Tajikistan’s authoritarian government has been accused of using electricity as leverage against its political opponents after officials allegedly cut off power to the family homes of several opposition figures.
At least four families — the parents of self-exiled opposition activists — claimed in recent days that officials have disconnected electricity lines to their homes. They say officials explicitly told them the measures were taken because of their children’s criticism of the Tajik government.
The moves come as Dushanbe intensified pressure on the relatives of the self-exiled activists after opposition supporters held a protest during President Emomali Rahmon’s visit to Germany last month and threw eggs at his car.
In the southern district of Farkhor, 72-year-old Oyishamo Abdulloeva says the electricians who cut the electricity lines to her house said that they were doing so on the order of officials.
“I asked the electricians why they were cutting the electricity to my house even though I pay the bills regularly,” Abdulloeva told RFE/RL. “They said ‘there is an order from authorities [to cut your power lines] because your son criticized the Tajik president in Germany.’”
Abdulloeva is the mother of Sharoffidin Gadoev, a former leader of the Group 24 opposition movement, who took part in opposition protests during Rahmon’s September 28-29 trip to Berlin.
Gadoev, who lives in the Netherlands, has also established the Movement for Reforms and Development of Tajikistan and co-founded the National Alliance, a coalition of opposition groups abroad.
The Berlin demonstration was organized by Group 24 and the National Alliance.
‘Instructions From The Government’
Gadoev’s elderly mother and dozens of other relatives of European-based activists were detained and interrogated by Tajik authorities following the protests.
“My son is 38-years old and I am not responsible for what he says,” Gadoev’s mother told RFE/RL, speaking by phone from Farkhor.
In the neighboring Vose district, local resident Oyisha Mirzoeva, the stepmother of Group 24 leader Suhrob Zafar, said three electricians visited her house in Kaduchi village on October 12 to disconnect the power lines.
“The head of the district electricity company was among them, too. I asked him if I had any debt in electricity bills as the reason they were cutting my lines, but he said ‘no,’” Mirzoeva said. “They told me they had instructions from the government [to cut off the power lines to my house] and that if I had any objections, I should talk to the authorities myself.”
In addition Farhod Odinaev, a European-based Tajik opposition activist who took part in the Berlin protest, said his elderly mother in Tajikistan was also left without electricity.
Electricians escorted by police entered the family house in the Hisor district on the outskirts of Dushanbe on October 13 and disconnected the power lines, Odinaev, 47, claimed.
RFE/RL contacted officials for comment in each case but didn’t receive any responses.
Human Rights Watch recorded at least 47 cases of Tajik police detaining the relatives of self-exiled activists following the anti-Rahmon protests in Berlin.
“The detainees — including elderly grandparents and children ranging between an 81-year-old man and a one-and-a-half-year-old child — were apprehended without explanation and reportedly subjected to ill-treatment, threats, blackmail, and insults,” the rights watchdog said in a report on October 6.
Authorities in Tajikistan, an impoverished Central Asian nation of some 10 million, show no tolerance for dissent. The government has banned all major opposition parties and forced their leaders and activists into self-exile while continuing to target them outside the country.
Dozens of opposition members who have left for Europe are wanted by Tajik officials on dubious charges usually related to terrorism and extremism.
In 2019, Gadoev accused Tajik officials of kidnapping him during a trip to Moscow and forcibly taking him to Dushanbe. He eventually returned to Europe with the help of Western countries.
Odinaev was detained in Belarus in 2019 at the request of Tajikistan and spent 43 days in jail before being released.
Group-24 founder Umarali Quvatov was shot dead in Istanbul in 2015. Quvatov’s slaying drew comparisons to the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, which happened just days before the Group-24 leader’s murder.