MMA Fighter Facing Charges in Tajikistan after Court Orders a New Linguistic Examination


A Pamiri mixed martial arts fighter continues to face charges in Tajikistan as the court ordered a new linguistic examination after a previous expert concluded that the statement did not contain a call to violence.

Chorshanbe Chorshanbiev, a 26-year old MMA fighter from Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, was detained by the authorities upon his return to Tajikistan. He was alleged to have published statements on social media that violated articles 189 and 307 of the Tajik Criminal Code, which cover actions “arousing national, racial, local or religious hostility,” and “public calls for the forcible capture of state power.”

The pro-Pamiri fighter was in Russia when he was deported from the country in December 2021 over a speeding incident. Europe-based Tajik journalist Anora Sarkorova remarked the incident as an act of extradition in the guise of deportation.

Chorshanbiev got on the wrong side of the authorities due to a series of allegedly ‘offensive’ comments he made over the past two years. While the whole situation might seem to be just trash talk and an exercise of free speech, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) has a fairly unique take on those western concepts given its history of ethnic conflict.

Incidents like these gain notoriety in the community every now and then. Back in 2020, UFC president Dana White pleaded online to the Iranian government for the sparing of a champion wrestler’s life.

Start of Pamiri fighter’s trouble in Tajikistan

An early statement that drew the ire of the authorities in Tajikistan came in January 2020 when Chorshanbiev took offense to be called a “Tajik fighter” by a Russian opponent. He doubled down on the sentiment stating:

“What do you mean Tajik? I’m not Tajik. You want to see a Tajik, look in the mirror… I am a Pamiri, written in big letters. Remember that forever.” (h/t The Diplomat)

Six months later, he apologized for the incident reasoning he wanted to tell the world of the existence of the Pamirs and the Pamiri people. He also expressed unity with Tajikistan as both groups live on the same land.

The Pamiri fighter continued to take more heat as he weighed in on an unfortunate incident that he deemed to be unfair. Taking to social media to share his message about the unjust killing of a local man, Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, he called for people to stand for justice.

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

It was this message that landed him on the wrong side of Dushanbe, which claims such calls for change at the government level are advocating for overthrowing the state. A Russian expert, Yelizaveta Koltunova of the Institute of Linguistics and Journalism in Nizhny Novgorod, testified that his statement did not contain any “psychosocial or linguistic elements of calls for violence, including disruption of the foundations of the society and state.”

In light of the findings by the linguistic expert that testified Chorshanbiev to be innocent, the court ordered a new linguistic examination of his statements in what appears to be a clear attempt at finding him guilty regardless of the truth.

Do you agree with the authorities in Tajikistan over the order of a new linguistic examiner?

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Author: Nikhil Sharma
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