06/12/2021, 14.56
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Persecution of Tajik Islamists

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan are languishing in jail. Their families have been targeted as “traitors to the homeland.” Some women were abandoned by their husbands because their fathers are jailed Islamist politicians. Dr Mirzo Khodjmatov has been arrested.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Some cases of domestic and social violence have brought back to the fore the issue of Tajikistan’s “Islamic party” and the merciless struggle by the government against religious radicalism.

The former Soviet republic is one of the countries where propaganda by the Islamic State group and other Islamic extremist groups has found fertile ground. However, the families of Islamist politicians have been subjected to attacks and persecution in their own communities and by state authorities.

Five years ago, the leaders of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) were convicted by a Tajik court. All top leaders were given long prison sentences, and since then their relatives have been labelled “traitors to the homeland”, turning their life into hell.

Denied the right to work or emigrate, they fear state reprisals, while friends and acquaintances have broken off relations with them, sometimes holding a violent grudge against them.

Nilufar Rajabova spoke to Radio Ozody on Thursday about her situation. Daughter of Rakhmatullo Rajab, a convicted IRPT member, she was deserted by her husband and left to cope with three young children, two of whom had a severe form of osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as “brittle bone disease”.

Rajabova said that her husband once came home and beat her as soon as he opened the door for “causing great scandal with the neighbours.” What is more, “He called me a traitor and a terrorist, and said he would divorce me.”

No one wants to hire her even for humble jobs, said Rajabova’s mother, Valamati Ibrahimzoda. Because of husband, Rakhmatullo Rajab, the two women have been forced into utter poverty.

“When we have some money, we don't know whether to spend it on the children's medicines, buy food for my husband in prison or for ourselves,” she added.

When Rakhmatullo Rajab caught COVID-19 in prison, “It was very bad,” she explained. “We spent up to the last penny to get him some medicine. His grandson, who is now 10 years old, is bullied at school, where they beat him all the time.”

Amina Mirzoyeva knows that Rajabova has gone through, and then some. Mother of three daughters – five-year-old Maria, three-year-old Rumayso, and newborn Oyshamok – she lives in her uncle's tool shed in Kulyaba.

Her husband left her right after he was told that he would have a third daughter. After kicking his wife out of their house, he sold it before moving to Russia.

Because she is related to convicted Islamists, Amina has been accused by her husband of “being a traitor, not even able to give him a boy.” The couple were married in an Islamic wedding, but not civilly. She hasn't heard from him in a year.

Sabrinisso Djurabekova is married to an IRPT leader, Makhmadali Khaita, who is serving a long sentence. She cannot work, and is getting by with her two children thanks to help from some neighbours and compassionate relatives.

Her eldest son fled the country due to the constant persecution and arrests to which he was subjected.

She notes that “In addition to convictions, there is systematic collective punishment, pressure, questioning, searches and censoring by the authorities as well as ordinary citizens, trying sometimes to ferret out party members not yet in jail.”

Some IRPT leaders have fled abroad, mostly Europe. Claiming that they were never involved in terrorism, they accuse Tajik authorities of trying to crush the country’s only opposition.

Dr Mirzo Khodjmatov, 63, was one of the few IRPT leaders still at liberty after the start of the crackdown. After moving to Russia’s Tyumen region, he made brief visits home to see his family.

Even though his relatives say that he had not been a party member since 2015, the year of the Islamists' “attempted coup”, he was arrested on 22 May. Put on trial, he was convicted and handed down a five-year sentence on 2 June.

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