In August, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) had both its publishing operation and its main office in Dushanbe closed by the government. The Tajik government’s pressure on the opposition party is nothing new, and predates the IRPT’s poor showing in March’s flawed parliamentary elections. Since the election, which saw the IRPT lose its last nominal presence in the parliament, the IRPT has had its members reportedly intimidating into quitting the party, its offices closed, and its members accused of crimes.
On August 14, the IRPT’s publishing operation was temporarily closed. A letter shared on the party’s website said the publishing house had been closed for violating public health laws. According to Asia-Plus, the letter bore stamps from the Ministry of Culture, the Tax Committee, Tajikistandard (a standardization, metrology, and certification agency), and the sanitary and epidemiological center. The IRPT published a weekly newspaper, Najot, and a magazine, Safina and Umed.
The IRPT said the closure was part of an “anti-IRPT” program that has been going on for years.
Now, the party’s offices (at the same location as the publishing house) have been closed. The prosecutor general’s office claims the IRPT’s central office in Dushanbe has been sealed because of an “unresolved dispute about the legality of the building’s acquisition,”Asia-Plus reports. The government claims that the building in which the office is located was illegally purchased. A source in the IRPT told Asia-Plus that the party believes the closing of their offices is a deliberate attempt by the government to disrupt the upcoming party congress on September 15. Authorities say the issue with the office should be resolved in 10 days.
Meanwhile the chairman of the Bar Association of Dushanbe, Buzurgmehr Yorov, said that the closure of the office is illegal, noting that “nobody has the right to suspend the use of the building until the cancellation of property rights.”
The IRPT’s current leader, Muhiddin Kabiri, is in exile in Turkey. In early August he hosted a gathering of the party’s leadership in Istanbul. An unnamed source in the IRPT told Asia-Plus that the upcoming party congress and government pressure were discussed at the meeting, alongside a possible change in leadership of the party. Other topics covered were youth radicalization and the potential of the party to prevent youth from joining terrorist organizations. Kabiri, who has not been able to return to Tajikistan for fear of being arrested on manufactured charges–rumored to involve illegal privatization of property–reportedly encouraged the party to continue to work within the government’s framework.
In July, Khovar, a state news agency, published a statement from the Prosecutor General’s office in which the government pushed back at the charge it has targeted the IRPT. The statement says that the IRPT’s allegations “do not correspond to reality” and says that “all appeals of members of this party to the law enforcement bodies have been examined in accordance to the existing legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan.”