Three women in Uzbekistan have been sentenced to long prison terms for spying on behalf of neighboring Tajikistan, Uzbek state television reported, in a special program called "Betrayers of the Motherland."
The three women all lived in the Surxondaryo region of southern Uzbekistan, bordering Tajikistan. One of them married a police officer from Tajikistan in 1998, a wedding that was planned by Tajiikistan's State Committee on National Security for the purpose of making her into a spy, the program said.
The three women allegedly worked in cooperation, passing on information about:
"[T]he military unit in Surxondaryo Region, including equipment and weapons being kept there; the prosecutor's office, the police department and customs complex of Sariosiyo District. She also provided information on employees and servicemen working in these facilities, their combat readiness and number plates of their cars."
The BBC Monitoring report on the TV program notes:
The programme dubbed "Betrayers of the Motherland" featured interviews with the women all whom said that Tajik security bodies forced them into spying. TV, however, dismissed these claims by saying that the three took money for the information they provided. "If they were forced into spying in Tajikistan, why did not they appeal to relevant state bodies after returning to Uzbekistan?" the programme asked.
At the conclusion of the broadcast, TV strongly condemned the women for"betraying" homeland, relatives and compatriots.
Of course, it's hard to know what to make of this. The women very well could have been spies; it's certainly in Tajikistan's interest to know what sort of capacity Uzbekistan, which has repeatedly threatened the weaker Tajikistan, has at its disposal. But the fact that Uzbekistan state TV devoted an entire program to the case suggests Tashkent is trying to further worsen already bad ties with Dushanbe. EurasiaNet's Konstantin Parshin, reporting from Dushanbe, did a good report on this recently. An Uzbek analyst, who asked not to be named, said this about the "Betrayers of the Motherland" program:
"The fact that Uzbek state TV did a show on this case means it's a political warning to all the citizens whether they are Uzbeks or Tajiks that the government is watching their actions and interactions with the people of Tajikistan. There are tens of thousands of Uzbek citizens who have relatives in Tajikistan. It's become very difficult to cross the border and the authorities need a reason to justify the restrictions. This case is one of them.
Another point the Uzbek government wants to make is Tajikistan is the enemy and that it is using the Uzbek citizens to accomplish its evil goals. There is a lot of anti-Tajik propaganda in Uzbek state media. This program is a perfect example."