Tajik workers in Russia were hit hard by new migrant laws and the ruble’s devaluation over the last year.
And now a small number of them looking to the Islamic State because they see no other economic options.
“Islamic State recruiters are at the ready, offering large sums of cash to desperate, unemployed worked to go fight in Syria,” writes Karoun Demirjian in the Washington Post. “And many — given the lack of options in the poorest of the former Soviet republics — are answering the call.”
“If our citizens who are without work, who are young, who don’t have a salary, who don’t have a life, are offered a golden city and told ‘you can earn more money, you can improve your conditions’ — naturally he would feel that he would be much better off going to fight in Syria,” Mavjuda Azizova, of the International Organisation for Migration’s Tajikistan office, told WaPo in an interview.
“In most cases, those people that go are very poor. It’s not about religion, it’s about poverty,” Oinihol Bobonazarova, a well-known human rights activist, told WaPo.
It’s important to emphasise that the Tajiks who are turning to the Islamic State form a small minority. In total, approximately 400 Tajiks have gone in Syria and Iraq, according to the International Crisis Group.
Tajikistan, one of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world, traditionally sends about half of its working-age males to work in Russia.
However, as of June 2015, the number of Tajik nationals in Russia plunged an estimated 20% down to about 1 million workers from 1.2-1.3 million the previous year, according to Vedomosti.
This isn’t completely unexpected because migrant workers are facing two major problems: the ruble’s devaluation and increased costs associated with finding work.
With the ruble’s fall against the US dollar, migrant workers’ wages are now worth less than they used to in their own national currencies. That’s a problem, according to t
he head of the Tajik Migrants Workers, Karmot Sharipov, as Tajik workers in Russia have high-interest rate loans in dollars back home, and now that the ruble was weaker, workers needed to find work elsewhere to pay off loans.
Additionally, it’s getting more and more expensive for migrant workers to find jobs. Starting on January 1, migrant workers in Russia have to take a mandatory exam about Russian culture, history, and language that costs 30,000 rubles (~$US500). Plus, they have to get expensive permits and pay monthly fees for their jobs.
Remittances made up an equivalent of 49% of Tajikistan’s GDP in 2013. However, last year the number fell by about 8%, and the number is projected to decline another 23% in 2015, according to
“If the authorities could make it possible for people to work and live, I do not think there would be any radical groups — people would not want to join,” Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, head of the analytical center of the Islamic Revival Party, told WaPo.
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