others
Ashurmo Saidalieva, 48, is a resident of Ferma village, jamoat Mekhnatobod, Qabodiyon district. Her brother was killed in 2015 in Syria, but his wife Sarvinoz and three children remain there.
– The news about this woman with children who returned from Syria inspired me and my old mother very much. We hope that our nephews and daughter-in-law will also return home. Two years ago, was the last time we spoke with Sarvinoz. Then she told us that my brother had been killed, and she was being married to another man. Since then, we know nothing about her and the children.
Authorities come and ask us if we know the address of where they stay. It gives me hope that if they find out their address, they will return them home. We hope that all those who got there by ignorance or stupidity, will sooner or later return home.
This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»