CBC’s Jennifer Clibbon reports on the circumstances behind the release of University of Toronto graduate student Alex Sodiqov from detention in Tajikistan on charges of treason. The academic community, including Sodiqov’s adviser Edward Schatz, fought for his liberation and won.
[Sodiqov's] fate galvanized scholars around the world because they felt it signals a chill for scholarly research in the former Soviet sphere. They set up a global petition, signed by thousands, to lobby the Tajik government.
“In the past you’d get a message that you’re in dangerous territory. Now there’s no warning that it’s going to come,” Sodiqov told CBC News.”They are blaming foreign governments for things they can’t control.”
At the University of Toronto, Schatz and other graduate students set up a website, produced a video, gave interviews to the media, and used social media to post updates on Sodiqov’s case.” Their hashtag, #freealexsodiqov, kind of went viral,” said Swerdlow, in an interview from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
“Schatz was strategic,” says Tracy MacDonald, a professor of Russian history at McMaster University. “He never let it go. He kept the campaign public. It would have been embarrassing for the Tajik government had anything happened to Alex while in custody.”
[. . .]
Two weeks ago, the Tajik secret police in Dushanbe called up Sodiqov and said he was now free to return to Canada. “I was shocked,” he said.