Civic Activists Help Protect Stray Animals in Tajikistan

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, September 15, 2021
A stray from a shelter in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Vecherka media company

Animal Cruelty in Tajikistan

Animal rights activists found the mutilated body of a dead dog in Dushanbe’s Luchob district. The dog was hanged and burned. Unfortunately, such sights are all too common. Over the past decade, Tajikistan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has recorded over 550 cases of animal cruelty, however, the actual number is many times higher.

It is not uncommon to see children throwing rocks at cats and dogs, or displaying other kinds of cruelty towards stray animals. “I believe that animal cruelty in our society is rooted in certain historic traditions. Although Islam teaches people to treat animals with kindness and compassion, many people misinterpret this and consider animals to be dirty,” says Gulnora Amirshoeva, Vecherka’s editor-in-chief, a media outlet. Most families have animals, not as household pets, but for more practical reasons such as guard dogs or cats to catch mice. As such, most children are scared of dogs and shoo them away with rocks. 

According to a family psychologist, Nisso Azizova, who works with children and teenagers, animal cruelty is common in Tajikistan. “Such an attitude can be demonstrated by children from disadvantaged families who are often subjected to physical punishment or who witness domestic violence. Another reason could be adults committing acts of animal torture and setting a negative example for children.”

Animal cruelty in Tajikistan is seldom prosecuted, largely due to inadequate legislation and the belief that hurting stay animals is acceptable. And while the country’s animal rights activists have repeatedly asked the authorities to act, until recently, their pleas went unanswered. 

Growing Civic Activism for Animals Protection

In 2020, the USAID Central Asia Media Program provided Vecherka financial support for a project dedicated to helping stray animals in Dushanbe. To engage local audiences, Vecherka, together with a non-governmental organization, Peshsaf, launched an information campaign and produced videos and motivational posters. While the movement started small, the project has gained momentum. According to Vecherka’s editor-in-chief, Gulnora Amirshoeva, “At first there were only a few of us, but today we are talking about this problem with Members of Parliament.”

Vecherka started by telling stories about people who rescue stray animals using their social media platforms. They shared photographs and stories of stray animals from animal transfer units, no longer talking about nameless animals, but about specific animals that motivated people to get more engaged. Their audience were not just passive observers, but rather they took part in helping rescue stray animals. Citizens circulated petitions to increase awareness and raised money to support stray animals.

Thanks to these efforts, animal rights campaigns have increased across the country. Today, there are over 40 stories on Vecherka’s website, Instagram, and Facebook pages that have reached more than 100,000 people, and more than 500 people have signed a petition encouraging the government to do more to protect stray animals. Local media outlets published several articles about Vecherka’s initiative and a local cafe “Dar yak Zamin,” recently donated its daily proceeds to help strays, and the Auchan Hypermarket, Dushanbe’s largest supermarket, opened “Charity Boxes” to collect support for stray animals.

With USAID assistance in May 2021, Vecherka expanded its activities and established a working group devoted to strengthening legislation to increase the protection of stray animals. On June 16, 2021 the Tajik Parliament amended the Code of Administrative Offenses and the Criminal Code to include the working group’s recommendations. Several Parliamentarians noted in an interview with Radio Ozodi that the amendments were adopted at the request of civil society – a rare event for Tajikistan. Under the newly adopted amendments, the maximum fine for cruelty to animals, including strays, doubled from 300 to 600 somoni (an increase from $25 to $55). 

The working group also drafted a law that will codify what is and is not acceptable treatment of stray animals, which currently does not exist. To support the adoption of this law Vecherka journalists have prepared 15 videos that have received over 64,000 views on Facebook and Instagram. Journalists have also prepared two analytical articles that have received over 11,000 views to date and initiated a discussion on Facebook on what needs to happen to pass this law.

Vecherka’s efforts to prevent animal cruelty in Tajikistan have been reported outside of the country by Asia Plus and Radio Liberty.  In addition, Vecherka has raised 7,000 somoni (about $650) for the vaccination and care of animals living in shelters. 

“If stray animals could speak, they would say - people, we are outraged that there is no love for us in your hearts. But if they watched the videos about how we save homeless animals, they would be filled with hope that things are finally getting better,” says Gulnora.

Last updated: October 21, 2021

Share This Page