Dr. Edward Lemon, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, has asked the government of Turkey not to extradite Tajik citizens Suhrob Zafar Turaev and Nasim Sharipov, who were detained in Istanbul on March 19th, 2018. As he noticed on his post in Twitter, Dr Lemon has spent over ten years studying, working in and conducting research on Tajikistan, including two years spent living the country working as a journalist and for a non-governmental organization, and over a year of fieldwork in Tajikistan and among Tajik migrants in Russia.
His research focuses on politics, security, counter-extremism and human rights in Tajikistan. His particular area of expertise is the government’s crackdown on the political opposition since 2010, and its targeting of those who have fled the country. He also has published articles six peer-reviewed articles, three book chapters and since 2015 has authored the Tajikistan chapter in Freedom House’s ‘Nations in Transit’ report, documenting human rights abuses in the country. He remarked, that although Tajikistan has never been a democratic state, the human rights situation in the country has dramatically deteriorated since 2010. Tajikistan under president Emomali Rahmon, who has ruled since 1992, has become a bastion of torture and repression.
The government of Tajikistan has taken advantage of loosely-worded legislation on extremism and security to label opponents “extremists” and “terrorists.” Group 24, the organization that Zafar and Sharipov are linked to, was established in 2012 by Umarali Quvvatov as a loose network of activists who were opposed to the government. In October 2014, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan declared this group an “extremist” organization and banned its activities on its territory. He also has noticed, that charges of the Tajikistan’ authorities are politically-motivated; there is no evidence that Group 24 members have been involved in violent acts or supported them.
He is convinced, that If Zafar and Sharipov are returned to Tajikistan, they are likely to receive ill-treatment by the government. As the justice system is politicized and opaque and torture is widely used in Tajikistan to extract confessions. Since 2016, the Coalition against Torture, a collection of Tajik rights groups, has reported at least 90 instances of torture or ill-treatment in detention. Political prisoners have been particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and torture. It would against Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights for the government of Turkey to extradite these two individuals back to Tajikistan. He without the slightest hesitation recommended, that the government of Turkey denies the government of Tajikistan’s extradition request for Zafar and Sharipov.