Tajikistan: Citizens Doling Out Violence to Law Enforcers

The southern Tajikistan region of Khatlon has seen two vicious attacks on law enforcement officials in the space of a few days.

RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, reported that overnight on May 13 an officer with the State Committee for National Security, the successor agency to the KGB, was hospitalized with 24 stab wounds after being assaulted by persons unknown. The incident occurred in the center of the regional capital, Kulob.

And then on the evening of May 16, two people assaulted a 24-year old police officer, again in Kulob and around 100 meters from the earlier attack. The policewoman, Maryam Sharifzoda, also had to be treated for her wounds in hospital.

With almost a week having passed since the first incident, police have reported no progress in investigations. Their only comment on the attacks is that they took place.

In the absence of clear leads, the public are drawing their own conclusions. Commenters on social media have by and large concluded that this is likely an outburst of frustration at the excesses of Tajik law enforcement, whose indiscretions are almost never addressed by the country’s courts.

Some other chatter has it that the policewoman, Sharifzoda, was particularly involved in enforcing the informal hijab ban, which has raised another lurid line of speculation. Namely, that the attacks could have been inspired by online Islamic State propaganda exhorting sympathizers to attack representatives of the law enforcement community.

Gulmurod Halimov, who left a high-ranking post in Tajikistan’s riot police to join up with the Islamic State group in the Middle East, has specifically in his public addresses called on his compatriots to make police the target of attacks.

“Carry out jihad at home, attack policemen. You don’t need any special weapons, you can just take a household knife and take your vengeance upon them. That can be your jihad,” he once said.