Young men in Tajikistan who wish to forgo the dreaded experience of military service may now do so by paying a fee to the government, according to Eurasianet.

This opt-out provision came into effect on February 4 under changes to legislation regulating conscription.

A representative at the Defense Ministry told Eurasianet that the size of the fee is not yet known and will later be calculated by the government.

While presenting parliament with the draft bill on the conscription opt-out fee, Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo noted on January 20 that only 10 percent of eligible young people are enlisted to do military service each year.

According to him, a one-month basic reserve service will be organized for those who did not perform conscript service for a fee.  “At the end of basic reserve service they will receive military cards,” the defense minister said.  

Besides, under the law on the universal military duty in new edition, graduates of universities having military department will also be drafted into the army for one year. 

Only people who have done military service will be permitted to obtain employment with the government or join the army in a professional capacity.

Meanwhile, a human rights activist who works on documenting violations in the army told Eurasianet, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, that the opt-out is merely going to lead to formation of a conscript army of the impoverished.

“The army should be high-quality.  People who truly want to serve the homeland should be the ones enlisting.  But by introducing a charge for avoiding military service, we are just moving toward having a poor army.  People with money can skip service, and those who do not will have to service in the army,” the activist said.

According to the Ministry of Defense, every year, some 15,000-16,000 young Tajik men are drafted into the country’s armed forces.

The two-month-long effort seeking to enlist young men aged 18-27 for the two-year compulsory military service takes place twice a year, in the spring and in the autumn.

Only people with physical or cognitive disabilities are exempted.  Young Tajiks can also avoid or postpone military service if they are studying at university, an only son, or if they have two children.

Tajikistan’s armed forces consist of Ground Forces, Mobile Forces (paratroopers of the armed forces of Tajikistan), Air Force and Air Defense Force.