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In Unusual Move, Tajik Interior Ministry Seeks Victims Of Possible Police Abuse

Celebrations marking a Hindu spring festival in Dushanbe turned sour this month after a number of young revelers claimed they had been arrested and abused by the police.
Celebrations marking a Hindu spring festival in Dushanbe turned sour this month after a number of young revelers claimed they had been arrested and abused by the police.

Tajikistan's Interior Ministry is asking a group of young partygoers briefly detained and possibly roughed up by police last week to come forward with any complaint about alleged mistreatment.

The unusual request follows public complaints by a parent and rights activists, and the posting on social media of an audio recording that purportedly captured police officers insulting and beating young men and women in custody.

A ministry spokesman, Jaloliddin Sadriddinov, confirmed on May 19 that the young Tajiks were detained on the street in the capital, Dushanbe, after attending a Hindu spring festival late on May 15.

Sadriddinov said the revelers were released after questioning by police and he had no information about any mistreatment, adding, "But if the victims file official complaints, the ministry will investigate the case.”

Meanwhile, the 16-minute recording that was shared on May 18 sparked outrage and calls for immediate probes.

Platforma, a Tajik- and Russian-language public group on Facebook, was among the first social-media accounts to post the recording, allegedly made on a mobile phone in the police station.

Platforma claims "some 200 people -- many of them underage children -- were taken to Dushanbe's Ismoili Somoni district police headquarters," where they faced "beating, swearing, and humiliation."

Within hours, the Facebook post was shared hundreds of times.

'Please, Don't Beat Me!'

In the recording, male voices can be heard swearing and insulting and there are sounds suggesting the exchanges become physical.

Female voices can be heard crying and pleading, "Please, don't beat me," and, "Please, please, I didn't know it was prohibited."

At one point, a female voice can be heard hyperventilating before a male voice says, "Hey, these tricks don't work here."

Another -- much calmer -- male voice says, "You beautiful young girls shouldn't be wandering in the streets in the middle of the night. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

RFE/RL cannot confirm the authenticity of the recording, but local rights groups say it is proof of mistreatment at the hands of the police.

Dilrabo Samadova, a representative of the Dushanbe-based Coalition Against Torture, also told RFE/RL that the group has studied the recording and concluded that "the police officers beat the detainees 25 times during the 16 minutes recorded."

The Coalition Against Torture has urged the purported victims to take action against the officers, and offered to represent them in court pro bono.

Samadova said the group has concluded that "seven different policemen can be heard in the recording."

It remains unclear why the young partygoers were detained by police.

Tajik authorities have banned lavish private gatherings, saying extravagant parties strain family budgets.

Last year, a Dushanbe resident was fined for hosting friends at a local restaurant to celebrate his 25th birthday.

But the Hindu celebration's organizer, local NGO Alegriya, said it had obtained an official permit to invite 400 people to the gathering to mark Holi, also known as the festival of color or of sharing love.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent Sarvinoz Ruhulloh

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