Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have urged Tajik officials “to stop harassing” the family of exiled opposition activist Fathuddin Saidmuhiddinov.

In a joint statement issued in December 4, the rights watchdogs said Tajik authorities summoned, interrogated, and threatened Saidmuhiddinov's relatives in late-November, “apparently to force him to cease his online criticism of the government.”  As the human rights crisis in Tajikistan deepens, the authorities have increased pressure on family members of exiled critics, according to the statement.

“The Tajik government has severely curbed free speech in the country and left no space for any criticism by targeting opposition political figures and activists, lawyers, journalists, and relatives of peaceful dissidents,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.  “The authorities should immediately stop harassing Saidmukhidinov’s relatives over his activism.”

The statement says Saidmuhiddinov has been based in the European Union since 2016. He is reportedly a supporter of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), an opposition party that was labeled a terrorist organization and banned by Tajik authorities in 2015.

Saidmuhiddinov's online articles have reportedly been critical of the Tajik government's ongoing crackdown on dissent and political opposition.

He told Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee that, following a period of inactivity for two months due to illness, he resumed his activities in October 2020.

The rights groups' joint statement cites Saidmuhiddinov as saying that Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security summoned his brother and father on November 19, where they were interrogated and threatened for five hours.

The officials reportedly told them that Saidmuhiddinov should cease all his activities and shut down his social media accounts, including his YouTube channel and his blog.