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Ibrohim Hamza Tillozoda

Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have called on Tajikistan to lift “a politically motivated travel ban” and allow the critically ill son of an opposition member to receive medical treatment abroad.

In a joint statement issued on July 27, the two rights groups said that 4-year-old Ibrohim Hamza Tillozoda, the son of opposition member Ruhullo Tillozoda and the grandson of opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri, the chair of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), has life-threatening stage-3 testicular cancer that doctors in Tajikistan have not been able to treat.

Tilozada and Kabiri left Tajikistan in 2015 to evade state persecution. In late 2015, Tajik authorities confiscated the travel documents of Hamza’s mother and other family members, preventing them from traveling outside the country, the rights groups said.

“Tajik authorities should immediately allow 4-year-old Hamza and his family to leave so he can receive life-saving medical treatment,” Marius Fossum, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee's regional representative in Central Asia, said.

“President Emomali Rahmon should ensure that the family can travel,” Fossum added.

Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said that an oncological clinic in Turkey is prepared to provide the treatment.

“It is morally reprehensible that Tajik authorities appear to be holding a critically ill child hostage to exert pressure on his father and grandfather,” Human Rights Watch's Central Asia researcher, Steve Swerdlow, said.

“This case should not be about politics but about a child’s life,” Swerdlow added.

Activists say Rahmon's government has intensified its crackdown on the opposition since 2015, when the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan was branded a terrorist organization and banned, and dozens of party officials were arrested.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov

Bulgaria's top court has rejected as unconstitutional a European treaty to combat violence against women.

The ruling on July 27 likely kills any chance the treaty will be ratified by Bulgaria’s parliament.

The 81-article treaty, which is intended to prevent violence against women -- from marital rape to female genital mutilation -- was drawn up by the Council of Europe, the human rights body.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s center-right government had approved the so-called Istanbul Convention and submitted it to parliament for ratification. But the government withdrew it weeks later after an uproar over its language about gender roles.

The debate centers on its definition of "gender" as "social roles, behaviors, activities, and characteristics that a particular society considers appropriate for women and men."

In its ruling, the court said the notion of "gender" blurred lines between the two biological sexes.

"If society no longer differentiates between man and woman, the fight against violence against women becomes impossible to accomplish," the court said.

Critics, including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the opposition Socialist Party, and the ruling nationalist United Patriots Coalition, said the language could encourage young people to identify as transgender or third sex and lead to same-sex marriage.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee rights watchdog called it “the worst human rights decision in the court’s history, and by a large measure.”

Sofia University cultural anthropologist Valentina Georgieva told Balkan Insight that the court’s decision “is disturbing in its reading of the basic rights of women. It practically submits the social role of a woman to one of a mother when it comes to antidiscrimination prevention."

Based on reporting by AFP, Balkan Insight, and Reuters

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