Authorities in Tajikistan are resorting to repression and intimidation as they try to contain what they view as the Kyrgyz contagion.
A central element to the Tajik government’s strategy appears to be an effort hamper the ability of foreign diplomats and international aid workers to interact with local non-governmental organization activists and independent journalists. On April 14, the Tajik Foreign Ministry announced that foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations must provide prior notice of public contacts with Tajik citizens who are affiliated with political parties, NGOs and mass media outlets.
"Due to recent events in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan’s government has decided to take the situation under control," said Shokirjon Khakimov, deputy head of the Tajik Social-Democratic Party. "Such [actions] are intended to prevent repetition of [revolutionary] events in Tajikistan." Rahmonov is especially keen to keep the lid on dissent these days, given that he will be running for re-election in 2006, Khakimov added.
The diplomatic response to the Foreign Ministry announcement has been generally restrained, with representatives of various embassies using rhetoric seemingly designed to reassure Tajik officials. US diplomats, for example, stressed that long before the announcement of the new rule, the lines of communication between the American Embassy and the Tajik government were open and strong.
Meanwhile, Rahmonov’s administration is clamping down on its domestic political opponents. On April 27, Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov announced that the leader of the Democratic Party, Mahmudruzi Iskandarov, was being held in Dushanbe on charges of engaging in subversive activity.
About a week after his release in Moscow, Iskandarov disappeared from public view. How he ended up in a Dushanbe detention center remains a mystery. Bobokhonov said that authorities arrested Iskandarov on April 22, but provided no details on where he was taken into custody. Some local observers believe that Iskandarov may have been effectively kidnapped in Moscow and returned to Dushanbe.
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