Since the violence in the remote region of Gorno-Badakhshan in July of 2012, there’s been not-so-subtle crackdown on opposition, increased restrictions of online activity and now two prominent activists disappearing within days of each other. With elections planned for November, it is hard not to see the sudden disappearances as harbingers of things to come. While the outcome of the Tajik election is pretty much guaranteed (Rahmon, the current President is expected to retain his office), in the past the Rahmon government has ensured that opposition leaders were detained or imprisoned. This election season looks like it will be more of the same. From EurasiaNet:
A pattern appears to be emerging. Last month, in Kiev, former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov, who has been living as a refugee in the United States for about a decade, was arrested on an old Interpol warrant. Dushanbe wishes to try him for attempting to assassinate Rakhmon.
The two opposition figures missing since March 15 are:
Salimboy Shamsiddinov: Shamsiddinov was a leading figure in the Uzbek community. Uzbeks are a minority ethnic group in Tajikistan, and Shamsiddinov accused both the Tajik and Uzbek governments of mistreating their ethnic minorities. He disappeared from the Tajik province of Khatlon, first reported March 15. RFE/RL points out that he recently called for Uzbeks living in Tajikistan to support an opposition candidate in November’s election.
Umarali Quvatov*: A very successful former businessman in Tajikistan, Quvatov fled Tajikistan in summer 2012 fearing arrest by the Tajik authorities. After leaving, he founded an opposition political party and became very active in digital protest. In December 2012, he was arrested by Dubai police and until his disappearance, was held in a Dubai detention center.
It is worrying to note that Tajikistan’s attempts to stifle opposition crossed borders in Ukraine, Russia and now the United Arab Emirates – in addition to the domestic crackdown on the internet and the media. Tajikistan’s population is understandably risk-averse after their violent civil war, and this is likely to mean governmental overreach will continue to go unchecked.
*I highly recommend reading the linked Global Voices article for context and primary sources on Quvatov’s disappearance and the larger context of opposition in Tajikistan.
Apologies to our readers for the recent slow-down in posting, we are both snowed under at our day jobs currently. However, we have ‘On the Ground’ interviews in the pipeline we’re excited about and four blog posts planned and outlined, so stay tuned and thank you for your patience!