Geneva, New York (1/12-80).
“We will destroy anyone who raises his head”. These threats were made by Alisher Mirzanabatov (лишер Мирзонаботов), the former deputy head of the dreaded Tajik secret police, the GKNB, which is modelled after the Soviet KGB. Currently, Mirzanabatov is the governor of the restive Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous province (GBAO), home of one of Tajikistan’s oldest indigenous citizens, the Pamiris.
Mirzanabatov made no empty threats. He installed a regime of terror on the Pamir residents and created an unprecedented assault on the Pamiri society, culture and economy.
Appointed by the Imomali Rahmon in November 2022, Mirzanabatov led the regime’s campaign of killings, mass arrests, and economic strangulation of Pamirs, who are Ismaili Shi’a. Mirzanabatov has a gruesome history of physical violence and guilty of state-sanctioned criminal activities as he rose through the ranks of the GKNB.
“We will destroy anyone who raises his head. If you try to complain, you will repeat the fate of those Pamiris executed and arrested. We order you to stop any kind of dissent and criticism of the government.”
Alisher Mirzanabatov, the “Butcher of Pamir”, speaking at a public meeting in GBAO 2022
According to Mamadbokir Mamadbokirov (Boqir), a respected “commander” and Pamiri communal elder executed by GKNB troops on the street of the regional capital Khorog in May 2022, Mirzanabatov served as his deputy in the Border Troops in the early 2000s.
Boqir found Mirzanabatov was responsible for the attempted rape of a woman and engaging in narcotics trafficking. In 2006, Commander Boqir and his men sized a large shipment of heroin, which led to Mirzanabatov being fired from the Border Troops.
By 2017, Mirzanabatov had himself ingratiated in and with GKNB’s Chairman, General Saymumin Yatimov. He was then appointed Deputy Chairman of the secret intelligence service. In 2018 he returned to the Pamir mountains where he became the deputy governor, then mayor of the regional capital Khorog, and then was appointed Governor of the province in November 2021. He replaced the long-standing Pamiri governor, Yodgar Faizov, the former head of the Agha Khan Foundation, and very quickly established his reputation for ruthless violence against Pamiris.
Governor Mirzanabatov oversees all the GBAO’s provincial districts, provincial elected assembly, and regional offices of the various ministries of the state government. For internal security matters, he works in close cooperation with General Abdolrahmon Alam Shahzoda, head of the GBAO Coordinating Committee and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, and Gen. Sharif Nazarzoda, Chief of Police for GBAO. Mirzanabatov is the “eyes and ears” of General Yatimov, SCNS, in GBAO.
He coordinated the arrest and brutal killing of Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, a popular local boxer, who had roughed up an official with the prosecutor’s office who had allegedly sexually harassed a local woman. Public protests ensued from 24 – 28 November 2021. These, and subsequent protests in 2022, demanded the resignation of Mirzanabatov, and government accountability for the Ziyobekov killing. Government negotiations with the protestors, organized under the umbrella “Group of 44,” were characterized by duplicitous regime promises of reform, false assurances that those responsible for the violence on the government side would be held responsible, and ultimately proved a sham as the Rahmon regime mobilized its security forces for the May-June violent campaign of arrests, killings, imprisonment and torture of Pamiris peacefully resisting regime oppression and termination of the GBAO’s autonomous status.
The Pamiri community was outraged by this slew of heinous crimes and human rights violations committed by the Tajikistan government led by President Emomali Rahmon and his sons, Rustam Emomali and Somon Emomali. What follows was a wave of unprecedented unrest and intimidation in this central Asian country, the premeditated butchery of Pamiri community leaders and activists, the arrests of thousands of lawyers, journalists, students, old farmers and caused bands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) crossing the borders to run from the dictatorship of the Rahmon regime.
Group of 44, also known as Commission 44, who fought against the atrocities and cruelty of the Rahmon regime towards the Pamiris had their leaders put into prisons, clobbered and beaten. Some were hunted and murdered.
The European Union responded with resolutions warning Rahmon and his government in Dushanbe to stop making additional arrests, outright suppression of basic civil rights and freedom of expression, receiving extradition from Russia and engaging the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) to silence those who oppose and express discontentment towards the Tajik government.