Five nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region have been closed down over the past six months due to what authorities claim are links with local criminal groups amid ongoing tensions following protests last year against the regional authorities in the authoritarian Central Asian country.
Deputy Justice Minister Asadullo Hakimzoda told a news conference on August 8 in Dushanbe that the closures followed inspections at more than 140 NGOs and associations in the region.
The five NGOs that were banned are three human rights groups — Nomus va Insof, Pyanj, and the Pamir Lawyers Association — and two youth groups — Youth of Ishkashim District and Klubi Gushtini Shaidon.
Hakimzoda did not say what criminal groups were linked to the banned NGOs.
The closures came amid warnings by civil society representatives in the region that they were facing increased pressure from the authorities following a deadly crackdown on protests last year.
The protests broke out last year when people demanded a thorough investigation into the death of an activist in May 2021 while in police custody.
In May, civil activists said they were coming under increased pressure from the authorities to halt their activities.
Representatives from several local civic groups said security forces demandedthat they voluntarily declare themselves bankrupt and liquidate their organizations. The government has rejected their accusations.
Protests are rare in the tightly controlled country of 9.5 million where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades.