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Journalist's Stabbing a ‘Warning’ for Tajik Opposition

A Tajik journalist and critic of the regime is in hospital after being stabbed in Moscow by an identified person late in the night on February 19. Bakhtiyor Sattori, who worked at the Tajik embassy in Moscow and then as the representative of the Tajik Migration Service in Russia, emerged as an outspoken critic of the authorities in his home country after being dismissed in 2012. Over the past months, Sattori has lived in Moscow, working as a journalist and cooperating with Tajik opposition activists in exile, notably with Umarali Quvvatov, leader of the opposition movement Group 24. Quvvatov was arrested in Dubai in December 2012 at the request of the Tajik authorities and may soon be extradited to Tajikistan.

A Russian human rights activist who has worked closely with Sattori suggests [ru] that the assault on Sattori was a “political order,” and that the journalist was punished for his ties with Quvvatov and his recent attempts to mobilize international pressure in order to prevent the politician's extradition to Tajikistan. It is unclear what the journalist himself makes of the attack. In his interview with Radio Ozodi, Sattori said [ru] he did not know whom to blame for an apparent attempt on his life. A bit later, however, he told [ru] BBC he knew who was behind the attack, suggesting also that this was a powerful person within the Tajik government.

A taste of things to come?

Bakhtiyor Sattori's public profile photo on Facebook.

Bakhtiyor Sattori's public profile photo on Facebook.

The netizens in Tajikistan have little doubt that the attack against Sattori was politically motivated and that it was a taste of things to come in the months leading to presidential elections in the country due in November.

Under the report about Sattori's stabbing on news website TopTJ.com, Ravshan_1980 commented [ru]:

Все понятно: выборы впереди, правительство начало готовить очередную безоговорочную победу [действующего президента Эмомали Рахмона]. Всех недовольных и критикующих власти заранее убирают. Так было перед каждыми выборами в нашей стране.

Everything is clear: we have the elections ahead, and the government has begun preparing the ground for another landslide victory for [the incumbent president Emomali Rahmon]. All those who are unhappy or critical [of the regime] are removed in advance. Same happened before all past elections in our country.

Sattori is not the only Tajik journalist and critic of the government who has recently been brutally attacked in Russia. In January 2012, Dodojon Atovulloev, a Tajik dissident journalist and outspoken critic of the regime, was also stabbed by unidentified individuals in Moscow.

Shaparaki Ovora posted [ru] on Twitter:

@du15yak30 Еще одного таджикского оппозиционера в Москве убить пытались. Это уже избирательная кампания началась?

@du15yak30 There was an attempt on the life of another Tajik opposition activist in Moscow. Is it part of an election campaign that has already begun?

Tomiris responded [ru]:

@tomiristj Нет, это еще не кампания – это зачистка перед кампанией. На самих выборах все будет чисто и красиво. Грязную работу сделают до [выборов].

@tomiristj No, it is not the campaign yet – it is a clean-up before the campaign. The election itself will be clean and beautiful. The dirty work will be done before the election.

Jasur Ashurov weighs in [ru]:

@jashurov А может никакой связи с выборами нет – просто убирают и запугивают тех, кто слишком смело лает на власть из-за бугра.

@jashurov Maybe the event is not related to elections, and the authorities simply remove and intimidate those who dare to bark at them from abroad.

But Tajik Land insists [ru] the attack against Sattori is about elections:

@tajikland Думаю это перед выборами предупреждают оппозицию чтобы не пытались раскачивать лодку и бунтовать.

@tajikland I think it is a warning for opposition not to sway the boat or rebel before the elections.

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