The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention of prominent human rights defender, journalist and representative of the Pamiri minority Ms. Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, as well as the attack on Messrs. Anushervon Aripov, Nasim Isamov, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi, all of them Radio Odozi and Current Times journalists who have been covering the ongoing anti-government protests in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous (GBAO) Region since May 14, 2022.
On May 17, 2022, the Ministry of Interior of Tajikistan issued a statement on its website, accusing Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva of co-organising an “illegal rally” on May 16, 2022 in Khorog, the administrative centre of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO). Ms. Mamadshoeva refuted the accusations in the media and specified that she was in her home in the city of Dushanbe during the protests.
On the same day, Messrs. Anushervon Aripov, Nasim Isamov, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi were attacked by a group of men in plainclothes after the four journalists had interviewed Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva about the protests in Khorog and the accusations against her. The unidentified men dragged the journalists out of their car and forcibly seized all their professional equipment, including cameras, microphones, lights and batteries , as well as their professional and personal mobile phones. They refused to identify themselves and stated that the journalists "would get their equipment back". Mullorajab Yusufi was beaten and threatened “to be shot dead”. Following the attack, the Interior Ministry announced the launching of an investigation into the incident based on an official complaint filed by the journalists.
On May 18, 2022, Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva was arbitrarily arrested by the State Commission for the State Security of Tajikistan and members of the General Prosecutor’s Office. The apartment where she lives with her daughter in Dushanbe was searched and her laptop and mobile phone were seized. On the same day, Mr. Kholbash Kholbashev, ex-husband of Ms. Mamadshoeva, was in turn detained. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, he was still held incommunicado.
On May 19, 2022, Ms. Mamadshoeva was charged with “publicly calling for violent change of the constitutional order” (Article 307, part 2 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan). Her case was classified, and her lawyer is under a non-disclosure obligation and is banned from communicating with journalists. If convicted and sentenced, Ms. Mamadshoeva could face up to 15 years of imprisonment. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Ms. Mamadshoeva was detained at the pre-trial detention centre of the State Security Service in Dushanbe.
On May 24, 2022, the Tajik state TV broadcasted a video of Ms. Mamadshoeva and Mr. Kholbashev, in which both of them publicly confess they organised the protests in Khorog with the support of an opposition leader in exile and another Pamir local leader, who was killed on May 22, 2022. The circumstances of production of this video are unknown, but there are grounds to believe that these confessions were coerced.
The Observatory recalls that since May 14, 2022, the GBAO region has been in a state of high tension as around a thousand protesters gathered in Khorog and announced that they would start an indefinite protest from May 16, 2022, unless the regional leader Alisher Mirzonabot resigned and an effective investigation was conducted into the killing of Gulbidin Ziyobekov by police in November 2021. On May 16, 2022, several hundred people gathered in Khorog city centre, and military and special forces reportedly violently dispersed the protest resulting in at least one death and several injuries. The authorities also cut off the Internet in the entire GBAO region on May 16. On May 17 and 18, 2022, security forces continued attacks on civilians, including those who were acting peacefully, reportedly using tear gas grenades and live munition against protesters. On May 18, 2022, the Interior Ministry announced the start of an "anti-terrorist operation" in Badakhshan.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva and Kholbash Kholbashev and urges the authorities in Tajikistan to immediately and unconditionally release them and to drop all charges against them. The Observatory further urges the authorities to promptly and impartially investigate the attack against Anushervon Aripov, Nasim Isamov, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi and to put an immediate end to the violence and excessive and unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters and human rights defenders in Tajikistan.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities in Tajikistan asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Kholbash Kholbashev, Anushervon Aripov, Nasim Isamov, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi, as well as of all human rights defenders in Tajikistan;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva and Kholbash Kholbashev, and immediately disclose Mr. Kholbashev’s whereabouts, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing Ms. Mamadshoeva for her legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, Kholbash Kholbashev and all human rights defenders in Tajikistan so they are able to carry out their work without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;
iv. Carry on an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the attack against Anushervon Aripov, Nasim Isamov, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi and the threats against them, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and punish them as provided by the law;
v. Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Tajikistan, as enshrined in international human rights law and particularly in Article 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
· Mr. Enomali Rahmmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Mr. Enomali Rahmmon. Email: email@example.com
· Mr. Muzaffar Ashurion, Minister of Justice of Tajikistan. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan. Email: email@example.com
· Mr. Umed Bobozoda, Ombudsperson of Tajikistan. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Yusuf Rahmon, General Prosecutor of Tajikistan. Email: email@example.com
· Permanent Mission of the Republic of Tajikistan to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Brussels, Belgium. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Tajikistan in your respective countries.