Khushruz Jumayev (Khushom Gulyam)

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Journalist Khushom Gulyam is serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted in December 2022 on charges of membership in an alleged criminal group that authorities accuse of organizing protests in Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Police arrested Khushom Gulyam in May 2022, shortly after the outbreak of those protests. 

Khushom Gulyam, whose legal name is Khushruz Jumayev, is an independent journalist and blogger from Tajikistan’s Pamiri ethnic minority who lives in Gorno-Badakhshan, where he is widely known as a promoter of Pamiri culture. He runs the Pamiri culture and current affairs website, which critically covered government actions during unrest in Gorno-Badakhshan in November 2021, according to CPJ’s review of archived versions of the website. Khushom Gulyam also worked on the news website Pamir Plus, established in early 2022 by jailed Pamiri journalist and human rights defender Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, who has been accused by Tajik authorities of organizing May 2022 unrest in the region. Pamir Plus aimed to remedy the absence of independent media in Gorno-Badakhshan, according to several Pamiri journalists who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal from authorities, and a statement by the outlet.

Following the eruption of protests by Pamiris in Gorno-Badakhshan in mid-May 2022, Tajikistan authorities launched an “anti-terrorism” operation in the region, which reportedly resulted in at least 34 deaths and hundreds of arrests among the local population. Authorities have sought to suppress independent reporting on the protests and the government operation, as CPJ has documented, and initiated a major crackdown on the press following the Gorno-Badakhshan events.

On May 18, 2022, Tajikistan’s security services arrested Mamadshoeva on accusations of organizing the unrest. The following day, officers with the Interior Ministry’s Department for Combating Organized Crime arrested Khushom Gulyam at his home in Dushanbe, news reports stated. A source familiar with Khushom Gulyam’s case told CPJ on condition of anonymity, due to fear of reprisal, that the journalist’s parents searched for him at various government offices for five days before authorities called them to say he was in detention at Department for Combating Organized Crime headquarters. Exiled Pamiri journalist Anora Sarkorova reported that the journalist was deprived of access to a lawyer during this time.

A friend of Khushom Gulyam’s told CPJ on condition of anonymity, also fearing reprisal, that the journalist told him after Mamadshoeva’s arrest that he feared detention, but that he had not done anything unlawful.

The source familiar with Khushom Gulyam’s case told CPJ that authorities classified the cases against him as secret and made his lawyer sign a nondisclosure agreement, so neither the media nor the journalist’s family received reliable information about the case against him. He was subjected to severe physical abuse in the weeks following his arrest, including by electric shock, according to Sarkorova’s report. 

In a May 2023 response by Tajik authorities to two letters from U.N. Human Rights Council special rapporteurs, which had expressed concern over detained Pamiri rights defenders, the authorities alleged that Khushom Gulyam had worked closely with Mamadshoeva, alleged criminal gangs in Gorno-Badakhshan, and leaders of the banned, exile-based opposition National Alliance of Tajikistan to seize power in the region through the May protests. The authorities claimed Khushom Gulyam participated in producing “provocative interviews” of alleged plot participants and “disseminated them online,” as well as acting as a go-between between Mamadshoeva and other co-conspirators.

On September 20, 2022, the closed-door trial of Khushom Gulyam, Mamadshoeva, and around 30 other individuals accused of organizing the Gorno-Badakhshan protests started in the State Committee for National Security’s pretrial detention center in Dushanbe, the source familiar with Khushom Gulyam’s case told CPJ. 

In December 2022, authorities sentenced Khushom Gulyam to eight years in prison on charges of forming a criminal group, according to Radio Ozodi and a January 26 statement by the prosecutor general’s office, which did not specify a date for the sentence. CPJ was unable to establish how he pleaded or whether he appealed his sentence.

The court sentenced Mamadshoeva to 20 years in prison on multiple charges in relation to the protests, according to that statement.

In a statement in July 2023, experts with the U.N. Human Rights Council expressed concern about the convictions of Khushom Gulyam and at least five other journalists imprisoned in Tajikistan, citing the “apparent use of anti-terrorism legislation to silence critical voices.” The U.N. experts said the cases appeared to have “grossly violated” fair trial standards, and that they were “appalled” by reports that journalists were “ill-treated and tortured, including to extract false confessions.” 

As of October 2023, Khushom Gulyam was being held in Correctional Facility No. 7 in Dushanbe, the source familiar with his case told CPJ.

Close acquaintances of Khushom Gulyam’s told CPJ on condition of anonymity that he had previously suffered from pleurisy, a type of chest pain, and they were concerned for his well-being in detention. According to Sarkorova’s report, Khushom Gulyam underwent an operation in a prison hospital on November 16 to treat varicocele, which she said could have resulted from the physical abuse and electric shocks he allegedly received in the weeks after his arrest.

CPJ emailed the prosecutor general’s office and the Interior Ministry of Tajikistan about

Khushom Gulyam’s

case but did not receive any replies.