Until 2015, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) formed the leading legal opposition movement in Tajikistan, holding two seats in the Supreme Assembly. But in 2015, the party lost its two seats in the parliamentary elections. Hit by a series of scandals, deputies began resigning en masse. The Prosecutor General accused the party’s leader, Muhiddin Kabiri, of corruption and he remains in exile. In September, the government blamed the IRPT for instigating a coup led by deputy defence Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda. The Ministry of Justice subsequently classified the party as a terrorist organisation. Since then, the government has jailed at least 170 individuals, most of them linked to the IRPT. The detainees include 13 leading members of the party.
Human rights activists and representatives of civil society have expressed concern for the well-being of those detained on charges of political extremism. In August 2016, leading representatives wrote an open letter to international organisations calling for them to encourage the government of Tajikistan to protect the human rights of those detained. The original letter was published in Russian. A translation is presented below.
Statement by the Representatives of Tajikistan’s Civil Society. For the Attention of:
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
International Committee of the Red Cross
Human Rights Watch
Doctors without Borders
We are increasingly concerned about the health and welfare of political prisoners who are being detained in Tajikistan. Political prisoners are being mistreated, denied medical care and visits by family members.
Of particular concern is the status of prisoners linked to the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), which was banned in 2015. In recent days, two political prisoners linked to the IRPT, 75 year-old Kurbon Mannonov and 55 year old Nozimdzhon Tashripov, have died in Tajikistan’s prisons. On August 2, when relatives received Tashripov’s body, they noticed that his neck was broken and his chest showed visible signs of torture. It has also been revealed that former editor of Najot, the newspaper of the IRPT, Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda has been transferred to the prison hospital. It has been reported that he is in a serious condition and urgently requires an operation. The health of another prisoner, former deputy chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party, Mahmadali Hait, is also in danger. According to reports, his arms and legs have been broken. Yet he is being denied medical care and kept in solitary confinement. When his wife expressed her desire to report this ill-treatment, the prison guards threatened her. The son of another senior party member, Rajab Rakhmatulloyev, reports that his father is also seriously ill and being denied medical treatment.
Evaluating the true situation of political prisoners remains difficult. The authorities have consistently prevented relatives and human rights lawyers from visiting them. Reports of the torture, abuse and mistreatment of political prisoners creates fear and revulsion in Tajik society. Our Constitution guarantees freedom from torture and inhumane treatment, and the democratic rule of law. Many of us received a secular education and are committed to upholding the values enshrined in the Constitution. But we reject the unjustified persecution of the moderate Islamist opposition in the country. We consider this government-led suppression of legitimate opposition voices through accusations of extremism exceedingly worrying.
We appeal to international human rights organizations to demand that the government of Tajikistan complies with the country’s laws and its international commitment to ensure the safety and uphold the rights of political prisoners. Most importantly, the government of Tajikistan needs to allow human rights lawyers, doctors and relatives to visit these political prisoners and assess their true situation. It is only by allowing such visits that the government of Tajikistan can deny the allegations of torture and inhumane treatment.
Fayziniso Vohidova, lawyer, social activist,
Barzu Abdurazzakov, theater director, playwright
Temur Varki, poet, journalist Ravshan Temourian, journalist, political analyst and Founder of the Society of Tajiks of Canada
Alim Sherzamonov, politician, head Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan department in Badakhshan, Tajikistan
Hakim Rabbimpur, human rights activist and one of the leaders of the Tajik communities of the U.S.
Sayidyunus Istaravshan, university professor, founder of the website “Kimiyo Saodat”
Dariush Rajabian journalist Asadullo Valizoda, political and social activist
Ayub Egamov, social and political activist, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Italy
Muhamadjon Kabirov, Executive director of “Eurasian Dialogue,” political activist