The mood was subdued during a panel devoted to Tajikistan at this year’s annual human rights conference held in Warsaw, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
There was none of the raucous defiance seen at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in 2016. The panel this year was packed with Tajik activists, representatives of civil society groups and journalists, most of whom now live abroad in order to avoid arbitrary prosecution back home. But the sedate pace of the Tajik-related proceedings this year in Warsaw was a far cry from 2016.
At last year’s event, Tajik officials were ambushed by dozens of activists, who staged an impromptu protest in the hall. Some held up signs, while others held pictures of jailed politicians. The reaction from Tajik authorities was sharp, as they accused the hosts, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), of providing a platform for terrorists. The government in Dushanbe has dubbed the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, a terrorist group — a designation scoffed at by Western officials.
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Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska is a freelance journalist covering the post-Soviet space.