Friday, January 14, 2022

Gorno-Badakhshan Chaos ‘Most Serious Threat’ to Tajikistan Rulers since 1994, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Violence in the Nagorno-Badakhstan Autonomous Oblast bordering Afghanistan triggered by the extra-judicial murder of a local leader represents “the most serious threat” to the rulers of Tajikistan since the civil war began in 1994, Tajik and Russian experts say ( and

            The protests have so far claimed at least three more lives and left numerous protesters and police officers wounded, but Dushanbe has proved unwilling or unable to use force to restore order, possibly fearful of the reaction of the Taliban over the border or Moscow or Beijing which have security interests there (

            Demonstrations began after the murder of Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, a Pamiri activist whom the police say was involved in criminal activities. His relatives brought his casket to the main square of Khorog where they were joined by several thousand more people who demanded that the authorities conduct an open and honest investigation of what had happened.

            The local powers that be did nothing, and the top man there refused to appear. As the protests continued, the local people declared that they had additional demands, including the withdrawal of at least 70 percent of the Tajikistani police force from the autonomous republic and the transfer of control of most functions from Dushanbe to Khorog.

            Moscow analysts say that it is not yet “appropriate” to speak of any separatist challenge, even though the failure of the authorities to respond to the crowd’s demands is radicalizing opinion, something that the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan are quite ready to exploit given the large number of Tajiks in that movement (

            If Dushanbe doesn’t end the violence quickly, Moscow or Beijing may. Russia has a military base in Tajikistan, and China has built facilities nominally for the Tajik military but in fact for Chinese instructors. And either or both could move quickly. Any success would likely be Pyrrhic because Pamiris, Afghan Talibans and other Central Asians would be infuriated. 

            Consequently, officials in all three capitals – Dushanbe, Moscow and Beijing – are likely hopeful that the protests in this isolated portion of Tajikistan will end before they generate political instability in Dushanbe or force Moscow and/or Beijing to take actions they likely would prefer not to. 

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