SUMMARY May 17, 2022: Blockade of Khorugh is continuing

In the morning of May 17, 2022, crowds of people were still protesting in the neighborhoods and security forces were continuing to paralyze public life, probably intending to avoid people gathering for a central protest event in the city center. The main roads and bridges within the town, as well as the roads connecting Khorugh with the surrounding districts and Dushanbe were blocked by military. Schools and public entities were closed and the internet connection continued to be disabled.
In the afternoon of May 17, 2022, Pamir Daily News reported that a convoy of military vehicles was moving from Dushanbe in direction of Khorugh. According to a source of political scientist Andrey Serenko, local youth was blocking the road in Vomar (Rushan district, GBAO) and preventing the military convoy from passing by in the afternoon of May 17, 2022.
In a press release published by the Ministry of the Interior, the renowned journalist and civil rights activist Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva and the exiled oppositional politician Alim Sherzamonov were blamed for organizing the demonstration on May 16, 2022. In a call to the international community, diaspora civil society activists from GBAO deemed this a "false allegation" and warned of Mamadshoeva being "in imminent danger of arrest, which is likely to result in lengthy imprisonment". In the afternoon of May 17, 2022, several journalists in Dushanbe were attacked by unknown persons after interviewing Mamadshoeva. The assailants beat one of them and robbed their technical equipment.

News portal Asia-Plus refrains from reporting comprehensively about events in GBAO due to pressure

The newspaper and news portal Asia-Plus, the most important among the few independent media outlets in Tajikistan, published an announcement on May 17, 2022, according to which it would refrain from reporting comprehensively about events in GBAO.
In their announcement, the editorial board admitted having received warnings from the public prosecutor and other state organs criticising that the coverage of events in GBAO was one-sided and contributed to destabilising the country, and threatening the media outlet with close-down in case this was not corrected.

SUMMARY May 16, 2022: Clashes between security forces and protesters in Khorugh, at least one civilian killed by security forces

In the evening of May 16, 2022, when protesters were marching from Barkhorugh (Northeastern Khorugh) to the main square in the city center of Khorugh, security forces blocked the road in Chinak and started firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Videos of the protesting crowd and of the shooting are available online.
The same day, security forces also fired live ammunition, leading to the death of Zamir Nazarshoev, as reported by Pamir Daily News and Radio Ozodi. Another Radio Ozodi article clarifieds that the killing of Nazarshoev did not happen in the context of the clashes in Chinak but in the city center. The article quotes the Ministry of the Interior which blames Nazarshoev for being armed and attacking police officers. According to unconfirmed rumours, however, he was shot by soldiers after throwing a stone at them and/or addressing them verbally. A source of political scientist Andrey Serenko reports that Nazarshoev was shot by a sniper without any provocation.
Subsequently, the internet connection in Khorugh was disabled and the main roads and bridges were blocked by military. Nevertheless, crowds gathered in various neighborhoods of Khorugh and tried to reach the city centre.
In response to ongoing repression and lacking responsiveness of the authorities, an assembly of GBAO residents on May 14, 2022, had agreed on demands to the authorities and announced public protests from May 16, 2022, onward if these demands were not fulfilled. In response, the authorities had tried to explore chances for negotiations but also reinforced the security forces, displayed armoured vehicles and threatened potential protesters with punishment.
On May 16, 2022, Pamir Daily News published a plea by diaspora civil society activists from GBAO to the international community. For information on the history of the conflict in GBAO, in particular the events since November 2021, please see the Roof-top Info background information document.

Assembly of GBAO residents demands dismissal of Governor and the release of prisoners arrested in connection with November 2021 protests

According to Pamir Daily News, more than 1,000 people from Khorugh and the surrounding districts gathered on May 14, 2022, to agree on demands to the authorities. They requested the dismissal of the GBAO Governor and the release of those who had been arrested in connection with their participation in the November 2021 protests. They announced public protests from May 16, 2022, onward in case these demands were not met by the authorities. The following day, Pamir Daily News published the text of an appeal with more detailed demands.
The authorities have launched efforts to prevent residents from gathering for protest events. The GBAO public prosecutor threatened has threatened potential protesters with punishment.

UN experts criticise "disregard of the Pamiri minority grievances" and "securitization" of GBAO

On April 20, 2022, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a press release about an expert assessment of the situation in GBAO.
According to the press release, the experts stated: "Disregard of the Pamiri minority grievances by Tajik authorities and the securitization of the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region where they live could lead to a violent conflict if unaddressed." They requested the Tajikistani authorities to "respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression" and urged them to "immediately implement conflict-prevention measures that meet international human rights standards".

Amriddin Avolatshoev sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in a half-day trial

On April 29, 2022, Amriddin Avolatshoev was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, according to a Radio Ozodi article. Avolatshoev is a prominent community organizer among the Tajik diaspora from GBAO in Russia and was one of the main organizers of the demonstration in front of the Embassy of Tajikistan in Moscow in solidarity of the protest in Khorugh in November 2021. He was arrested in Russia on January 11, 2021, extradicted to Tajikistan and forcibly disappeared. The Civil Society Coalition Against Torture and Impunity in Tajikistan and Human Rights Watch raised concerns regarding the risk of torture and a doubted a fair trial.
According to the Radio Ozodi article, Avolatshoev was convicted of alleged hostage-taking in a half-day trial to which his family had no access. His lawyers were informed late about the upcoming trial.

Internet connection is restored in Gorno Badakhshan

On March 21, 2022, internet connection was restored in Khorog and other parts of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
Internet access had been blocked for four months since November 25, 2021, allegedly "with the purpose to maintain clean information space in the region" and with dramatically negative effects on education, business and social life in the region.

Arbitrary and intimidating arrests in Khorugh

According to a source of Russian political scientist Andrey Serenko, in recent days more than eight individuals have been arrested by police when walking in the streets of Khorugh at nighttime, subjected to torture and forced to record video statements. The source assumes that this serves the purpose of intimidating local youth and detering them from holding night vigils.
Apart from that, Serenko quotes a source according to which GBAO Governor Alisher Mirzonabot had ordered security forces to continue the pressure on public opinion and civil society in GBAO.
Radio Ozodi reported on March 11, 2022, that Iftikhor Saidbekov had been arrested and beaten by police in Khorugh. He is one of the civil society representatives (so-called "Group of 44") who were tasked to monitor the investigations into the killing of Gulbiddin Ziyobekov in Tavdem and protesters in Khorugh on November 25, 2021.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses human rights situation in GBAO

In her oral update to the UN human rights council on the activities of her Office and recent human rights developments on March 7, 2022, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, addressed the human rights situation in Tajikistan: "In Tajikistan, crackdowns continue against the political opposition. Increasing numbers of members of opposition groups have received long-term prison sentences, in trials that failed to comply with due process standards."
Apart from this general assessment, she specifically highlighted the situation in GBAO: "Violence between security forces and demonstrators in November 2021 in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region has also significantly undermined the human rights situation in the area, creating an environment of fear and repression. I deplore the continued internet shutdown in the region; such shutdowns clearly violate human rights."

Unknown people attempt unsuccessfully to stop Mamadbokir Mamadbokirov's car in Khorugh

According to Radio Ozodi, Pamir Daily News and sources of Russian political scientist Andrey Serenko, unknown people in civilian clothes attempted to stop the car of Mamadbokir Mamadbokirov in the city center of Khorugh in the morning of March 4, 2022, and fired gunshots. It is unclear whether shots were fired into the air or targeted at the car. Radio Ozodi reports that Mamadbokirov has been lightly injured in the right hand.
Mamadbokirov is a former field commander of the United Tajik Opposition and a controversial figure in Khorugh (see background information document). In January and February 2022, Tajikistani security forces had demanded his surrender and threatened to conduct a military operation against him. The days before March 4, 2022, the conflict seemed to have been frozen.