Human Rights Watch urged Tajikistan’s authorities to restore internet connectivity in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO, by its Russian acronym), and called on the national government to ensure due process for detained political activists. The trouble in the GBAO began in late November, when the shooting of a local man during an arrest sparked protests in the regional capital, Khorog. Protests calmed several days later, after local authorities vowed to undertake an investigation into the shooting, as well as the deaths of two demonstrators. The government also pledged that it would not prosecute arrested protesters, and would restore internet connectivity—but two months on, it has not done so. The GBAO is the home of the increasingly restive Pamiri ethnic minority, and was recently the scene of Russian-led military maneuvers on the border with Afghanistan. (Map: Wikipedia)
Some 5,000 troops from member states of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) initiated military maneuvers code-named “Echelon-2021” in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan. More than half of the troops involved are Russian. Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, head of the CSTO joint staff, said in a statement: “We pay special attention to the Central Asian region. The situation around the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains the main source of instability.” China is meanwhile said to have taken over an old Soviet outpost in Tajikistan near the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan’s eastern “panhandle,” where the People’s Liberation Army is conducting joint drills with Tajik forces and monitoring the situation on the border. (Map: CIA via PCL Map Collection)
As the US withdraws and the Taliban advance across large stretches of Afghanistan, women are taking up weapons in local militias to defend their villages. In Ghor province, ethnic Hazara women posed for social-media photos wielding rifles and rocket-launchers, pledging to resist by arms a return to “the dark era of Taliban.” With US and NATO forces evacuating Bagram Air Base, prelude to a full withdrawal by September, the Taliban are rapidly seizing territory. Since launching a spring offensive, the Taliban have doubled their area of control, and now hold nearly 100 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts. In retreat, the central government is calling upon civilians to form militias to fight back. (Photo via Twitter)
The armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan clashed at a disputed section of their border, leaving 30 dead and thousands displaced before a ceasefire was declared. The fighting broke out near the strategic Golovnoi water pumping facility, in the Tajik-controlled exclave of Vorukh. Kyrgyz protesters gathered on their side of the de facto border after Tajik authorities installed surveillance cameras at the facility. The two sides began hurling rocks across the line before military troops intervened. The Golovnoi facility pumps water from the Isfara River, a tributary of the Syr Darya, to irrigate agriculture in the area. It is in the Fergana Valley, a small fertile pocket in the arid Central Asia region. Soviet authorities drew the boundaries so that Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan each got a portion of it. However, this meant intricate, twisting borders, and territorial disputes have arisen. Tajik authorities accuse Kyrgyzstan of seeking to seize the Vorukh exclave. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors rejected a complaint filed by exiled Uighurs calling for an investigation of China on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; the People’s Republic of China, like the United States, does not recognize the ICC. But on the question of forcible removal from countries where the ICC does have jurisdiction, the text of the rejection parsed definitions very closely. While acknowledging forced deportations of Uighurs from Tajikistan and Cambodia back to China to face potential internment and persecution, the ICC stated: “Not all conduct which involves the forcible removal of persons from a location necessarily constitutes the crime of forcible transfer or deportation.” (Photo: ETNAM)
Lawyers submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), demanding that an investigation be opened into senior Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed against the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples. The complaint was filed on behalf of the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM). China is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, but the lawyers argue that the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over these crimes because part of the criminal conduct occurred within the territory of two signatory states—Tajikistan and Cambodia. The complaint asserts that Uighur victims have been unlawfully deported to the People’s Republic of China from Tajikistan and Cambodia to face abuses including murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced sterilization, and forced marriages. (Photo: ETNAM)
Recent US raids in Afghanistan have targeted presumed forces of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the supposed Uighur militant network active in China's far-western Xinjiang region. News of the air-strikes in Badakhshan province comes amid reports that China is preparing to establish a military base in the same region of Afghanistan. Badakhshan forms a long panhandle between Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south to reach a border with Chinese territory. (Photo: US troops on patrol in Zabul province; US Army via Flickr)
Voters in Tajikistan approved changes to the constitution allowing President Emomali Rahmon—in office since 1992—to rule indefinitely, as well as expanding his powers.
A former police commander from Tajikistan was featured in an ISIS video boasting that he had been trained by Blackwater in the US under State Department aegis.
A court in Tajikistan sentenced human rights lawyer Sukhrat Kudratov to nine years in prison, in what Amnesty International called "a serious setback for the freedom of expression."
One of Afghanistan’s top airlines has been officially blacklisted by US authorities for allegedly trafficking opium on civilian flights. The Kabul regime is demanding evidence.
Tajikistan sealed its border with Afghanistan after clashes with armed rebels left 48 dead—a re-escalation of conflict over control of the cross-border traffic in Afghan opium.