Internet connectivity was restored in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) on March 21, but local residents have complained about slow Internet speed saying that, according to them, practically does not allow them to use the Internet.  Residents of the GBAO had not had access to Internet for nearly four months, since November 25, 2021.

Some residents of Khorog, the capital of the GBAO, told Asia-Plus on March 21 by phone that despite the fact that the long-awaited icon of the Internet has begun to appear on the screen of their phones, the internet never came into being.  For example, they could not connect to messenger apps.  

Social networks and information sites also take a long time to load, but in most cases these sites do not open at all, hey noted. 

“I thought now there would be an opportunity to chat and see relatives in the Pamirs, but I couldn't get through to them. They say that access was restored only to a 2G format, which has a very slow speed, and therefore, many apps won't work,” one of GBAO residents working in the Russia Federation told Asia-Plus by phone on March 21.  

The Tajik authorities blocked access to the Internet in the CBAO on 25 November 2021, after several thousand people occupied a central square in Khorog in a demand for justice and thorough investigation in the killing by security forces of a local young man wanted on charges of kidnapping.  

Internet connection has been reestablished to some state bodies, law enforcement agencies and banks.  The law enforcement authorities in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region say the Internet was cut off in the region because they allegedly fear that certain groups staying in Europe could incite the region’s population to new conflicts. 

In a statement released on January 26, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP) and some other NGOs expressed concern that the Tajikistani authorities have imposed an internet shutdown in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), which deprives people of their right to access to information and has serious implications for the economy, trade, mobility, as well as access to health care and education.

In light of the above, they called on the Tajikistani authorities to immediately reestablish internet connection in the region and ensure that the local population has access to other sources of information to complement the information broadcast on state television channels.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on February 7 saying the Tajikistan authorities should immediately restore full internet connectivity in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region.

The U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe has called on the Tajikistan’s authorities to secure full Internet reconnection for residents of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.

In a tweet on March 16, the Embassy expressed concerns about the lack of Internet access in the region's capital, Khorog, and adjacent districts.

"The U.S. Embassy remains concerned about Internet blockage in GBAO which impacts the ability of residents to access information, run businesses, and exercise freedom of expression. We call on Tajikistan to respect this fundamental freedom, and to restore full Internet access," a statement released by the Embassy says.

It is to be noted that this is not the first time that the Tajik authorities have blocked internet access during times of crisis and unrest.  Protests in different parts of Tajikistan usually lead to internet restrictions.  The national legislation of Tajikistan gives the government bodies the right, without judicial authorization, to restrict partially or completely the Internet in emergency situations (hostilities, terrorist and extremist operations, natural disasters) that threaten state security.