Human rights defenders draw the attention of the UN Human Rights structures to the problem of new wave of the violations of the Pamiris rights in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast of Tajikistan.
In late November 2021 in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Tajikistan (GBAO), populated mostly by Pamiris – an ethnic and religious minority happened mass protests against arbitrary actions taken by the security structures, while the authorities’ rejected to participate in any dialogue with the locals. The authorities reacted by shutting down the internet and mobile communications, ramping up the military presence in the region, blocking roads, increasing the number of checkpoints, and publishing more agitational materials in the media.
The disconnection of communications is having a highly detrimental effect on life in GBAO. Individuals and business organizations are not able to make payments, withdraw cash from ATMs, or send reports to tax and other state agencies. The blackout of mobile communications in a region with extreme living conditions (high altitude, wintertime, far from medical centers) during the COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to the fundamental rights of the area’s population. Violation of the right to education caused by the communications shutdown is of particular concern.
It is possible that the excessive use of emergency measures will create risks for conflicts which, if manipulated, could become inter-ethnic in nature. The situation in GBAO requires a response from international bodies, and the authorities in the country should focus on providing economic and cultural support for the region, avoiding repressive measures, and preventing discrimination and violations of the law.
These risks became higher because of the crisis in Kazakhstan (January 2022), when a wave of violence in the country gave the heads of state of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) countries a reason to react with force by bringing an international military contingent into Kazakhstan.
The situation in the GBAO of Tajikistan needs to be responded by the UN human rights structures. The Tajik authorities must urgently restore mobile communications and ensure reliable internet access in all GBAO districts. Special attention should be paid to ensuring the rights to education and medical care. An effective dialogue must be established between the authorities and the population, and there must be a transparent, effective, and speedy investigation into the circumstances under which people perished during the protests and security operations.