A mountainous former Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan is Central Asia’s poorest nation. The country descended into civil war soon after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The five-year conflict between the Moscow-backed government and the Islamist-led opposition claimed the lives of between 50,000 and 100,000 people and caused at least ten percent of the country’s eight million people to leave Tajikistan.
The war ended in 1997 with a UN-assisted peace agreement, and the country has been relatively stable since then. Emomalii Rahmon was elected to a fourth term as president in 2013. Western observers have reported that legislative elections in 2005 and 2010 failed to meet international standards.
The exact number of those who have gone missing as a result of the civil war and mass migration due to high levels of unemployment and poverty since the end of the war is not known. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) puts the number of missing persons in Tajikistan in the thousands.
A report for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs highlights the issue of soldiers who went missing during prisoner exchanges at the end of the conflict.
Five mass graves containing 2,600 bodies were found near the capital Dushanbe in 1998.
The Tajikistan authorities have taken steps to improve legislation related to missing persons, and some progress has been made in assessing the needs of families of missing persons.