The tortures, abuse and soldiers’ deaths from beatings in the Tajik army are the main cause of youth evasion of military service.
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The continuing practice of raids on draft-age young men forces many young Tajiks to flee the country twice a year. With that in mind, it can be noted that before the military conscription campaigns in spring and autumn, it is mainly young men that leave for labor migration.Military recruiters catch recruits wherever they can. The videos of young people being detained and forcibly dragged into cars overflow the Internet. One of such videos with several thousand views shows a raid during the wedding – the groom escapes from the military officials during the celebration. In October this year, military officers of the Ismoili Somoni capital district detained IWPR-trained Ozodi Radio journalist Mulorajab Yusufi. Despite his claims that he had a military registration card and should not serve in army, he was forcibly taken to the military registration office. He was released only after his colleagues brought and showed his military registration card.
A few months ago, the military officials detained Shamsullo Sultonov, a Technologies teacher from the remote village of Lolazor in Vakhsh district of the southern Khatlon region, right during his lesson.“His students were shocked for several days,” says school Principal Gulnora Khojaeva. His colleagues reported to the Military Prosecutor’s Office that the behavior of the military officials, who forcibly took Sultonov away, was very rude. According to the law on the country’s military service, the teachers from the villages lacking educators should not be recruited. However, the military officials ignored these norms, and Shamsullo Sultonov has been serving in one of the military units of Dushanbe for several months. The teachers addressed the Military Prosecutor’s Office with a petition. As a result, the chief officer of Vakhsh district military office, Usmon Karimov, received a criminal record for this incident and was fired. However, such complaints about military officials from the victims of raids are rare. According to the Office of Civil Freedoms, the practice of military raids was especially common until 2013. Then, about 40% of the interviewed soldiers reported that they were put to service being caught in military raids. However, after the statements of President Emomali Rahmon about the impossibility of violations during the military conscription campaigns, the number of such incidents decreased. In 2017 and 2018, the organization received videos on the raids’ conduction, consequent appeals from human rights defenders to the Military Prosecutor’s Office brought positive results. Photo: akhbor-rus.com Beatings and Bullying Dilrabo Samadova, a lawyer of the Office of Civil Freedoms, notes that one of the problems of the Tajik army is the relationships between the soldiers. Although, comparing with the situation of 5 or 8 years ago, the situation in military units has significantly improved. “Living conditions, clothing, food, medical care, the officers’ level of knowledge noticeably improved. I believe that we can ensure that the rights of soldiers are respected and defended. We hope to build a healthy army. Therefore, we are making efforts to take the cruel relations out of the army,” she said. According to the Office of Civil Freedoms, in 2014–2017, 62 soldiers suffered from beatings and cruel treatment in the Tajik army, and another 12 incidents ended up with soldiers’ deaths. These events resulted in punishment of 35 people and 22 soldiers were sentenced from 5 to 18 years of imprisonment. In 13 cases, officers were punished and sentenced from 1.5 to 4 years of imprisonment. However, such consequences are possible only in case of serious incidents. Such cases as offences, kicks, fights get no attention, experts say. Saidjafar Safarzoda, an expert on social issues, believes that the main reason why young people evade military service is bullying and beatings in the military units. “Bullying can take many forms. Some soldiers say that there are video cameras in their sleeping rooms, but they are easy covered with soldiers’ clothes. When recruits hear about such incidents, they are greatly disappointed in military service. Another injustice is that there are families where none of the six sons served, and the other (families) with two children where both are recruited,” says Safarzoda. Beaten by Spade Handle This year, the Tajik media reported on several high-profile cases of soldiers’ killings in military units of the country.
On March 24, Mazbudjon Mansurov, a 21-year-old soldier of the military unit 0306 of the Directorate of Border Troops of the State Committee for National Security, died. According to relatives, he died 10 days before his demobilization.According to Khatlon region’s Military Prosecutor’s Office, he died because he was beaten with a spade handle, which caused the rupture of the spleen and excessive bleeding. Three doctors who treated the soldier gave this conclusion; they were then interrogated by the Military Prosecutor’s Office investigators. On that tragic day, the father of the deceased soldier, Mardon Mansurov, was told on the phone that his son suffered from kidney disease and died during treatment. A day later, officers of the military unit delivered the body of Mazbudjon to the family and told that they would find his murderers. Only then did the parents find out that their son was killed.
The Khatlon Regional Military Court opened a criminal case against two military officers of the unit. Senior Lieutenant Iditat Pirov was detained on the day of the incident and he is still in jail. According to the Criminal Code, Pirov will be sentenced to imprisonment of 8 to 12 years. Captain Mehriddin Nurov was put on probation for two years and fired from his post in May.However, Mansurov’s parents are dissatisfied with the mildness of the sentence for Nurov and demand strict punishment for all guilty of their son’s death. “My son was killed, but one of the murderers is free, they want to punish only one. I demand the court to punish all guilty of the crime, but Nurov got off easily. I think that the process will not be fair,” says Mardon Mansurov. The deceased Mazbudjon had a brother and his parents intend to prevent him from serving in the army. In early November, a court of military station in Khorog, GBAO, sentenced a border troops soldier Bakhtovar Abdulloyev to 13 years for beating and killing his comrade Abdukayum Yodgorov. In May, the soldier Rajabali Karimov, who served for a year and two months, was killed. The investigators from the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office of Tajikistan claimed that the cause of death was suicide, although relatives found a gunshot wound on his neck. The brother of the deceased, Murodali Karimov, filmed the moment of washing his brother’s body and states that there were injuries. “There were traces of rope on the hands. There were also injuries on other parts of the body. We do not know where they came from,” Ozodi quotes him. In most similar cases, relatives claim that there were signs of beatings on the dead soldiers’ bodies. However, the authorities often state that these are death spots and do not recognize the fact of torture and ill-treatment, human rights activists from the Coalition against Torture in Tajikistan report.
Land and Driver License in Exchange for ServiceNot only young men do not want to serve in the army, parents also support them in evading service. “Every year during the military conscription, I cannot calmly sleep at night. I am scared of these raids, I am afraid that they will come to us for my sons at night. It’s better to let them go to Russia than to be humiliated and beaten in the army,” says 52-year-old Sabohat Kamolova. She lives in Bokhtar and has three sons. The problem of military conscription becomes serious in the country. The plans of army replenishment have not been fulfilled after the last two spring campaigns and one autumn campaign. At the end of October, in the Kabodian district (220 kilometers south of Dushanbe), five young residents fled after receiving the military notification. Relatives claim that they left to migration. Local authorities are trying to motivate young people with financial incentive. Four years ago, young people were promised that after serving in the army they would receive land for the house and help with the wedding. However, according to the majority of soldiers who served, the authorities forgot about their promises after demobilization. Shahlo Hasanzoda, Deputy Mayor of Nurek (80 kilometers south of Dushanbe), informed CABAR.asia that they use other incentives for conscription. For example, recruits for several months study on driving courses for free, get a driver’s license, and only then serve. Nevertheless, the best way to attract recruits will be to provide former soldiers with jobs, said Saidjafar Safarzoda.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.