Tajikistan’s Human Rights Crisis: Responses to Dushanbe’s Political Crackdown | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Tajikistan’s Human Rights Crisis: Responses to Dushanbe’s Political Crackdown

Tajikistan’s Human Rights Crisis: Responses to Dushanbe’s Political Crackdown

NHC co-organises a OSCE/HDIM side-event at Hotel Sofitel, Warsaw
Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 1-2:45pm
Sponsored by Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Tajikistan’s human rights situation has deteriorated precipitously over the past two years amid an ongoing crackdown on the freedoms of expression and religion, censorship of the internet, and aggressive attempts to jail all political opposition. Following violent skirmishes in September 2015 between Tajik government forces and alleged militants that made worldwide headlines, President Rahmon stepped up his campaign against the political opposition, ordering the closure of Central Asia’s only legally registered Islamic political party—the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT)—arresting over 150 of its members, and declaring the IRPT a terrorist organization. At the same time, political opponents abroad, including from the opposition “Group 24,” have been faced with extraditions, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, and even assassinations in Russia, Turkey, and other neighboring states. The crisis continues to expand rapidly with a mass exodus of political activists from the country, and the arrests of prominent lawyers, journalists, and others in civil society.

This event will feature a discussion on responses to Tajikistan’s political crackdown and the premiere of a film about Tajikistan’s human rights crisis. The speakers will provide fresh perspectives and field research about Tajikistan’s current crisis. They will also offer recommendations for policy responses by the US government, EU, and other international partners. The round table will be led by representatives of Tajikistan’s embattled civil society as well as experts on the human rights, political, and religious context.

Speaker Biographies 

Nadejda Atayeva, president, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. Nadejda Atayeva is the president and founder of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. For the last 14 years, she has been monitoring the human rights situation in Central Asia, and in particular, in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and in South Kyrgyzstan. For more than ten years she has been coordinating a programme defending the rights of refugees who are often victims of modern forms of slavery, torture, extra-territorial repression and the abuse of Interpol.

Earlier, from May 2004 to 2006, Miss Ataeva was working together with the human rights organization “Mothers against Death Penalty and Torture”. From 1998 to 2000 she conducted investigations on the subject of observation of human rights in the private sector of Uzbekistan. From 1987 to 1996, Miss Ataeva was active as a journalist, publishing materials in publications like “Interfax”, “Eastern Pravda/Pravda Vostoka”, “Tashkent Pravda”, “Pioneer of the East/Pioner Vostoka” “The Tractor Manufacturer/Traktorostroitel'” and “Syrdarynskaya Pravdy”.

Marius Fossum, Central Asia Representative for Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Marius Fossum is the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Regional Representative in Central Asia. He has headed the NHC Representative Office in Almaty since April 2015, where he is working on a wide range of human rights issues in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Prior to joining the NHC, Fossum gained experience working in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. He holds a master's degree in Russian language.

Shabnam Khudoydodova is an independent civil society activist from Tajikistan. Formerly a part of the “Group 24” opposition movement, Khudoydodova was targeted by Tajik authorities for extradition while residing in Russia in retaliation for her peaceful opposition political activism on the internet. She spent over eight months detained in Belarus due to false extremism charges and an Interpol “red notice” due to her political work and was released in February 2016.

Vaisiddin Odinaev is an independent civil society activist who engaged in peaceful online activism in support of democratic reforms in Tajikistan. In May 2015 Vaisiddin’s brother, Ehson Odinaev, who was also active in the Group 23 opposition movement, disappeared in St. Petersburg after leaving his apartment and has not been heard or seen from since.

Steve Swerdlow, esq. is a Central Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch, where he investigates and advocates on a wide range of issues in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the post-Soviet region. An attorney with more than fifteen years of experience working on human rights and refugee issues in the former Soviet Union, Swerdlow has headed Human Rights Watch’s Central Asia office in Bishkek, and worked earlier with the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews, the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the International Organization for Migration (IOM in Russia, and the San Francisco-based law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. Swerdlow’s scholarly work has focused on human and minority rights in the former Soviet Union, including the plight of the deported Meskhetian Turks.

Sobir Valiev is a member of Group 24, and the deputy head of the Congress of Constructive Forces of Tajikistan. After the killing of Umarali Kuvvatov in March 2015, Valiev fled Turkey for safety. He was later detained on trumped up charges of extremism by migration police in Chisinau, Moldova.

Ilhomjon Yakubov, was the Soghd regional representative of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) until June 2015 when Tajik authorities’ use of ill-treatment and pressure on IRPT leaders prompted him to flee the country. The party was forced to shut down in late August 2015 and then declared a terrorist organization in September.