Following in the footsteps of her spouse, a former paramilitary commander, Humairo Mirova has reportedly fled Tajikistan with four of her children and gone to Syria, possibly to join the ranks of the Islamic State group.
If confirmed, Radio Ozodi’s report on Mirova’s apparent decision to travel to territory controlled by the radical Islamist organization would embarrassingly expose the inability of the Tajik security services to monitor even the closest relatives of their militant opponents.
Mirova’s husband, Gulmorod Halimov, served as a high-ranking officer in the OMON until his defection to the Islamic State grouip in early 2015 — decision that he explained as having been motivated by the increasing restrictions on religious freedom by Tajikistan’s government.
As was the case with her husband, Mirova’s career is remarkable for having put her in intimate proximity with the highest echelons of power.
She began working in the Interior Ministry press center in 2008, which is when she got to know Halimov. She later married him, becoming his second wife. Technically, Mirova is only Halimov’s common-law wife, as the former OMON remains married to his first wife).
Some additional details about Mirova are available from social media. Her mail.ru account indicates that she was born on December 11, 1975, and that she has five children. She divorced her first husband, with whom she had one child and later had four children with Halimov. The last one was born in March, meaning that the child was only two months old when Halimov left for Syria.
While Halimov was planning his defection in 2015, Mirova was working in the press service of the customs service, which was headed at the time by President Emomali Rahmon’s son, Rustam Emomali.
Previously, Mirova also held a position at the state-run First Channel television station.
Speaking to EurasiaNet.org by telephone, Halimov’s brother, Sulton Halimov, declined to confirm or deny reports about Mirova, but did say that it had not been possible to contact her.
Attempts to contact Mirova directly proved unsuccessful and mobile phones appeared to be disconnected.
In its report, Ozodi said it had no concrete information about when Mirova had left for Syria or what her motivations were for doing so.
In a conversation in November, Sulton Halimov told EurasiaNet.org that Gulmorod was the most charismatic member of the family and got on well with everybody. Giving a tour of their simply ordained family home in the town of Varzob, around 30 kilometers north of the capital, Dushanbe, Sulton Halimov insisted that the dwelling was ample proof that his brother was an honest man and did not take bribes.
“In all the media, they talked about how rich he was, how he had several apartments in [Dushanbe], had several cards. But he had nothing. He was very law-abiding. He even used to say to us that if we broke the law, we should not expect to get his help,” he said.
Sulton Halimov drew a portrait of a highly devout man who prayed assiduously and worried intensely about the worsening plight of pious Muslims in Tajikistan. He explained that while Gulmorod’s first wife still lived at the Varzob home, Mirova’s resided at a government-issued apartment in Dushanbe.
Halimov disappeared at the end of April 2015 and then resurfaced in May in a 12-minute video address in Russian in which he explained that his decision to join Islamic State was motivated by police intimidation of Muslims. Halimov also spoke about going to the United States in 2003 and 2007 to train with the US Army and defense contractor Blackwater. “I came to America three times. I saw how you train people to kill Muslims. I will come with this gun to your home and kill you,” he declared.
When quizzed about the Halimov case in September, former US Ambassador to Tajikistan Susan M. Elliott claimed that the “motivation for why Halimov decided to go fight for [Islamic State] is unclear,” although it is implausible she was not fully aware of the contents of Halimov’s video.
Elliott was making her remarks at a press conference to again pledge US commitment to aid Tajikistan’s security apparatus. Days later, her embassy handed over 60 items of tactical equipment worth $260,000 to the Interior Ministry.