Norway’s FORUM 18 paints worrying picture of religious freedom for Ismailis in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province


Oslo, Norway, based Forum 18 has published a very detailed and comprehensive account on the situation in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (GBAO), as it relates to the faith, culture and practices of the Shia Ismaili Muslims living in the area.

The report entitled TAJIKISTAN: Regime bans Ismaili home prayers, lessons for children (download PDF version HERE), by Feliz Corley, dated February 21, 2023, contains the following sub-titles:

  • Stopping Ismailis gathering in homes for prayers;
  • Warnings, fines follow regime ban on prayer meetings in homes;
  • Regime bans Aga Khan portraits in homes;
  • Regime bans studies at Ismaili Institute in London;
  • Ismaili-based Ethics and Knowledge course banned from schools; and
  • Ban on voluntary Ethics and Knowledge classes, books seized

The above measures contradict Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after which Forum 18 was apparently named. The Article states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”


Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.
Map of Tajikistan, showing the autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan province and surrounding countries. Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

The Forum 18 piece does however mention that the Ismaili Centres in Dushanbe and Khorog remain open for prayers. This piece of news is welcome.

Simerg is unable to independently verify the concerns that the Forum 18 article has raised. However, on its About page, Forum 18 states that it “provides truthful, original, detailed, and accurate monitoring and analysis of violations of freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Central Asia, Russia, the South Caucasus, and Belarus.”

Simerg therefore feels it necessary and appropriate to provide a direct link to Felix Corley’s piece in Forum 18. The editor has also noted that the link to Corley’s piece is being widely distributed over the internet via WhatsApp and email messages. Corley’s article in Forum 18 has since been reproduced in Eurasiareview on Wednesday, February 22, 2023.

Simerg welcomes official statements from appropriate authorities, institutions and individuals in GBAO clarifying the concerns raised in the Forum 18 report by submitting their official feedback HERE or sending it to with their complete contact information.

Date posted: February 23, 2023.
Last updated: February 26, 2023 (link added to download PDF version of report.)



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