Category Archives: Human Rights

Tajikistan Blocks Facebook and Independent News Websites

On March 3, Internet providers in Tajikistan cut local access to Facebook, the social-networking service, along with another four independent news websites. The blocking was ordered by the state-run communications agency, which cited technical reasons. However, media and analysts suggested that the move reflected the authorities’ determination to limit the space for political expression at home and control the flow of uncensored information from outside (www.news.tj, March 3, 5).

The block on Facebook echoes measures taken by a number of other restrictive regimes, including China, Iran and Pakistan. Analyst Saimuddin Dustov blames the development in Tajikistan on Russian media outlets, which portray social networks as sources of unrest. Despite the limited Internet penetration in Tajikistan, Facebook’s popularity has recently been on the increase there. The platform has become an outlet for expressing frustration with the government. In addition, the Islamic Revival Party (IRPT), Tajikistan’s largest and most influential opposition group, as well as a number of opposition movements in exile have actively used Facebook to mobilize support. Local analyst Zafar Abdullayev believes that the authorities imposed a ban on the social network because they began seeing it as a source of political threat (www.news.tj, March 3, 13).

The other four websites that have been blocked are Russian-language news platforms. The article that appears to have triggered the blocking was published on a Russia-based website, Zvezda, on March 1. The article, entitled “Tajikistan on the Eve of a Revolution,” analyzes political and security dynamics in the country based on what it alleges are the minutes of Rahmon’s meeting with key government officials on November 24, 2011. A scanned copy of the minutes in Tajik, marked as secret and supposedly signed by the president, is also published, without any indication of how the document was obtained.
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Human Rights, Internet, Media, Social media, Tajikistan

An Extrajudicial Execution in Tajikistan (On the First Anniversary of Ali Bedaki’s Killing)

One year ago, authorities in Tajikistan announced the death of the militant Alovuddin Davlatov, aka Ali Bedaki. Despite evidence suggesting that Bedaki was captured alive in January 2011, interrogated and then executed extrajudicially, local media and human rights groups as well as the international community have mostly been silent and reluctant to address this case.

Bedaki was a mid-level opposition field commander during the 1992-1997 Tajik civil war. He later joined the police force, presumably as part of the 1997 peace accord where some former United Tajik Opposition (UTO) fighters were incorporated into Tajikistan’s security forces. He soon left the police and supposedly became a farmer. Following the September 19, 2010, attack on a government military convoy in the Rasht valley in eastern Tajikistan where 28 conscripts were killed, security agencies placed the blame on Bedaki and another former UTO commander, Abdullo Rahimov, aka ‘Mullo Abdullo’, killed in April 2011. Immediately after the attack, Bedaki’s brother, Husniddin Davlatov, was detained and alleged in a televised ‘confession’ that the convoy assault was led by his brother. Consequently, Bedaki became a key target of a security operation in the Rasht valley. His brother and father were convicted and sent to prison.

On January 4, 2011, the authorities announced that Bedaki had been killed in a shootout with government troops in the village of Runob, one kilometer south of the Rasht district center. The official narrative claimed that he and a number of his men were spotted by police and were subsequently killed in a four-hour gun battle. In February, however, the official narrative was challenged by a YouTube video. The footage showed an exhausted and humiliated bearded man, stripped to his underpants but with no apparent wounds, which relatives and former UTO fighters recognized as Bedaki. He was being questioned in the back seat of a parked car by what appeared to be members of the Tajik security agencies. Soon after, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) said they saw the footage but refused to comment, while the police denounced the video as “an ordinary fake.” A modified account of Bedaki’s death was offered in April when Amirqul Azimov, then head of Tajikistan’s National Security Council, announced that Bedaki had been captured alive, but died due to gunshot wounds on the way to hospital.
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Filed under Human Rights, Justice, Security, Tajik-American relations, Tajikistan

Tajik Security Agencies Face Allegations of Detainee Abuse and Extrajudicial Killings

A number of events in 2011 reinforce allegations of systemic abuse and torture and even the occurrence of possible extrajudicial killings in detention by law enforcement agencies in Tajikistan. On October 20, police in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, took a badly injured Bahromiddin Shodiyev, 28, to a local hospital. Shodiyev, who had been arrested on the previous day in connection with a theft investigation, died ten days later of head wounds. The police attributed Shodiyev’s injuries while in custody to an attempted escape or suicide, claiming that he jumped from a first-floor window, but also alleged that he died not necessarily as a result of his injuries, but due to “multiple diseases of internal organs” (www.news.tj, November 1).

Shodiyev’s relatives insist on a different explanation of his death. According to his mother, he told her in the hospital that he was beaten and given electric shocks at the hands of the police, until he confessed to a crime he had not committed. Following the incident, the Tajik human rights ombudsman and an anti-torture group called on the authorities to investigate Shodiyev’s death. The growing publicity about the case led the authorities to launch an investigation as a result of which several police officers were dismissed; one facing criminal charges (www.news.tj, November 9, 15).

Analysts and human rights groups claim that what happened to Shodiyev is not an isolated incident, but part of a larger pattern of abuse in detention by police and security forces. In March, another detainee, Safarali Sangov, died in a Dushanbe hospital in almost identical circumstances. He was hospitalized several hours after being detained on drug-related charges. While police claimed that Sangov tried to commit suicide by hitting his head against a wall and jumping from a police station window, his relatives insisted that he died of police brutality (Asia-Plus, March 7). Also, in June, Ismoil Bachajonov, who was accused of drug smuggling, died in mysterious circumstances in a pre-trial facility in Dushanbe (Asia-Plus, June 9), while two minors were allegedly heavily beaten by police in the southern town of Kulob. In addition, a BBC reporter, Urunboi Usmonov, held for a month by the police in Khujand, was allegedly tortured to extract a confession (www.rsf.org, August 13).
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Filed under Crime, Detainee abuse, Human Rights, Police corruption, Tajikistan