It’s never a good time to be a government critic in Tajikistan, but this week has been particularly bad. Two critics have been violently attacked in separate incidents.
A leader of the minority Uzbek community in Khatlon Province, Salim Shamsiddinov, 57, was beaten with a metal pipe in broad daylight on May 5 near his home in Qurghon-Teppa.
Shamsiddinov told Radio Ozodi (Radio Liberty’s Tajik service) that he believes the attack, carried out by three athletic-looking men, was related to a recent interview he gave the newspaper “Millat,” where he criticized Tajik authorities for their “nationalist” position in dealing with rival Uzbekistan. (That statement so upset his allies that the day Shamsiddinov was attacked he was also dismissed from his post as deputy chairman of the Society of Uzbeks in Tajikistan.) He has also regularly criticized Tashkent's approach to relations with Tajikistan. Uzbeks make up roughly 15 percent of Tajikistan’s population.
Separately, on May 7 in Dushanbe, television presenter Daler Sharipov was hospitalized in an attack by unknown assailants. Asia-Plus reports a suspect has been detained, but Sharipov’s friend, who witnessed the attack, says he is not certain the suspect is the assailant.
Sharipov, a fifth-year journalism student, hosts two popular talk shows on state television. Last week he announced he was creating an organization called Qadam ba Qadam (Step by Step) to draw attention to Tajikistan’s cronyism and corruption, RFE/RL reported. Radio Ozodi quoted Sharipov as saying he had recently received email threats from anonymous sources.
While there’s no direct evidence the attacks are related to Shamsiddinov’s or Sharipov’s work, they do testify to a trend in Tajikistan. Critics beware.