Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Home » Tajikistan: Who Killed the Pamiris?

Tajikistan: Who Killed the Pamiris?

by Okropir Undiladze
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Dubai/Astana (10 June – 60). The Pamiris are an ethnic minority group in Tajikistan, culturally distinct from the majority Tajik population. They have faced persecution and discrimination in their mountain homeland bordering Afghanistan that some experts say amounts to ethnic cleansing and even genocide. One of the lead persecutors is Ministry of Internal Affairs “Maj. Gen.” Shorukh Syedzada, a former football team manager with no law enforcement experience and a confidante of the president’s son and heir designate.

The Pamiris continue to be marginalized and oppressed by the authorities. As a result, many Pamiris have been forced to flee their homeland in search of safety and refuge, facing the risk of imprisonment or even death if they remain.  Tajikistan’s notorious jails are filled with thousands of Pamiri men and youth, and even women, arrested on trumped up charges by Syedzada who heads the Criminal Investigation Department at the ministry, and responsible for joint operations with the Russian, Turkish, Polish and German intelligence to forcefully detain and return to Tajikistan individuals charged with “terrorism.”

Despite their plight, the Pamiri community remains little-known to the outside world, making it challenging for them to garner support or recognition for their struggles.  The MIA actively works for foreign security services, including those of China, Russia, and Europe, to depict Pamiri civil society leaders as “gangsters” and “terrorists,” justifying their arrests, and killings.

Despite the undeniable existence of the Pamiri community as a distinct ethnic minority in Tajikistan, the denial of their identity by Tajikistan’s justice minister is deeply concerning.

This denial not only perpetuates the marginalization and discrimination faced by the Pamiris but also hinders efforts to address their plight and ensure their rights are protected.

The violent suppression of Pamiri peaceful protests in towns like Rushan and Khorog by Tajik authorities in May 2022, that resulted in the torture and killings of dozens, and imprisonment of hundreds,underscores the ongoing challenges faced by the Pamiri people, driving many to flee their homeland in search of safety and refuge. The journey to find asylum is fraught with hardship and danger, with many experiencing mistreatment and facing significant barriers to secure protection in other countries.

Left to Right:  GKNB Chairman Saymumin Yatimov, Minister of Internal Affairs Ramazon Rahimzoda, Rusam Emomali – son of the president, Shorukh Syedzada, President Rahmon.

Human rights organizations are calling on the international community to recognize and address the persecution faced by the Pamiris, advocating for their rights and providing support to those who have been forced to flee their homes to countries like Germany, Poland and Turkey. Pamiri organizations in Europe say that it is essential to ensure that they are afforded the protections guaranteed under international law, including the right to seek asylum without fear of reprisal or mistreatment.

The reported cases of disappearances of Tajik citizens from Russia and Turkey raise serious concerns about the safety and rights of individuals within the Pamiri community and beyond. Recently, Pamiris and non-Pamiri Tajiks have been forcefully deported from Germany, Poland, Russia, and Turkey back to Tajikistan, where, according to sources, they face immediate torture by both the Ministry of Internal Affairs as well as the GKNB intelligence service.  Survivors of the tortures report that top MIA and GKNB officers, including Syedzada and GKNB chairman Saymumin Yatimov, participate in the interrogations, and directly threaten prisoners.

Pamiri exile leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, urge Western governments to provide support and protection to those at risk of persecution, including offering avenues for asylum and resettlement for those who seek refuge from such oppressive conditions in Tajikistan. Additionally, they call for diplomatic pressure to be exerted on Tajikistan to respect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or political affiliations.

‘We all want to go home’

Pamiri witnesses who escaped to the West paint a harrowing picture of the challenges faced they faced as they fled persecution in Tajikistan.

One Pamiri’s journey to freedom was marked by violence and mistreatment at the hands of border guards in multiple countries, where he was threatened with forceful return to his homeland, thus underscoring the desperation and danger faced by those seeking refuge. Despite reaching Germany, he continues to live in fear of extradition back to Tajikistan, where he risks torture and dreadful prison conditions.

Another Pamiri refugee witness has described how his family was torn apart by the consequences of their involvement in the peaceful 2022 Khorog protests. The imprisonment of his brother for “unlawful social media activity” and the subsequent death of their father underlines the devastating toll of persecution on individuals and families within the Pamiri community. His mother’s plight, unable to visit her imprisoned son and grieving the loss of her husband, highlights the profound impact of state-sponsored persecution on the lives of innocent civilians.

While there has been some international criticism of Tajikistan’s actions, Pamiri civil society leaders say that much more needs to be done to hold the authorities accountable and to ensure the protection of Pamiri rights. They believe that it is essential that Tajikistan’s international trade partners and diplomatic allies prioritize the issue of Pamiri persecution in their engagements with the country, pushing for recognition of the Pamiri community’s civil rights – including the freedom of religion and the use of their native languages — and advocating for an end to repression and discrimination.

In the interim, the Pamiri leaders in exile call for neighbouring countries like Russia to provide support and refuge to those fleeing Tajikistan in search of safety. They note that EU member states, as well as countries such as the US, have a responsibility to recognize the plight of the Pamiri minority and offer asylum to those unable to live in their homeland without fear of persecution.

Ultimately, the Pamiri leaders believe that the fundamental long-term goal must be to persuade the Tajikistan authorities to recognize the existence of the Pamiris, cease their repression, and grant them equal rights and protections under the law. Only through concerted international pressure and solidarity can meaningful change be achieved for the Pamiri community and other marginalized groups in Tajikistan.

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