Fernand de Waren, the special rapporteur of the United Nations on minority affairs, was in Tajikistan for eleven days. He had a conversation with representatives of the government and various minorities. In an interview on October 19, Radio Ozodi asked Fernand de Waren about his trip and meeting.
Radio Ozodi: Did you go to Badakhshan region during your trip to Tajikistan? Did they allow it?
Fernand de Waren: “It was not difficult to get permission to travel to Badakhshan region, but we waited a bit. Finally, we traveled.”
Radio Ozodi: What is your takeaway from this trip?
Fernand de Waren: “There were some points of concern. My points of concern will be mentioned in the final report. At the end of my press release, I mentioned that the protesters in the events of 2021 and 2022 in Badakhshan were treated harshly, and these events should be investigated impartially and fairly. I also requested the same in the meeting with the country’s leadership. I also expressed my concern about the harsh treatment of Shia Muslims or followers of the Ismaili sect in Badakhshan. These issues will be mentioned in detail in my final report. Especially regarding the implementation of the religious pillars of the followers of Ismailia. Another point that will be emphasized in my statement is the need to officially recognize the Pomiris as a minority and use the language it’s them.”
Radio Ozodi: During your trip to Tajikistan, did you meet prisoners who are representatives of religious minorities in prisons and detention centers?
Fernand de Waren: “I was in contact only with some of the relatives of such detainees.”
Radio Ozodi: We learned that you had a meeting with representatives of the Uzbek community in Tajikistan. What did they say?
Fernand de Waren: “At the meeting, representatives of the Uzbek community informed me about their situation in Tajikistan. But there is a subject of privacy in this matter, I cannot give more information than that.”
WHAT IS THE SITUATION?
Radio Ozodi: What is the situation of religious minorities in Tajikistan?
Fernand de Waren: “I must say that concerns about the situation of religious minorities are mentioned in my report. Now I can say that in some ways the situation of religious minorities is good. As for the schools of national minorities, the situation is not bad, but there is a need for improvement. For example, there are not enough schools for some national minorities. Also, students’ access to textbooks should be improved. Another issue that has become a source of concern for us is the test system for admission to the higher schools of Tajikistan. When graduates of national minority schools want to enter universities, they are obliged to pass entrance exams in Tajik language. However, in school they studied in their minority language. As a result, they are in a disadvantageous position compared to Tajik representatives. Paying attention to this issue in my report, I propose that the representatives of national minorities be given the right to take the entrance exams in the language of their nation.
Radio Ozodi: In your press release about the decrease in the number of schools in the Uzbek language, you said that in the past two years, the number of classes taught in the Uzbek language has decreased from 14,000 to 5,000. Right?
Fernand de Varenne: “Yes, both yes and no.” Why? Because Uzbeks as a national minority are more numerous than other nationalities. Our concern also applies to the Kyrgyz and Turkmen minorities. I will also emphasize two other points in my report. One is the official use of the language of national minorities in the areas of their collective life. Because this will lead to the creation of new jobs for representatives of these national minorities. Another recommendation I made is related to the development and approval of the law on the protection of the rights of national minorities in Tajikistan. I also recommended the government to approve the International Model Convention (or the European Convention on the Rights of Minorities) on the rights of national minorities. In many cases, national minorities face obstacles in participating in public events. It would be good if the rights and obligations of national minorities are defined in writing in the law.”
“THIS IS NOT AN EASY PROCESS”
Radio Ozodi: A few months ago, journalist Abdukadir Talbakov applied to the Committee of Religion, Regulation of Traditions and National Holidays and Ceremonies of Tajikistan to register the name of the country’s Zoroastrian organization. This organization is not yet registered. He himself says that there have been threats against him. Did the topic of registering the name of the Zoroastrian organization of Tajikistan come up during your meeting with the Tajik authorities?
Fernand de Varenne: “Thank you for this question. Such a conversation took place, but not only in connection with the registration of the Zoroastrian organization. In general, the topic of legislative requirements for registration of religious organizations was discussed in conversations with the authorities. There are some points of concern in this context, and they will be mentioned in my final report.”
Radio Ozodi: You are the third special reporter of the United Nations to come to Tajikistan after the suppression of protesters in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it seems that nothing has really changed. What do you expect from the mission of your visit to Tajikistan?
Fernand de Waren: “The best answer to your question is that attracting more attention of the authorities to the mentioned issues is my main expectation. By no means is this an easy process. If we do nothing and remain silent, the result will be nothing. Constantly attracting the attention of the authorities by the special rapporteur of the United Nations can lead to the emergence of pressure and open the way for improvement.
Radio Ozodi: Pressure from whom?
Fernand de Waren: “Pressure from the UN and the Council of the European Union, because these points attract more attention to the solution of the problem. Tajikistan wants to be a member of the international community and they want to finally see changes in the country. Let’s be optimistic, because when we had a meeting with the authorities, they tried to be free and optimistic in the conversation. We will continue to work with the government and hope that eventually this will lead to changes and improvements.”
Radio Ozodi: In Tajikistan, state policy and its laws emphasize the centrality of the Hanafi sect. Perhaps they will tell you in conversations that their every action to control religious activities is carried out within the framework of legislation. What do you say in response to them?
Fernand de Waren: “My answer consists of two parts. First, the Tajik government always claims that it prioritizes the provision of human rights. In fact, the authorities constantly state that they fulfill the requirements of international laws on the protection of human rights. We hope that the authorities will keep their commitment. We also hope that the Tajik government will put the requirements of its international obligations above the requirements of domestic legislation. When the authorities declare that they respect the requirements of international instruments, they have to go through periods of retraining to understand that even in the context of fulfilling the requirements of local laws, the requirements of international instruments have priority. Of course, we are not yet in a perfect society and everything we do needs to be improved and changed. For this reason, we must constantly draw the attention of the authorities to the fact that, in addition to fulfilling the requirements of domestic legislation, the provisions of international documents should be taken into consideration.
Radio Ozodi: So, this is your answer to the authorities?
Fernand de Waren: “This is my wish and also my invitation and incitement. I may also add another message that we live in a rapidly changing world. The best way to ensure peace and stability, development and progress is to create conditions of equality and justice for all. In this context, we will try. That is, the international human rights system is striving in this direction, and ensuring equality and justice is the main pillar of progress.”
Source : Радио Озоди