Freelance journalist Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva has been detained since May 2022 on multiple anti-state charges in relation to the outbreak of mass protests in the country’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Prosecutors have requested 25 years imprisonment for Mamadshoeva, and her trial remained ongoing as of mid-November 2022.
Mamadshoeva is a freelance journalist and human rights activist who writes about cultural, social, and geopolitical issues in Gorno-Badakhshan for various publications, always writing under a pseudonym for fear of retaliation, several Pamiri journalists told CPJ on condition of anonymity, themselves fearing reprisal from authorities. She is a member of Tajikistan’s linguistically and religiously distinct Pamiri minority, according to those sources.
Mamadshoeva also ran the human rights non-governmental organization Nomus va Insof (Dignity and Justice), which worked on women’s rights and other issues, those sources said.
Following the eruption of protests 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.
On May 17, 2022, the Interior Ministry of Tajikistan published a statement accusing Mamadshoeva and two influential Pamiri figures of organizing the unrest in Badakhshan. The following morning, officers with the State Committee for National Security and the prosecutor general’s office arrested Mamadshoeva at her home in the capital, Dushanbe, and searched her home, according to news reports.
In comments to independent regional news website Fergana the day before her arrest, Mamadshoeva described the Interior Ministry’s accusation as “utterly absurd.”
On May 24, Tajik state television broadcast “Failure of the Conspiracy,” a film produced by a state-owned film company, which showed Mamadshoeva and her detained ex-husband Kholbash Kholbashov admit to organizing unrest in Gorno-Badakhshan. The film includes various accusations that Mamadshoeva received foreign funding to undermine the state, alleging that she received instructions from the staff of an unnamed Western embassy.
During the trial, Mamadshoeva stated that her confession was made under duress, according to Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
On July 15, a representative of the prosecutor general’s office announced that a case had been opened against Mamadshoeva for leading “part of a criminal group” in eastern Gorno-Badakhshan, according to a video published by Radio Ozodi. That charge carries a sentence 15 and 20 years in prison, under Article 187, Part 1, of the criminal code of Tajikistan.
Radio Ozodi reported that authorities had brought eight charges against Mamadshoeva, including calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison if committed at the behest of a foreign state or organizations “hostile” to Tajikistan under Article 307 of the criminal code. Prosecutors requested a prison sentence of 25 years for the 65-year-old journalist, the report said.
According to the Radio Ozodi report, Mamadshoeva’s closed-door trial in the State Committee for National Security detention center in Dushanbe began on August 3. Citing anonymous sources, the report said a ruling in the journalist’s case had been scheduled for August 12, but that the case had been sent back to investigators after Mamadshoeva requested a re-examination.
Sources familiar with the case told CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal that authorities classified the case against Mamadshoeva as secret and made her lawyer sign a nondisclosure agreement, so neither the media nor the journalist’s family have received reliable information about the charges against her.
On September 20, the journalist’s retrial commenced, Radio Ozodi reported. A relative of Mamadshoeva was quoted as telling the outlet that family members were not being allowed to attend the trial.
As of mid-November 2022, Mamadshoeva’s trial remained ongoing, a source familiar with the case of fellow journalist Khushruz Jumayev, who is part of the same trial, told CPJ on condition of anonymity fearing reprisal.
During her trial, Mamadshoeva remained in detention at the State Committee for National Security detention center in Dushanbe, according to those Radio Ozodi reports. CPJ was unable to determine her health status.
CPJ emailed the prosecutor general’s office and the Interior Ministry of Tajikistan about Mamadshoeva’s case but did not receive any replies.