DUSHANBE, Jan. 8 2016 (The Conway Bulletin) — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Muhiddin Kabiri, the exiled head of Tajikistan’s now-banned main opposition party, in Tehran, immediately drawing threats from Tajik officials that the meeting would damage bilateral relations (Dec. 29).
The major show of support from Iran for Mr Kabiri, who is wanted by police in Tajikistan to face various terrorism charges, and his Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) is a poke in the eye for Dushanbe, officially a secular country.
Tajikistan and Iran have traditionally close relations, sharing many similar cultural, religious and ethnic identifiers. Iran has also been a major sponsor of essential hydropower infrastructure in Tajikistan.
The Tajik foreign ministry sent a note to the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe which said: “Such an attitude to the enemies of the state and the people of Tajikistan can have a negative impact on the friendly relations between Tajikistan and Iran.”
In September, Tajikistan banned the IRPT, once Tajikistan’s main opposition party, and accused its members of supporting radical Islam and terrorism.
Mr Kabiri, who fled into exile, and his supporters have accused the Tajik government of crushing dissent.
In Dushanbe, an analyst who preferred to remain anonymous told The Conway Bulletin that Mr Kabiri was taking a gamble by appearing in Tehran.
“For Kabiri and the IRPT, after having no support at all from the West, Iran was the last chance to stay in the political arena,” he said.
>>This story first appeared in issue 262 of The Conway Bulletin