Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The country remains the poorest of the former Soviet republics, suffering from corruption and the effects of a civil war that ended in 1997. Although 90 percent of its citizens profess to be Muslim, few regularly practice Islamic rituals. Nearly half the population is under the age of 14, and economic hardships are driving some young Tajiks toward a more radical form of Islam. Despite accusations by its neighbours, the government denies the presence of Islamist training camps on its soil. Tajikistan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the USCIRF since 2012.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, but fear of radical Islam provides the government with an excuse to watch all religious activity closely. Although there are only about a thousand believers in the country, Christianity continues to grow. The government suppresses and punishes religious activity and imprisons individuals on unproven criminal allegations linked to religious activity. By law, religious literature must be approved by government censors. The teaching of religion to children under the age of 18 is banned, except in a few isolated cases. Church registration is extremely difficult. VOMC observers report that Christian converts from Islam also face severe persecution from their families, including beatings and forced renunciations of faith.