Moscow, hundreds arrested for support of Tajik human rights activist
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Izzak Amon, who has been working for Tajik migrants since the 1990s, has been missing for weeks. He was expelled from Russia and deported to Tajikistan. A video intended for Putin. He is accused of corruption, but his troubles started since he got involved in politics. Tajiks compare him to Alexei Naval'nyj, or the Belarusian Svetlana Tikhanovskaja.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - At least 120 protesters out of 400 were arrested on April 2 (photo 2). According to OVD-Info, they had gathered at the Tajikistan embassy in Moscow to express their support for human rights activist Izzak Amon (photo 1). He was deported to Tajikistan at the end of March, where he was locked up in solitary confinement on charges of fraud.

Izzak Amon is well known among the Tajik migrant workers in Russia, as the director of the Moscow Todzhikon centre, for defending the rights of his countrymen. He helps people get documents, work, a home. In 2019, Amon decided to launch into politics, announcing the creation in Russia of a migrant worker’s party called Change, Reform and Development. Amon’s popularity increased considerably in 2020, with a large fundraising to help migrants during the pandemic.

On March 25, Amon disappeared, but he managed to call a collaborator to inform him of his arrest. Family and friends searched for him at length, knowing that Izzak had been stalked for days. He had even recorded a video appealing to President Putin, asking him to publish it after his eventual disappearance.

In the video, the activist tells how in 1996 he received Russian citizenship, attended the diplomatic academy of the Moscow foreign ministry, and the academy of public administration. Amon then explains how he began to criticize the Tajik government and the Tajik embassy in Moscow, which he claims sold false documents to Tajik migrants. This criticism attracted the attention of the secret services, which began to keep him under surveillance.

The video is from March 23, and it states that his Russian passport was cancelled at the request of the Tajikistan security services. The appeal ends with the words "dear Vladimir Vladimirovič [Putin], if you watch this video it means that I am no longer on the territory of the Russian Federation ... the Tajik authorities together with the Russian services put me in jail, just because I criticize the actions of the powerful ". The video was viewed on YouTube by over half a million people.

Amon’s relatives managed to find out where he is being held by chance, from the website of the Tverskoy court in Moscow, which announced his expulsion from Russia on the grounds "of illegal work of a foreign citizen on the territory of the Russian Federation."

In addition, on March 27, the website of the Tajikistan interior ministry published an unspecified accusation of fraud, which would have caused the deportation. It only adds that Amon, called by his original Tajik name of Kholov Izatullo Amonovich, allegedly "amassed enormous sums from Tajik labour migrants in Russia, under the pretext of defending their rights".

Two of Izzak's brothers, Izatullo and Said, live in Russia and participate in his activities. They told reporters how in 2020 Amon had really collected huge sums, to distribute them to his compatriots throughout the Russian territory: “No Tajik in Russia would speak ill of Izzak; he never kept a penny for himself; he is an educated and religious man, a man of law and a true democrat, who has always helped anyone in need”.

In the eyes of the many Tajik migrants, who are often entrusted with the humblest jobs in Russia, Amon was a model of redemption, a "migrant who made it", overcoming the endless complications of the Russian bureaucracy, obtaining a real education and achieving an important professional status for himself and for others.

The fame of the rights defender is not limited to migrants in Russia, but also spreads to his homeland, where his supporters are already starting to compare him to Svetlana Tikhanovskaja in Belarus, or to Alexei Naval'nyj in Russia itself.

However, Amon's brothers warn supporters to avoid excesses of enthusiasm, so as not to provoke even more widespread reactions from the Russian and Tajik authorities, and to follow his example with caution in dedication and mutual solidarity.