Drug Dealers, Drug Lords, and Drug Warriors-cum-Traffickers: Drug Crime and the Narcotic Market in Tajikistan

Posted: January 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm, Last Updated: September 7, 2012 at 1:55 am

Book cover for Drug Crime and Narcotics Market

Latypov, Alisher.(2011). Drug Dealers, Drug Lords, and Drug Warriors-cum-Traffickers: Drug Crime and the Narcotic Market in Tajikistan ((translated and summarized by T. Dempsey).Vilnius: Eurasian Harm Reduction Network. (Updated Russian)


Much of the specialist literature and reports of international law enforcement organizations on drug trafficking in Central Asia have tended to focus on the direction of drug flows and how local government corruption facilitates the trade. Few, if any, give us an insights into to the street level dynamics of the local drug markets and the role that petty dealers and individual drug users play in the drug trade. That is what makes the new report, “Drug dealers, drug lords and drug warriors-cum-traffickers: Drug crime and the narcotics market in Tajikistan” by TraCCC researcher Alisher Latypov so unique. While Latypov finds the “upperworld-underworld” approach of other researchers like Kaputadze and Paoli et al generally useful for exploring the at times competitive-at times cooperative relationships  between government officials and criminal organizations, such a paradigm reveals almost nothing about how members of the law enforcement community interact with both the barygy (the local slang word for drug dealer) and individual drug users. This triangle in fact forms the lynchpin of the drug market as it exists on the street level in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries.

In addition to applying an original approach to the investigation of drug trafficking in Central Asia, Latypov uses interviews with individual users to confirm and/or supplement existing reports and studies on the drug trade in Tajikistan, particularly those published by the Tajik government and local researchers (neither of which have received much attention from Western researchers and NGOs as of yet). The testimonies of the users provide a vivid portrait of the kinds of dangers and humiliations this vulnerable layer of society, particularly female users, faces day to day and lays bare the thoroughly corrupt nature of Tajikistan’s law enforcement agencies and corrections facilities.

Some of the reports major findings are:

1) the street-level drug trade is evolving and becoming more mobile whereby cellular communications are used to arrange meetings or direct delivery of drugs to a user’s home by the dealer in lieu of the previous practice of using specially-designated apartments or homes for the sale/purchase of drugs;

2) there is an emerging tendency amongst dealers to have purchasers transfer money to their bank accounts to facilitate larger drug sales;

3) heroin in Tajikistan is now more widely available, easier to acquire and of higher quality – all of which is consistent with changes in the prices of high purity heroin in the country in recent years;

4) the current situation in those towns bordering Afghanistan indicates a strong correlation between high availability/use of drugs and near epidemic rates of HIV infection among injecting drug users;

5) new kinds of drugs like pill-form methadone from Iran and cocaine and ecstasy from China and Russia are being confiscated in greater volume and increasing frequency in Tajikistan, with the latter two becoming especially popular in night clubs frequented by Tajik youth; and

6) the Tajik drug market is being connected to drug markets in other countries through new routes between Tajikistan and China and Tajikistan and Iran, with drugs moving in both directions.

7) Tajikistan’s prisons have become narcozones whereby the dealers arrested on the streets for distribution of drugs continue to be supplied by police and corrections officers for sale within the penitentiaries.

TraCCC urges all those researching the challenges of fighting drug trafficking in Central Asia as well as those concerned with the spread of drug addiction and HIV throughout the region to read the English summary of this report or the full-length updated version in Russian.

Write to traccc at traccc@gmu.edu