The government of Tajikistan’s campaign against the operations of a charitable organization funded by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the country’s Ismaili minority, has intensified over the past few weeks.
In the most recent development, the authorities have revoked the license of the Aga Khan Lycée in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, or GBAO. A source at the Aga Khan Foundation told Eurasianet that June 30 was the last day that the secondary school would operate under its aegis.
The Aga Khan Development Network, the umbrella organization under which that foundation operates, has been providing assistance to Tajikistan in education and healthcare since the early years of independence. One major achievement has been the construction of the University of Central Asia in Khorog, where teaching is carried out in English.
Whenever the current Aga Khan visited Tajikistan between 1992 and 2011, tens of thousands of Ismailis, who hail primarily from the country’s Pamir highlands, flocked to see him in person. It is believed, however, that the clamor around the Aga Khan has incurred the displeasure of President Emomali Rahmon, upon whom a lavish personality cult has been built.
The Pamiris have been on the receiving end of a sustained campaign of repression from the authorities in Dushanbe. A security sweep dubbed an anti-terrorist operation in May 2022 led to the killing of dozens of community leaders. Hundreds more were imprisoned after secretive trials on grounds that they were purportedly plotting to cause political turmoil.
It was after that drama played out that the government began moving to dismantle paraphernalia related to the Aga Khan and, furthermore, appropriating assets belonging to his foundation.
According to Pamir Daily News, a Telegram channel that covers events in the Pamirs, the government has to date nationalized multiple educational initiatives run by the Aga Khan Education Service.
The upmarket Serena Hotel in Khorog and the premises of the First Microfinance Bank and the Mountain Societies Development Support Program, or MSDSP, have similarly been confiscated, according to reports. And the Prosecutor's Office in the GBAO has applied with the courts to nationalize the Aga Khan Medical Center in Khorog.
A source at a Aga Khan organization has told Eurasianet that these developments have led to the loss of around 300 jobs for local people in Khorog, where unemployment is rife.
The pressure has been applied in other forms too.
The Ismaili Centers in Khorog and Dushanbe, the capital, have been banned for holding events for the promotion of religious literacy.