Tajikistan: Authorities disperse antigovernment march in Gorno-Badakhshan Region


DUSHANBE — Law enforcement authorities in Tajikistan’s volatile Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) on May 16 fired rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters calling for the resignation of political leaders in the region, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported.

One person died and three were injured, according to sources quoted by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service (Radio Ozodi). Authorities did not comment on the information or on the situation in the region’s capital, Khorugh.

Mamadbokir Mamadbokirov, an informal leader of GBAO, confirmed the death of one person. The individual died as law enforcement officers moved to disperse a march headed to regional administration buildings, three sources told Radio Ozodi.

A large group of youths began the march after authorities in GBAO refused to consider the resignation of the head of the region, Alisher Mirzonabot, the mayor of Khorugh, and other officials.

Video footage sent to Radio Ozodi on May 16 shows law enforcement officers using rubber bullets and tear gas against participants. Two sources in Khorugh confirmed to Radio Ozodi that three people were injured and were taken to the hospital.

Badakhshan TV broadcast a speech by the prosecutor of GBAO, who called on the population not to join the protesters, threatening criminal punishment for those who do.

Parviz Orifzoda said that Mamadbokirov was one of the organizers of a protest held two days earlier along with Alim Sherzamonov, the deputy head of the National Alliance of Tajikistan (NAT), which is banned in the country.

Orifzoda said they called on people to riot and undermine security.

Mamadbokirov told Radio Ozodi that the demands of the protesters remain unchanged. He said many residents remained on the street after nightfall, adding that about 100 people took part in the protest.

The situation in GBAO has been tense since November 25 when security forces fatally wounded Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, a local man wanted on charges of kidnapping.

After the incident, thousands of people gathered in the central square in Khorugh. The rallies continued for four days as protesters called for those responsible for killing Ziyobekov to be brought to justice, the resignation of the Mirzonabot, the withdrawal of the military from Khorugh, and the restoration of Internet communications in the region.

The authorities promised to meet the demands and pledged not hold the protesters accountable if they left the square. The rallies ended on November 28, but according to members of a commission created by civil activists, the investigation into the killing of Ziyobekov has not been completed.