Turkey’s authoritarian turn deprives Tajiks of safe haven

For Eurasianet:

There was a time when Turkey felt like a safe haven for victims of political repression in Tajikistan. But the threat of attacks by groups like Islamic State and a state of emergency declared after a July 2016 coup attempt have changed all that.

As well as embarking on a wave of arrests that put almost 50,000 Turkish nationals behind bars, the government has diluted the protections once afforded to foreign dissidents. Moreover, informal connivance among governments has eased the process of casting out unwanted elements.

Over several days in early February, a group of officials with the Tajik consulate in Istanbul dropped by a teahouse to try and cajole the owner, 55-year-old Numonjon Sharipov, into returning to Tajikistan.

Sharipov had every reason to resist the overtures. He had fled to Turkey in 2015, following a crackdown on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, IRPT, of which he was a prominent member. In August that year, the Tajik government banned the opposition party, which lost its only two seats in parliament in dirty elections a few months earlier. The bulk of the party leadership were then arrested and subsequently sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

And then on the evening of February 5, as Sharipov was strolling past his teahouse with two friends, he was stopped by police and asked for identification papers. After detecting a purported irregularity, police took Sharipov to a detention facility in Istanbul’s Kumkapi district. Sharipov’s friends quickly called a lawyer, Sinan Berge.

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