Kyrgyzstan’s security services detained the wife of a Tajik opposition figure over the weekend, sparking concern that governments in the region are collaborating to silence one another’s political opponents.
The State Committee for National Security (GKNB) detained Sobir Valiev’s wife, Janet Khamzaeva, for questioning in Bishkek on October 2 in relation to alleged offenses committed by Valiev.
The GKNB said in a statement on October 3 that Valiev had obtained a Kyrgyz passport illegally. Khamzaeva was released close to midnight on condition she remain in the country, according to Kylym Shamy, a rights group coordinating over her case.
The GKNB stated that there was international arrest warrant pending for Valiev, who currently resides in Poland, in relations to charges of “carrying out criminal acts” in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan has in recent years made ample use of Interpol to pursue its political foes, with the leader of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Muhiddin Kabiri, the most prominent among recent additions to the international policing body’s Tajikistan list of wanted persons.
Unlike Kabiri, however, Valiev’s name does not appear on Interpol’s website, despite his Group-24 opposition movement being billed a “terrorist group” by Dushanbe after it called on Facebook and Russian social media for Rahmon’s overthrow back in 2014.
According to an RFE/RL report, Khamzaeva was only in Kyrgyzstan briefly to see her sick mother, who resides in Bishkek.
Kylym Shamy representative Rysbek Adamaliev said on Facebook that Khamzaeva was asked to present herself at the GKNB headquarters in the afternoon on October 3 for further questioning. Kylym Shamy representatives were reportedly not allowed to join her in the initial interrogation.
That Valiev might have been looking for a non-Tajik passport in 2015 is fully understandable.
Group-24’s erstwhile leader Umarali Quvvatov, a business partner turned social-media-savvy enemy of the Rahmon regime, was gunned down in Istanbul in a suspected political assassination on March 5 that year.
Another presumed member of the group, meanwhile, was briefly detained by Finnish authorities based on an Interpol red notice before being released just prior to Quvvatov’s assassination. Later in 2015, Valiev was held in Moldova for more than one month before a court allowed for his release.
Whatever the truth surrounding the GKNB’s claim that Valiev may have attempted to illegally obtain a passport, the apparent intimidation of his wife by Kyrgyz security services makes the country look like it is doing the bidding of its more authoritarian neighbor.
It could just as well be an act of solidarity.
Both countries are currently enraged at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for providing a platform to their respective political opponents at its annual Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights forum, held in Warsaw in the final two weeks of September.
Rights groups say that relatives of members of both the IRPT and Group-24 that spoke out against political persecution in the country on the event’s opening day have faced harassment from Tajikistan’s security services.
Kyrgyzstan, in turn, has officially threatened to downgrade the status of the OSCE’s office in the country after Sweden-based Kadyrzhan Batyrov, an ethnic Uzbek community leader jailed for life in absentia for his alleged role in instigating bloody strife in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010, gave a speech at the same event.