The right to a nationality has been recognized in various human rights instruments.  Despite this, statelessness — when a “person is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law” — remains a serious concern in Tajikistan.

Like other Central Asian states, statelessness in Tajikistan is primarily linked to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, where countless people either did not have their nationality confirmed or did not acquire nationality from any independent states to which they had ties through birth, descent or habitual residence.  The situation was further complicated due to prevalent migration movements, particularly within Central Asia.  More occurrences of statelessness in recent years have arguably been due to mixed marriages and births; gaps in nationality legislation and the conflict of nationality laws in different states; and administrative obstacles preventing the acquisition of nationality.

With the support of the UNHCR, which has a global mandate to address statelessness, Central Asian states — including Tajikistan — have been making progress in resolving existing situations of statelessness.

However, challenges increasing the risk of statelessness still arise.  Statelessness could also occur due to the practical application of domestic legislation.  Gender dimensions related to lack of valid identity documents are of particular concern.  Tajikistan’s nationality law has no gender-discriminatory provisions in ensuring the right to a nationality.  The implementation of legislation, however, still directly or indirectly exposes women to a greater risk of statelessness.

A joint UNHCR and the Tajik Government pilot exercises to identify stateless persons and provide assistance to them were launched in the country in August 2014.  Running in coordination with civil society, the exercises have reportedly been conducted in Shahritous and Qubodiyon districts in Khatlon province, Istaravshan, Shahriston and Devashtich districts in Sughd province as well as in Hisor, Tursunzoda and Shahrinav districts (districts subordinate to the center).  The exercises have reportedly identified more than 32,000 stateless persons or those at risk.  Over 65% of the identified are women, with 35 percent of them being minors.  

Women tend to stay at home or engage in informal sectors where identity documents are not required.  Moreover, women especially in rural areas, tend not to be aware of relevant procedures for obtaining documents, which is still considered a man’s responsibility. This limited independence could contribute to low levels of identity documents for women.

According to UNHCR Tajikistan, there is no data about the exact number of stateless persons in Tajikistan, but taking into account that the joint exercises have already identified more than 32,000 such persons in the country, one may suggests that the current number of stateless persons in Tajikistan could be estimated at some 40,000.