Alexander Sodiqov, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and the father of a two-year old daughter, was arrested without charge on 16 June in Khorog, Tajikistan. I have known Alex since he came to Canada three years ago. As his PhD supervisor, I have watched him develop into a first rate scholar. He possesses all of the qualities which you look for in an aspiring academic – analytical rigor, a detailed, nuanced knowledge of his subject area, and a genuine passion for research and teaching. After being detained for over a month, Alex was recently released from imprisonment. However, he remains unable to leave the country even though he has not been charged with any crime under Tajik law.
Alex is a PhD candidate at U of T’s Department of Political Science and had recently begun conducting interviews in the Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. His research concerning civil society and conflict prevention was part of a project through the University of Exeter, UK. His role is and always has been solely academic. While I welcome his conditional release, I urge the Tajik government to allow him to return unconditionally to Canada to continue his studies.
Alex’s case has received media attention through The Guardian, Slate,The National Post, and The Economist, among other local and international media outlets. The OSCE, Freedom House, and Amnesty have issued statements of concern. Alex’s treatment implicates the fate of scholars working across the world, who are entitled to the protection of their legal rights and to be free from the fear of arbitrary imprisonment. Alex has always been a defender of the principle of academic freedom, but he is first and foremost a loving husband and father.
I call on the government of Tajikistan to allow Alex to leave without further delay to resume his studies in Canada. I also call on the government of Canada to do everything its power to support his return to Canada, along with his Canadian-born daughter.
I urge you to add your voice to those calling for his unconditional release, on both principled and compassionate grounds.
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Toronto