With reports of dozens killed as well as hundreds injured and detained in recent weeks, the Tajik government tried to settle a long-standing conflict in its Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) with forceful and repressive measures in a crackdown that has shocked the remote region.
In the process, Dushanbe has seemingly destroyed any hope of regaining support in GBAO, where the ethnically and culturally distinctive Pamiri people make up the majority of the province’s some 230,000 inhabitants.
“A considerable part of the GBAO population maintained a certain level of loyalty…or at least supported the idea of finding a compromise with Dushanbe,” a Tajik analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, told RFE/RL. “But today the population is in complete shock as many of us hoped for a peaceful solution [and] no one expected such a level of brutality [from the government].”..
…On May 17, a group of residents from Vamar attempted to hold back a military column that was moving to the provincial center.
In response, the army and police opened fire on the crowd, killing dozens. Some who escaped were reportedly shot at from helicopters.
According to the human rights group ADC Memorial, about 40 civilians were killed in the unrest, though many corpses were reportedly thrown into the Panj River.
Anora Sarkorova, a Tajik journalist living in Europe, wrote on Facebook that “Vamar is like Bucha [the town in Ukraine where Russian soldiers are accused of killing civilians]. Corpses everywhere. They’re looking for people. They take them to police stations and the State Committee for National Security and beat them to death.”
Based on the testimony of local witnesses and civic activists, several international human rights organizations, including ADC Memorial, Civil Rights Defenders, Amnesty International, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the World Organization Against Torture, have accused Tajik authorities of blatantly violating basic human rights in Khorugh and Vamar, where cases of the torture of detainees, kidnapping, looting, and the extrajudicial execution of civilians have been reported.
Human rights activists have also called for a thorough investigation into the use of force and the circumstances that led to the deaths and injuries of civilians during the protests in November and May, and for a public report to be made.
The escalating violence in the region also sparked a call for restraint from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres…