DUSHANBE -- Dozens of Tajiks affected by some of the worst flooding and mudslides in years have blocked a key road in a rare instance of public protest in the authoritarian Central Asian nation.
The protesters halted traffic on May 17 along the Bokhtar-Dushanbe road, which connects the nation’s capital with the center of Khatlon Province. The road continues on to a border bridge with Afghanistan.
Residents of the Khuroson district have been severely impacted by devastating floods and mudslides in recent days with dozens of homes in three villages partially or fully destroyed.
One person has died and several have been injured from the natural disaster.
Meanwhile, residents have been forced to spend nights outside without emergency aid, they said.
The head of the local police is negotiating with the protesters.
Large demonstrations have been rare in Tajikistan -- which has been run for more than a quarter century by authoritarian leader President Emomali Rahmon -- since the end of its civil war in 1997.
The protest comes amid complaints over the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tajik authorities, who for weeks denied that the coronavirus had reached the nation, claim that only 204 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and only 36 have died as of May 16 .
However, civil activists claim that the number of deaths alone already exceeds 200