According to prominent Tajik opposition leader, Dododjon Atovulloev, at least fifty Badakshan prisoners have been released from Tajik prisons in both Dushanbe and Khujand. His Facebook post reads below:
”From the families of Badakhshan friends, news has been coming continuously since last night that more than 50 prisoners born in Pamir have been released from prisons in Khujand and Dushanbe.
One. I am waiting for the interpretation of the government. Two. Amnesty or Western pressure?
… Just now, when I was writing these lines, one of my dear friends called me crying that his son had been released.
I congratulate those who have reached freedom!”
This announcement comes after U.S. senate calls from early December for Tajik President Rahmon to end brutal crackdowns, especially in the autonomous Gorno-Badakshan region. On December 5th, 2023, U.S. Senator Cardin stressed that “there are persistent reports of arbitrary arrest, denial of judicial due process, as well as acts of violence including torture, assault, and even instances of murder of journalists, political dissidents, as well as community and religious leaders.”
He continued: “The ongoing crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities, their local organizations and leaders, in the Gorno-Badakhshan region, in particular, is especially troubling.”… “[Tajik government] used intimidation and abused judicial procedures to engage in repression against individuals outside of Tajikistan’s borders — also known as transnational repression — targeting political opponents, civil society activists, human rights defenders, and journalists….The United States wants to strengthen its growing partnership with Tajikistan…Bolstering human rights and the rule of law will reap long-lasting benefits for Tajikistan through increased influence, foreign investment, tourism, and trade.”
As this publication reported last year, Tajik authorities launched a large “anti-terror operation” in the autonomous zone which killed more than 20 and arrested many more. The Tajik government has also been arresting the parents of citizens abroad that refuse to return for conscription to the military. The secular Tajik government to a more than 90% majority Sunni Muslim population is also notorious for cracking down on Islamist extremism, using its security apparatus to infiltrate mosques, arrest, and sometimes kill dissidents and accused radicals.
The Tajik government has made no announcement concerning the release and like Atovulloev said, it is not clear if this is due to American pressure.