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.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- China has inaugurated a new railway that departs from the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu and carries supplies throughout Central Asia. As it stands now, the train makes four stops, starting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and then going on to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan before terminating in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The journey is estimated to take up to 11 days, which Chinese officials note is a vast improvement on the more than three weeks it used to take to make the journey. The train is projected to carry up to 35 full containers, a payload worth about $35m USD.
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development recently pledged its support for a mobile banking services initiative to be inaugurated in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The service, when completed, will allow banks to add additional services and allow for greater access outside of traditional brick and mortar locations. The EBRD initially got involved in the planning of the initiative through a French Finance Ministry, and will now continue support as the project nears completion.
- The United States has continued to denounce Russia for its involvement in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, with U.S. intelligence officials declaring that Russia “created the conditions” for the shoot-down. No evidence was furnished proving Russia’s direct involvement, and thus far American officials have been careful not to insinuate that the missile was launched from within Russia.
- Kyrgyz Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev has issued a statement urging citizens to use coal during the winter instead of natural gas, as the Kyrgyz leader doubts that Uzbekistan will resume natural gas delivers to the country in the near future. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan do not maintain amicable relations, and Uzbekistan cut gas supplies to its eastern neighbor in April of this year after Kyrgyzstan sold a majority stake in KyrgyzGaz to Russian-owned Gazprom.