Chorshanbe Chorshanbiev, 26, a Tajik national, was deported late last year from Russia after he was caught speeding by Moscow police.  Upon arrival in Tajikistan on December 30, however, he was taken into custody.  This sequence of events has sparked suspicions that the deportation was effected at the request of the Tajik authorities, Eurasianet reported on January 4.  

Recall, Tajik national news agency Khovar, citing the prosecutor’s office of Dushanbe’s Shohmansour district, said on December 30 that criminal proceedings have been instituted against Chorshanbiev under the provisions of two articles of Tajikistan’s Penal Code: Article 189 – incitement of social, racial, ethnic, regional or religious enmity; and Article 307 -- public calls for the forcible overthrow of or change to the constitutional order in Tajikistan.  The preliminary investigation is reportedly under way. 

Eurasianet says Chorshanbiev’s alleged offense dates back to January 2020, when he was engaged in a verbal back-and-forth with a rival Russian MMA fighter, Nikita Solonin.  In a video message address, Solonin referred to Chorshanbiev as a “Tajik fighter.”

Chorshanbiev’s response appeared to suggest he found the Tajik label demeaning.  He insisted that his provenance, from the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan, or GBAO, which is populated by an ethnically and religiously distinct community of people, be acknowledged.

“What do you mean Tajik? I’m not Tajik. You want to see a Tajik, look in the mirror,” he said. “I am a Pamiri, written in big letters. Remember that forever.”

Eurasianet notes that this style of trash talk is commonplace among MMA athletes, and especially so among younger fighters seeking to emulate the flamboyant aggression of superstars like Irishman Conor McGregor. It is never entirely clear how seriously the mutual insults are intended.

However, Tajik officials, as well as many Tajik people, did not take Chorshanbiev’s banter so lightly.  The apology took some time to arrive, however.  In July 2021, Chorshanbiev uploaded another video to say that he had not wanted to cause offense.

“I only had one intention: to tell the world that there is such a place and such a people [as Pamiris] in this world.  What division can there be between us when we live on one land?” he said.

Eurasianet says that although Chorshanbiev’s initial remarks were inflammatory, it is improbable they were sufficient to spur the Tajik authorities into pursuing his forcible repatriation.  His deportation is reportedly more likely to have been triggered by public statements he made during a recent standoff between GBAO residents and the central government in Dushanbe.  Protests in November were sparked by the deadly police shooting of a local resident but rapidly evolved into demands for more autonomy for the province.

In a video message filmed around the time of that unrest, Chorshanbiev called on fellow Pamiris to defy the authorities and not to submit to state violence.

“I urge you to stand up against injustice and against the unjust death of innocent people,” he said.

The video has reportedly received almost 90,000 views.

Anora Sarkorova, a journalist based in Europe, said in a commentary on Facebook that she was certain that Chorshanbiev was not deported, but rather extradited.

“He allowed himself the impermissible luxury of saying out loud what others think but remain silent, discuss at home but hesitate to say in public,” Sarkorova said.

As it had been reported earlier, citing the press center of the Moscow city court, RIA Novosti reported that the Moscow city court on December 29 upheld the decision on deportation of Chorshanbiev.  

The Moscow Police Directorate said on December 5 that Chorshanbe Chorshanbiev was detained in Moscow for driving without a license.  “It was found that the man violated the regime of stay (residence) on the territory of the Russian Federation. Administrative material was drawn up on it under article 18.8 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation (violation by a foreign citizen or stateless person of the rules of entering the Russian Federation or the regime of stay in the Russian Federation), which was sent for consideration to the court. The man faces an administrative fine of up to seven thousand rubles with administrative expulsion from the Russian Federation,” reads a statement released by the Moscow Police Directorate. 

The detention of Chorshanbiev became known on December 3.  Traffic police officers found videos on the Internet where the driver of a Toyota Camry, driving in the Lefortovo tunnel, repeatedly violated traffic rules. The identity and whereabouts of the offender were established, and he was detained at the 92nd km of the outer side of the Moscow Ring Road.  He was brought to administrative responsibility for the lack of an OSAGO policy, as well as for driving without a license, since he presented a national driver’s license, which has no legal force in the Russian Federation.