Scholarship is a crime in Tajikistan: Where is Alexander Sodiqov?

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Bridge from Kalaikhum to Khorogm, Tajikistan

Christian Benke via Flickr

Bridge from Kalaikhum to Khorogm, Tajikistan

Bridge from Kalaikhum to Khorogm, Tajikistan

Bridge from Kalaikhum to Khorogm, Tajikistan

Like many of our freedoms, we take for granted our liberty to learn. We can ask questions, study, and research without fear. But in many countries, this basic right is threatened by regimes who fear that truth will threaten their power.

On June 16, Alexander Sodiqov, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, was arrested in a remote region in Tajikistan. His crime? Sodiqov was conducting an interview as part of a research project. According to reports, Sodiquov was arrested and is being held without access to his family, lawyers, or anyone else. The government of Tajikistan remains silent on the arrest.

A European Union delegation urged Tajikistan to release details on his arrest and to give his family information on his location and his health.

Scholars who study Central Asia drafted a petition asking for information on Sodiqov. The petition now has over 600 signatures from scholars from many disciplines.

“Married and with a young daughter, Sodiqov is a member of a new generation of scholars. These are people committed to highest-quality scholarship and to good and productive relations between Tajikistan and the rest of the world,” the petition said in part.

According to Global Voice’s Chris Rickleton, Sodiqov was conducting interviews in the Khorog region, a distant semi-autonomous land along the border with Afghanistan that has been a place for civil war and opiate trafficking. Ironically, Sodiqov’s field work aimed at understanding conflict resolution in civil society.

Rickleton said that the Tajik regime has little control over the Khorog region and should encourage, not suppress, scholarship that can help them understand it.

“By shutting down a conversation in Khorog, the Tajik government has simply revealed its fear over its loss of control of the region,” Rickleton said.

Like other freedoms — of the press, of religion, of association — academic freedom threatens those who rule by the power of their swords and not the strength of their ideas. And in Tajikistan, the regime fears the truth so much that they will detain those who dare to do the simplest of acts: asking a question.

  • Ed Schatz

    We’re over 650 signatures, and growing. The petition is now open to all scholars, not just those working on Central Asia.
    Ed Schatz

  • Updated to reflect this. That’s great news.

  • TJK

    Why are you lying? he was not conducting a research. he was collecting information for the British embassy and that’s a fact. when the UK ambassador when to Khorog, national police did not allow him to meet with the side involved in a conflict (we know what happens when UK gets involved in internal issues of a different country. and then 2 days later they sent Alexander to do what the ambassador could not. so he went and got caught. why in the world UK ambassador would go to the area where there is a risk of conflict. he is an ambassador, not a police or minister of internal affairs. he should do his job instead of interfering into other countries issues. he should complete his direct responsibilities and not cause another war in a country which his not his. he is free to travel throughout UK to research whatever the heck he wants but do his ambassador job when he is in a different country. So stop covering your spies with lies like “research”, “scholarship” and bla bla bla. the guy will get minimum 12 years in jail. and maybe now you will start thinking….

  • Samir

    What freedoms are you talking about? Freedom to be capped 24/7? Freedom to be held in jail w/o court order? Freedom to be killed/bombed w/o prosecution? Freedom to not even have a choice of media? Freedom of choosing between 2 parties only that do the same thing regardless? Freedom of choosing from amongst the richest men to govern you? Well, then you can have all that!
    Stop living in an illusion that you have a freedom and wake up! You do not have anything, you have been brainwashed and think that you have a freedom but indeed you have nothing!

  • Salim

    Samir, it’s not of your business. If there is nothing, then what you are looking for? you wanna create chaos like you do in other parts of the world?

  • Samir

    What? What are you talking about? Do you understand yourself?

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