Tajik researcher freed after 40 days in captivity

Tajik researcher and academic Aleksandr Sodiqov has been released by Tajik government authorities after nearly 40 days in captivity in Dushanbe. Sodiqov had been investigating unrest in Tajikistan’s restive Badakhshan province, was detained with little explanation, and charges of treason had been levied against him for speaking to members of opposition there. Sodiqov had been asked not to leave Tajikistan until an investigation into his research and intentions has been completed.

Sodiqov is currently a political science doctoral student at the University of Toronto, and had travelled back to his home country as part of University of Exeter research project on conflict management strategies. Detained first in Khorog just days after speaking with local opposition figures, he was brought by Tajikistan’s intelligence agency to Dushanbe where he has remained until yesterday under charges of espionage and conspiracy.

Associates of Sodiqov say that his “detention is unprecedented and sends a message that research in the region is under threat.” Sodiqov has denied any connection to espionage, but disseminating his story within Tajikistan has proved a challenge due to an abundance of state-supported media. The Badakhshan region has had a rocky relationship with the government of Tajikistan after an Islamist-led opposition fought a five year civil war between 1992 and 1997. The region is physically remote and culturally extremely distinctive with a different branch of Islam and a different local language, Pamiri.

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