Tajikistan eyes total control of troubled east

Monday, Jun 20, 2022

ALMATY, Kazakhstan: Tajikistan’s mountainous province of Gorno-Badakhshan is home to a rickety highway that is among the world’s great road adventures.

But the region famed for its lunar landscapes and verdant valleys has a darker side. In recent weeks, Tajikistan’s authoritarian government has cracked down hard on the restive region, which borders China and Afghanistan, and which tried to break away from Dushanbe in 1992.

At least 17 people were killed and over 200 arrested during what the authorities call "an anti-terror operation", with a communications blackout limiting information coming out of the region.

Critics, however, argue that the real aim of the crackdown is to crush local leaders, who in the past have resisted veteran President Emomali Rakhmon’s rule. State information bulletins have trumpeted the operation as a success.

On Friday the state information service Khovar said that "12 leaders of organized criminal groups" had been detained during the operation and 16 people "neutralised" after resisting arrest.

"The activities of organised terrorist groups on the territory of Badakhshan have been completely stopped," the service reported. Authorities had said in May that one member of the security services was killed during fighting.

Raids in the region known by its Russian-language acronym GBAO followed anti-government protests in May and triggered a joint statement of "deep concern" from the United States, France, Britain and Germany.