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Rare Protest Flares in Gorno-Badakhshan

Bordering Afghanistan and China, the Tajik region jealously guards its relative independence from the central government.

8 November 2018

Residents of Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) protested against increased security measures in the area on 6 November after an incident in which a police officer fired on three local men.

 

Although no more than a few hundred people at most attended, even a protest of this size is notable given the level of repression in Tajikistan, Eurasianet.org comments.

 

GBAO governor Yodgor Faizov met the protesters and promised to investigate the incident, RFE/RL reports.

 

The current restiveness stems from an outburst by Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon two months ago, when he lashed out at security officials for being unable to stem criminality during a visit to the regional center, Khorog.

 

Since then, security has been tightened and numerous checkpoints set up to “keep tabs on the movements of the region’s relatively small population,” Eurasianet says.

 

One result of Rahmon’s visit was the replacement of the regional governor by Faizov.

 

The region is home to the Pamiri people, many of whom, like Faizov, belong to the Shiite Ismaili sect, headed by a wealthy philanthropist, the Aga Khan.

 

Bordering Afghanistan to the south and China to the east, the region’s poverty and remoteness belies its strategic importance. Periodic waves of unrest have swept GBAO since the end of the Tajik civil war in the mid-1990s, when the Pamiri minority fought for the region’s autonomy.

 

The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region is shown on the map highlighted in red. Image via TUBS/Wikimedia Commons.

 

Proximity to Afghanistan makes the region of strategic interest to China and Russia, which maintains a large military presence in Tajikistan.

 

In August, shortly after four Western cyclists were murdered by alleged Islamist radicals, the Tajikistani military reportedly launched an air strike on suspected Taliban drug smugglers in response to the killing of two Tajikistani officials, the Kyrgyzstan-based AKI news service reported.

 

 

  • China is building a military training camp in the GBAO, sources have told the South China Morning Post. A similar report ran in the Russia-based Ferghana news site, although Chinese officials have denied any plans for a military base, The Diplomat wrote in August, saying that in any case security ties between Beijing and Dushanbe are growing.

 

  • Several days of riots and clashes broke out in the region in 2014, two years after the worst violence since the civil war led to dozens of fatalities as security forces clashed with local drug gangs – probably the same criminals Rahmon recently said were running rampant, Eurasianet wrote last month.

 

  • In addition to replacing the governor, Rahmon also fired regional judges, police chiefs and two district heads. Last month he indicated that stronger security measures could be adopted in the GBAO if he was dissatisfied with the results of the security clampdown, Asia-Plus reported

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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