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Domestic and international Pamiri activists have protested outside Tajik embassies in Washington, Moscow and London, accusing the Tajik government of targeting the Pamiri people.

However, Tajiks of Pamiri ethnicity are known to fight for the government forces deployed to the area.

Ms. Ismail-Beben says that although Mr. Ayombekov’s men did fight for the Pamiris during the civil war and continue to provide local patronage, his criminal activities have split local opinion.

“On the one hand, they are drug dealers, which goes against the moral principles of many here,” she says. “On the other hand, some are happy if they do some good in order to ‘clean their money.’ “

Ultimately, says Ms. Ismail-Beben, it is the Pamiri people in Gorno-Badakhshan who suffer most, caught in the crossfire between local criminals and the national authorities.

“They do not trust the government to do what a government is supposed to do,” she says. “But it is not as if they flock to the likes of Ayombekov. After all, they are purveyors of destruction, too, creating an addiction that is reaching an epidemic.”