Ladies and gentlemen!
We have to admit with regret that there is no longer a civil society — in the sense in which we understand it — in our country, Tajikistan. After mass crackdown in 2015, when the authorities outlawed the IRPT, the largest opposition party in the country, shut down dozens of independent media outlets and organizations, the country’s civil society was in a halfdead state until this year.
Some organizations and public activists were allowed to speak about cultural, social and other issues except political ones. For example, no one dared to speak on the issue of political prisoners, pressures on the relatives of the dissidents or to criticise the authorities. It’s safe to say that between the government and some public organizations and activists there was an unwritten agreement on which topics they can speak about and which cannot.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
However, the situation has changed dramatically this year. The government did not tolerate even this controlled and halfdead civil society, which indicates that our country has reached the highest point of authoritarianism. This year we witnessed three tragic events against the country’s civil society:
Mass killings of the Pamiri minority in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, which caused the death of about 50 unarmed and innocent civilians during a military operation to suppress protesters.
Hundreds of civil society activists in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, including lawyers, journalists and social activists, were arrested or fled the country.
At least 10 journalists and bloggers have been arrested on trumped-up charges for doing their jobs, some face lengthy prison time.
There are still some organizations and individuals operating in the country who, at great risk to their lives and freedom, are trying to prevent the authorities from drowning out even the last voices. However, they are no longer like voices, but rather quiet murmur which is no longer heard in the capitals and international community.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The crackdown on civil society in countries such as Russia, Belarus and Tajikistan is not the result of a short-term policy of the authorities. The signs have been visible for a long time, and we, representatives of the opposition groups and civil society of these countries, have repeatedly warned about this and called on the international community and the world to take serious steps to prevent it. However, the international community has spent a lot of time and effort in dialogue and cooperation with these unchangeable regimes. As a result, we have what we have today in Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan and other similar countries.
We should not forget that long-lasting repressive governments already have a lot of experience in turning dialogue with democratic countries into a long process of “talks about nothing” and ultimately maximizing the benefits to consolidate their power. As a result of these constant dialogues about “the situation with human rights, democratization and civil society”, the situation did not improve, but on the contrary, as in the case of our country, worsened significantly.
The time has come for the international community to reconsider their policy towards these countries, as dialogue without progress and results with governments only harms civil society and benefits repressive and dictatorial governments.
Thank you for your attention!
Muhyiddin Kabiri at the OSCE/ODIHR conference, 09/27/2022. Warsaw