Arbitrary Detention In Tajikistan: Targeting Families Of Political Opponents

On June 25th, in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Asroridden Rozikov was arbitrarily detained by Tajik security forces. Rozikov was targeted for one reason, he is the son of a senior member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRT). The detention is the latest instance of the increasingly coercive tactics employed by President Rahmon to maintain power in Tajikistan. These detentions are clearly an attempt to punish political dissidents and deter future opposition movements. In the last several months, Tajik security forces have arbitrarily detained individuals both within and outside of Tajikistan in a way that grossly contravenes international human rights. The frequency of these detentions indicate a complete disregard for the political freedoms of innocent Tajik civilians and utter contempt for any individual even remotely related to the political opposition.

Hugh Williamson, European and Central Asian Director at Human Rights Watch has described the detention of Rozikov as, “part of intensified efforts by Tajik authorities to spread fear among… government critics and peaceful dissidents.” He goes further to demand that, “Tajik authorities should immediately release Rozikov … and hold those responsible to account.”

Tajik authorities have stated that Rozikov is unharmed. His family was notified that Rozikov was transferred to a detention center on July 1st. Family members have been denied any access to him. The arrest came after Rozikov’s father, refused to denounce the IRT as terrorists.

Rozikov is not the only individual to have been detained arbitrarily. Several family members have been detained and coerced into providing false allegations against the IRT, or other political opponents. Detention of family members is an attempt to silence political dissidents. Not only is this tactic deplorable, it also flouts universal human rights of freedom of association, freedom from political persecution and freedom from arbitrary detention. This blatant attack on political freedom and democracy has been a prevalent component in Rahmon’s regime. Rahmon should release all individuals who have been detained without cause and stop the use of this tactic.

In 2015 Rahmon banned the IRT party, in what was clearly an attempt to remove political opposition. Since, political opponents have been imprisoned in Tajikistan detention, or have fled in self-imposed exile to nearby European countries. ‘Opponents’ include lawyers, perceived critics, and members of the opposition IRT party. At this point, nearly 150 individuals have been imprisoned on politically motivated charges. Restrictions have been further tightened since 2018, and there has been an increase in the arbitrary detention of the family members of political opponents this year. These restrictions may be related to the creation of the National Alliance for Tajikistan (NAT) in 2018. NAT is comprised of several political groups opposed to the Rahmon regime, including the IRT. Opposition efforts have been consistently vulnerable to the tactics employed by the Rahmon regime, including arbitrary detention of innocent family members, and strict control of local media by Tajik authorities.

The future remains uncertain for Tajik’s political opposition. The use of arbitrary detention of innocent family members is deplorable and illegal. It contravenes numerous international human rights and laws. All arbitrarily detained individuals should be released. However, given Rahmon’s involvement in persecuting political opponents, it is likely these detentions will continue without recourse.