Once fractured Tajik opposition has joined forces in Warsaw to challenge the regime in Dushanbe. Early September 2018, an opposition coalition of four Tajik dissident parties and organisations (the Forum of Tajik Freethinkers, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), the Association of Central Asian Migrants, and the People’s Movement “Reforms and Development in Tajikistan) formed an alliance to fight the regime from the outside.
But is the political mobilization strong enough to resonate in their native Tajikistan?
Outside of this geographically challenging and historically conflict-ridden state (ed. from 1992 to 1997, Tajikistan was shattered by a deadly civil war), the stories of dissidents rarely receive international attention. The regime, already shaken by the 2012 Uprising in Khorog and the Islamic State threat, is determined to silence dissenting voices outside the country, and to overthrow foes as fast as they show up.
In Russia, several members of the dissident movement Group 24 had been detained, kidnapped or extradited to Tajikistan. In Turkey, a founder of the group was killed and his family poisoned.
Steve Swerdlow from Human Rights Watch said that the level of surveillance and activity of security services in post-Soviet republics is very high.
This case dramatizes the issue of human rights abuse in Tajikistan.
The disappearance of a young political activist Ehson Odinayev, 24, has become a symbol of a long harrowing nightmare. For several months, the Tajik KGB was on a Kafkaesque hunt after Odinayev for his ‘extremist’ social media posts. He was charged with ‘cyberterrorism’. Odinayev vanished without a trace on May 19, 2015.
The regime visited vengeance on the dissidents also outside of Russia.
In March 2015 in Istanbul, the leader of Group 24 Umarali Quvvatov was gunned down, and his family members poisoned. Shabnam Khudaidodova suffered brutal torture after she was detained in Belarus. Only enormous pressure from human rights organizations- including appeals from Human Rights Watch- saved her from extradition. Or from disappearance.
International organizations, admittedly, have few appealing options for stopping the repressions. Denunciations from Human Rights, Freedom House or Amnesty International have failed to affect the government’s position on dissidents. And placing economic sanctions would only aggravate an already charged situation, and drive the authoritarian ruler further in the arms of Russia and/ or China.
So far there is not much sign of the fresh dawn for any major change for the downfall of the out-of-touch autocrats.