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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Tajikistan

Tajikistan - Consular Information Sheet
September 26, 2001

TRAVEL WARNING (Issued September 26, 2001): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Tajikistan. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Department urges Americans residing in or visiting Tajikistan to reevaluate their continued presence there. The security situation in Tajikistan remains unstable, and the political situation is fluid. There have been outbreaks of fighting between government forces and former armed opposition leaders. These conflicts have included hostage taking and assassination. From time to time, the U.S. Embassy may suspend or otherwise restrict the travel of U.S. Embassy personnel to Tajikistan and within Tajikistan.

The Department of State relocated Embassy operations from Dushanbe, Tajikistan to Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1998 due to threats to Americans and American interests worldwide, instability in Tajikistan and the limited ability to secure the safety of U.S. Embassy personnel in the Embassy facility in Dushanbe. All American diplomatic personnel currently reside in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and they travel periodically to Tajikistan.

During the summer periods of 1999 and 2000, Tajikistan experienced incursions of armed militants loyal to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The Secretary of State has designated the IMU as a foreign terrorist organization. In past years, IMU forces took foreigners as hostages. There have been reports indicating an incursion by the IMU into Tajikistan may occur again during 2001. Americans should particularly avoid areas along the borders with Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, the Karategin Valley, and Tavildara District.

American citizens resident in or visiting Tajikistan are urged to consider their personal security and safety in view of this warning. Departure options from Tajikistan may be limited in an emergency. U.S. citizens, their family members and their dependents can maximize departure options by obtaining extended visas for travel to other countries. Destination countries with direct connections to Tajikistan include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

U.S. citizens are strongly advised to register and obtain updated security information at the American Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Contact information in Dushanbe (switchboard staffed 24 hours per day): 992-372-21-03-48; 24-15-60; 51-00-28. Consular services for Tajikistan are handled in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Tajikistan may be severely limited. The telephone number for the American Embassy in Almaty is 7-3272-63-39-21; 50-76-27.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Tajikistan issued June 29, 2001, to update the security situation.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Tajikistan, a newly independent country in central Asia, has been undergoing profound political and economic changes since the break-up of the Soviet Union. After the civil war in 1992, sporadic fighting continued, largely in remote areas. Although comprehensive peace accords were signed in June 1997, some armed clashes involving renegade forces still take place. Tourist facilities are undeveloped, and many goods and services taken for granted in other countries are unavailable. The capital is Dushanbe.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Entry into Tajikistan at points along the Gorno-Badakhshan border requires special authorization in advance. Without a visa, travelers cannot register at hotels and may be required to leave the country immediately. In the U.S., visas for Tajikistan are issued by the Russian Embassy, Consular Division, 1825 Phelps Place NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 939-8907, or the Russian consulates in New York, San Francisco or Seattle. Tajik visas granted by these offices are valid for a stay of three days in Tajikistan. If travelers plan a longer stay, they may apply for a longer visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after arriving in the country.

Note: Travelers who intend to visit Tajikistan should obtain double-entry Russian, Kazakh or Uzbek visas prior to departure, depending on intended transit points.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Tajikistan has suffered from severe security problems since gaining independence. Tajikistan borders on Afghanistan, which currently shelters Usama bin Laden and serves as the base of his terrorist network. The continued instability in Afghanistan has adversely affected the security situation in those central Asian countries that border it, including Tajikistan. In addition to the threat from Afghanistan, ethnic Uzbek Islamic extremists, currently located in Tajikistan, used Tajik territory to stage cross-border attacks into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 1999, taking hostage Japanese and Kyrgyz citizens in the process. Organized crime continues to be a serious problem in the capital city of Dushanbe and its environs. Sporadic violence, including bombings and shootings in public areas, is common, and it is largely the result of fighting between rival warlord factions competing for control of markets and narcotics trafficking. In addition, incidents between government troops and militia factions occur regularly. These incidents have included several spontaneous shootouts in public marketplaces, a series of bombings around government buildings in February 2000, and the bombing of a public bus in February 2000 that killed at least 7 people. In March 2000, the government began a campaign to disarm various factional militias operating in Dushanbe. This operation has involved the establishment of roadblocks throughout the city by heavily armed security personnel, who stop and search practically all vehicles; occasionally, this operation has met with armed resistance, resulting in the injury of passers-by.

To date, these attacks have not targeted Americans, but other innocent bystanders have been injured in some of these attacks. Because of this unpredictability, U.S. travelers should avoid demonstrations, crowds, and places where military personnel congregate. Americans should avoid, in particular, the Green Market in Dushanbe because it has been the site of numerous skirmishes that have killed or injured a number of bystanders. Americans should remain inside during hours of darkness. Security forces have a strong presence in the capital and the southern half of the country. U.S. citizens should check with the U.S. Embassy in Almaty for current information before traveling outside Dushanbe, and they should observe strict security precautions while moving about, at their work sites, and at their homes. The situation in Leninabad Province, in the northern part of the country, and in Gorno Badakhshan in the east, has been generally quiet.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.

CRIME: Tajikistan is a country with a struggling economy and widespread unemployment, which have resulted in a high rate of street crime. There have been a number of pickpocketings, muggings, and armed robberies in the homes of persons perceived to have money, including foreigners. Travelers should not travel alone or on foot after dark. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

The Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. Additional information on the region can be found in the brochure, Tips for Travelers to Russia. Both publications are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, and via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: The medical infrastructure of Tajikistan is significantly below Western standards. Many trained medical personnel have left the country. Medical equipment and medicines are scarce.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page, http://travel.state.gov, or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Significant disease outbreaks are possible due to population shifts and the breakdown in immunization activity. There have been outbreaks of typhoid in the Dushanbe area and in the south, and the risk of cholera and water-borne illnesses is high. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

The government of Tajikistan requires visitors who remain in country for more than 90 days to present a medical certificate showing that they are HIV-free, or to submit to an HIV test in Tajikistan. This testing requirement has not been implemented, but could be at any time. Because of the lack of medical supplies, submitting to an HIV test in Tajikistan could be risky.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Tajikistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Road travel can be made difficult by checkpoints, where police or soldiers are armed and have been known to shoot if vehicles do not stop. Some checkpoints, operated by independent armed groups, which have targeted foreigners in the past, exist on the road east of Dushanbe. For this reason, road travel to the east is strongly discouraged. Vehicles with Tajik license plates have frequently been refused permission to enter Uzbekistan, so a change of vehicles at the border may be required. Road travel should be undertaken only in daylight hours, and on routes known to the traveler or a reliable escort.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Tajikistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Tajikistan's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Tajik customs authorities may subject all items that are imported into or exported from Tajikistan to a high level of scrutiny and may enforce strict customs regulations against those who import and export goods. For specific information about customs requirements, travelers may contact the U.S.- Tajikistan Chamber of Commerce, 1250 24th St., N.W., Suite 350, Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 776-7770.

CRIMINAL PENALITIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Tajikistan's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Tajikistan are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CONSULAR ACCESS: Travelers to Tajikistan are subject to frequent document inspections. Therefore, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports and Tajik visa with them at all times so that they may more readily prove that they are U.S. citizens. In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and certain bilateral agreements, local authorities must grant a United States consular officer access to any U.S. citizen who is arrested. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask for the U.S. Embassy to be contacted immediately.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Travel to, from, and within Tajikistan is difficult and unreliable. Flights may be canceled or substantially delayed. Commercial charter flights are frequently overloaded with merchandise. International train connections are dangerous because of criminals operating onboard. Tajikistan is a cash-only economy. International banking services are not available. Credit cards and traveler's checks are not accepted. Travel with large amounts of cash can be dangerous. Tajikistan has introduced its own currency, the Tajik ruble, which is convertible. Please contact the U.S.-Tajikistan Chamber of Commerce, 1250 24th St., N.W. Suite 350, Washington D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 776-7770, for information on currency restrictions.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Tajikistan is an earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Almaty, Kazakhstan and obtain updated information on travel and security within Tajikistan. The U.S. Embassy in Almaty is located at 99/97A Furmanov Street, telephone 7(3272) 63-39-05. U.S. citizens may also register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan by telephone or fax, but emergency consular services for U.S. citizens may be limited or unavailable. U.S. citizens are reminded that personnel for the U.S. Embassy to Tajikistan are resident in Almaty. Consequently, the U.S. presence in Tajikistan is not continuous. The U.S. Embassy is temporarily located at 10 Pavola Street, Dushanbe, telephone 011 (992)(372) 21-03-48/50/52 fax 011 (992)(372) 21-03-62.

* * *

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September 24, 2001 to incorporate the information about the current Travel Warning for Tajikistan.

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