NHC active at HDIM 2016
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was active at this years Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), which took place in Warsaw 19-30 September. Photo: OSCE/Piotr Markowski.
On September 21 the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) together with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), hosted a side event entitled “Tajikistan’s Human Rights Crisis: Responses to Dushanbe’s Political Crackdown”, the groups showed a new short film about the current crisis in Tajikistan, recorded by the NHC and HRW this summer. The seven minute film “Tajikistan: Hunting Critics Home and Abroad”, tells the stories of several Tajik activists and how they have been persecuted by the regime both inside Tajikistan and in other countries.
Speakers from the NHC, HRW and AHRCA described the deterioration of human rights taking place amidst the current crisis in Tajikistan, and called on democratic countries to impose adequate responses to the continuing crackdown, including targeted sanctions against government officials involved in gross rights violations. Speaking at the event were also several Tajik activists, among them Shabnam Khudoydodova and Sobir Valiev, who shared their personal stories, highlighting the long reach of the Tajik authorities, persecuting critics and their relatives home and abroad.
After the première of the film and the presentations a lively debate ensued between the speakers, attending activists, journalists and others and Tajik government officials.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Europe's largest annual human rights and democracy conference, is organized every year by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a platform where 57 OSCE participating States and OSCE structures meet civil society to take stock of the implementation of the human dimension commitments. Here, civil society can challenge states and institutions, discuss problems in the field of democracy and human rights, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvements.
NHC interventions at HDIM 2016
Retaliation against speakers and activists
Numerous Tajik civil society activists were present at this year’s HDIM, many of them actively taking part in the side event hosted by NHC and HRW, and some were participating at speakers. Tajik activists also held a silent protest at the opening session of HDIM on September 19, and some gave presentations about the current crackdown at the plenary sessions. Following the silent protest, the presentations and the activists’ presence at NHC’s and HRW’s side event, the authorities in Tajikistan immediately retaliated against the families of several of these activists. On the second day of HDIM, the security services detained and intimidated around 30 relatives of those who had participated in the silent protest.
On the day following the side event hosted by the NHC and HRW large crowds descended upon the family homes of activists who spoke at the event and participated in the film. In Kulob, an angry crowd appeared outside the family home of Ms. Khudoydodova. Members of the crowd threatened to burn the house down, and shouted verbal abuse, depicting Ms. Khudoydodova as a terrorist and traitor. The crowd also threw rocks at the house, and some individuals broke into the home and roughed up several of Shabnam Khudoydodova’s relatives, calling them terrorists. A crowd also gathered in the school of Khudoydodova’s daughter; they taunted her and verbally abused the nine year old girl for being the daughter of a “terrorist”.
Similar scenes also unfolded in Khujand, where a crowd of more than 200 people appeared outside the family home of Ilkhomjob Yakubov. The “demonstrators” chanted that Mr. Yakubov is a traitor, terrorist and enemy of the people. Some members of the crowd tried to break into the house where Yakubov’s mother was. The crowd returned to Yakubov’s mother’s house the next day, and one crowd appeared outside the house of his sister as well. According to eyewitness accounts, members of the security services were among the crowd.
Two speakers at the event angry crowds of above 200 people appeared outside the family homes of Ilkhomjon Yakubov in Khujand and Shabnam Khudoydodova in Kulob. They had both spoken at the side event and appeared in the film. The crowds were threatening and shouted verbal abuse, depicting Mr. Yakubov and Ms. Khudoydodova as traitors and terrorists. Witnesses said that the members of the crowds threw rocks at the houses of both families; at one point several individuals broke into the Khudoydodova family home and roughed up several of her relatives. A different crowd also emerged on the school of Ms. Khudoydodova’s nine year old daughter, taunted her and verbally abused her for being the daughter of an enemy of the people of Tajikistan.