Tensions Rise in the Autonomous Region of Tajikistan – The Organization for World Peace

Tensions are rising in Tajikistan as incidents of violence have escalated in recent weeks, with at least 25 people killed last week by security forces in the Gorno-Badakashan Autonomous Region (GBOA). There has been a clash between the central government and the Pamirs, who are the only anti-government protesters to take to the streets. Police reported there was a planned attack on police forces, but witnesses described the man being shot without prior violence.

This conflict is not a new concept in the Central Asian country as it has existed since their independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union. There were tensions between government supporters and the opposition that turned into a civil war. Since then, there have been phases of violence, non-violent opposition, oppression and general conflict that stem from a deterioration of human rights. People’s freedoms are massively limited, such as freedom of speech, blocked access to public information critical of the government, targeting of journalists, extreme violence against LGBTQ groups, and freedom of religion. Specific streams of Islam, such as Salafism, have been banned and individuals are regularly arrested. With a host of rights affected, the protests are numerous, but they are constantly met with violence and no substantial change.

There are also significant military issues between the border country, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan regarding resources. With limited responsibility for the violence and death that stems from this conflict, it not only changes the position between the two, but also the security of people in each country.

Specifically, in 2022, relatives of men killed by government actors are calling on international forces such as the UN to hold the government of Tajikistan accountable. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), there was a protest rally of several hundred people in the town of Khorugi Bolo demanding the resignation of two main leaders, Alisher Mirzonabot and Rizo Nazarzoda, the removal of checkpoints in the center regional level and the lifting of the persecution of the inhabitants of Badakhan. They were met with rubber bullets and tear gas and no promise of change from the authorities.

With these violations recognized in HRW’s 2022 assessment of their rights record, it is well known that the situation continues to worsen. These violations persist due to the violent response of state actors to active demonstrations of change and President Rahmon’s inability to accept assistance from sources such as the UN. Recommendations are made with international urgency, but there is no recognition or response to change.

With the conflict continuing, it is important to allow the protest to take place safely as the right to gather and advocate for the changes desired by those seriously affected. However, it is the role of international actors to apply greater urgency when people are dying. People are fighting for human rights, and they need support before the violence persists to more drastic measures.

Aubrey L. Morgan