Freedom House Calls Tajikistan One of the “Most Repressive” Countries in the World

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The international human rights organization Freedom House called Tajikistan one of the “most repressive” countries in the world in 2023.

In its new report, the organization gave Tajikistan just 5 points out of 100. Freedom House’s annual report “Freedom in the World – 2024. The Growing Damage of Unfair Elections and Armed Conflicts” was published on February 29.

“The level of freedoms in Tajikistan decreased by two points in 2023 due to ongoing actions to suppress freedom of expression and discrimination against the Pamiri minority,” said Catherine Groth, Middle East and North Africa research analyst at Freedom House.

“It had a bad effect”

She sent her opinion on the situation in Tajikistan in writing to the editorial office of Radio Ozodi. According to her, over the past ten years – from 2013 to 2023 – a sharp decline in the level of freedom can be observed in Tajikistan.

“This situation is bad for political rights and civil liberties and is the result of the leadership of autocratic President Emomali Rahmon, who has been in power since 1992,” Groth explained.

Officials in Tajikistan have not yet expressed their opinion on the report, but in the past they have always reproached human rights organizations for biased and one-sided coverage of the issue.

For example, the authorities deny the existence of political prisoners from among the opposition and their supporters, as well as well-known bloggers and journalists, claiming that they were punished for the crimes committed. Although the convicts themselves, their relatives and supporters consider the criminal cases against them to be politically motivated.

Freedom House researchers say that since the crackdown on protesters in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in 2022 and the arrest of dozens of people, including at least eight journalists and bloggers, attacks on civil liberties have been on the rise.

“Journalists and bloggers who have expressed their views in writing and orally have been harassed and threatened by the authorities. Several journalists have been arrested and imprisoned for long periods in the past year, and the authorities continue to suppress and censor the free press,” the report said.

According to the authors of the report, such pressure on the press has led to the fact that even ordinary citizens in Tajikistan are now trying to be careful in expressing their opinions in order to avoid persecution.

“Additional Measures to Suppress the Pamiris”

Catherine Groth also stressed the deterioration of the situation of national minorities, in particular the Pamir diaspora. She points out that “in 2023, the Pamiri community faced even harsher discrimination, and the authorities took additional measures to suppress the Pamiris.”

Officials in Tajikistan have previously said they disagree with the position of international organizations that portray the Pamiris as a national and religious minority.

“The Muslims of the Pamirs are followers of the Ismaili sect in Islam and a religious minority widely persecuted in Tajikistan. In 2023, they faced severe restrictions on their religious freedoms. Authorities restricted the places where they prayed and fined several people for organizing prayers inside their homes. In addition to this restriction of religious freedoms, Pamiri activists and ordinary citizens have faced arbitrary arrest and harassment, and even more Pamiris have fled for fear of persecution,” Catherine Groth added.

In August 2023, the authorities confirmed that they had banned five NGOs in Gorno-Badakhshan in the past six months, and the reason for this decision, they said, was that these organizations had “links to criminal groups.”

As part of the operation to suppress protests in the region, the Tajik government said that these measures were taken in order to strengthen the “factor of strengthening security,” and called the arrests “a way to prevent crimes against public order and officials of the Ministry of Defense.” However, Pamiri activists and opponents of the Tajik government say the purpose of the operation was to suppress dissidents and dissatisfied citizens with the government’s policies.

Freedom House says Russia’s two-year-old war in Ukraine has affected all of Central Asia.

Tajikistan’s economy remains heavily dependent on the income of migrant workers in Russia. As a result of the border conflicts between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the level of hostility between the border population has sharply increased and the security of the residents of both states is suffering. Negotiations between Dushanbe and Bishkek continued throughout 2023, although the level of diplomatic relations between the two countries remained at a low level until the end of the year.

Source: Pamir Inside