SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 16, 2014

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Toronto

Region & Country:Central Asia | Tajikistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Alexander Sodiqov, a Tajik PhD candidate studying at the University of Toronto, disappeared in Khorog, Tajikistan on June 16, 2014, while doing fieldwork on conflict resolution and civil society in Central Asia.  At the time of his arrest, Sodiqov was reportedly conducting an interview with civil society activist Alim Sherzamonov, an opposition leader in Tajikistan.

The Tajik secret police, the GKNB, initially confirmed that they had detained Sodiqov on June 16, claiming that he was engaged in espionage on behalf of an unnamed government.  Sodiqov reportedly was able to contact his family by phone on the same day, but could not state who had detained him or where he was.  Since that time, however, Sodiqov’s family and colleagues have not heard from him; authorities have refused to disclose his location, or to indicate whether he remains in custody.  According to reports, Sodiqov has appeared on local Tajik state television twice since his arrest, each time appearing pale and confused, with his speech apparently edited in a manner designed to discredit the political opposition.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent incommunicado detention — without access to counsel or family — of a scholar, apparently as a result of scholarly research.  State officials are obligated to comply with internationally recognized standards of due process and fair trial, including the right to counsel and the right to a fair and public hearing.  State officials also have a responsibility not to interfere with the right to free expression, so long as it is exercised peacefully and responsibly. Intimidation, detention or prosecution aimed at limiting free expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.
Update: According to reports, Alex Sodiqov was released on bail on July 22, and, as of this report, was at home in Tajikistan with family. As of this report, Sodiqov remained under investigation for charges related to treason, a crime carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, and was prohibited from leaving the country. He was also not permitted to continue his research.
Update: On or about September 22, 2014, Tajik authorities granted Alex Sodiqov permission to leave Tajikistan.  As of this update, Sodiqov has returned to Toronto, where he is with his family.