Freedom House Urgently Calls for Restraint in Gorno-Bardakshan Region of Tajikistan
Freedom House urgently calls on the government of Tajikistan to show restraint and respect the rights of civilians in Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Province (GBAO). The government must make all efforts to ease tensions in the region before a rapidly escalating conflict spirals out of control.
In the early morning on August 22, Imomnazar Imomnazarov, a local leader in GBAO and a former opposition commander in Tajikstan’s civil war, was killed by unknown assailants. Later on the same day, residents gathered in front of the regional government building. When the crowd became restive, government troops fired their weapons, injuring two protestors. Press reports now say thousands of residents are gathering in the streets in opposition to the military presence.
Fighting in GBAO broke out last month after the Tajik government sent military forces to arrest another local leader, Tolib Ayembekov, on charges of organizing the murder of a local security official. Reports indicate that government troops used overwhelming force, including heavy weaponry, in entering Khorog, the regional capital. After dozens of deaths, Ayombekov agreed to surrender on the condition that he receives a fair trial, and hundreds of fighters have laid down their weapons in exchange for amnesty. During the incursion, the government of Tajikistan shut down all mobile and Internet communications out of the region, and blocked numerous local and international websites in the country.
Tajikistan suffered through a bloody civil war from 1992 to 1997 that ended only through a fragile negotiated peace. The poorest country in the former Soviet Union, it is also a major conduit for heroin smuggling from northern Afghanistan.
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