Lack of Internet access causes serious problems for residents of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), but nobody explains the reason for switching off the Internet access in the region.

Today is already the thirteenth day that Internet is inaccessible in the region.  The authorities have promised to restore access to Internet in the region by 1:00 pm of November 30, but have not restored it yet. 

On December 1, access to Internet was restored partially; currently, only banks and some government bodies have access to Internet in GBAO     

Residents of GBAO and natives of the region living abroad prepared an appeal to the Consumers’ Union of Tajikistan and the Foreign and Education Ministries of the Russian Federation and are currently collecting signatures.  They also intend to apply to international organizations to protect their rights and restore Internet access in GBAO.  

Lack of Internet access also causes serious problems for applicants from GBAO who want to study at universities in the Russian Federation.

The fact is that Russia has announced additional admission to universities.

Due to lack of Internet access, applicants from GBAO are forced to travel to Dushanbe (about 650 kilometers) in order to submit documents remotely through Internet. 

“Internet outage has paralyzed functioning of not only distance education but also local government, commercial and international organizations active in the region.  In addition, tens of thousands of relatives of residents of GBAO living and working abroad all these days cannot get in touch with their loved ones and worry about their condition and well-being,” says the appeal seen by Asia-Plus.  

Protests in different parts of Tajikistan usually lead to internet restrictions. Recent incident in Khorog, the capital of the GBAO, has left citizens unable to access online content.

Access to Internet was switched off in GBAO on November 25 after several thousand people occupied a central square in Khorog, the capital of GBAO, in a demand for justice and thorough investigation into the killing of a local young man by security officers.

Recall, the incident took place on the morning of November 25.  The GBAO prosecutor’s office confirmed that in the village of Tavdem in GBAO’s Roshtqala district, an operation was carried out by law enforcement agencies to capture Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, who was wanted on charges of taking hostages and inciting ethnic hatred.  “During the operation, he put up armed resistance and began firing from a Makarov pistol, which he possessed illegally.  The offender was wounded by return fire,” says a statement released by the GBAO prosecutor’s office.

Some eyewitnesses of the events claim that Gulbiddin Ziyobekov was shot in the head and died on the way from Roshtqala to Khorog.

According to one of the residents of the Roshtqala district, Ziyobekov and other young guys beat the prosecutor’s office officer Abirzoda for offering an intimate relationship to a local young woman, forcing him to issue an apology to camera.

The investigation was halted at the instigation of then-GBAO governor Yodgor Fayzov, who mediated a way out of the impasse.  Fayzov was removed from the post earlier this month.  His dismissal appears to have triggered a renewed effort to arrest Ziyobekov.

Several thousand people gathered in front of the GBAO regional administration building in Khorog on November 25 in a demand for justice.  The four-day rally ended in the afternoon of November 28 afternoon after several hours of negotiations between the government officials and representatives of the protesters.

Sources in Khorog say the authorities do not fulfill two important agreements reached between them and protesters: dismantling military checkpoints and restoring Internet.  

Asia-Plus failed to get any comments on the Internet situation from the GBAO authorities and the country’s communications service agency.   

Tajik political scientist Parviz Mullojonov says that it is difficult for him to understand the logic of shutdown.   

“It seems to me that the government has simply not yet developed a unified position on overcoming the crisis.  There are probably several groups lobbying for different approaches,” Mullojonov told Asia-Plus in an interview.  

”If the authorities want to stabilize the situation as soon as possible and calm people down, they must, first of all, return to life the primary attributes of stability: good communication, no armed people on the streets, open bazaars, shops, restaurants and so forth.  This does not mean losing control of the situation because there are police, there are mobile groups, and so on,” Mullojonov added.