By RFE/RL’s Tajik Service
Life has "turned into a nightmare" for the family of a former Tajik police colonel who left the Central Asian country two years ago and joined the extremist group Islamic State (IS), his daughter says.
Gulmorod Halimov's wife, Nazokat Murodova, and their eldest daughter Nilufar Halimova, 15, spoke to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service on May 18 in the most extensive public comments yet from the family Halimov left behind.
They said they are facing persistent psychological and social pressure, police questioning, and financial hardship since Halimov left.
Halimov, 42, who was commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry’s special forces, went missing in April 2015. He later appeared in the Internet, saying he had joined IS and threatening the Tajik government.
“When the news of my father’s departure spread, officials from all kinds of agencies would come to our home to interrogate us, asking all sorts of questions. I was frightened,” said Halimova. “We still live in constant fear.”
Sitting beside her mother in the family home in a suburb, the teenager said that journalists and the authorities “still come to ask questions.”
Mother and daughter told RFE/RL that the family's financial problems deepened after what the family says was the arrest last month of the eldest son of Halimov and Murodova, 18-year-old Behruz, who had become “the breadwinner of the family.”
“We can’t afford meat even once a week,” Halimova said.
After Halimov left, Behruz had to abandon his dream of becoming a doctor and worked at a market to provide for the family, said Murodova, who had four children with Halimov.
Murodova said Behruz has been held in incommunicado since his arrest. Tajik authorities have not publicly confirmed that Behruz was detained or commented on his fate.
In August 2016, the U.S. State Department called Halimov a key member of IS and offered a reward of $3 million for information on his whereabouts.
According to Iraqi media reports, Halimov replaced IS commander Umar al-Shishani, who was reportedly killed in July 2016 in northern Iraq.
Last month, Western media reports quoted Iraqi officials as saying that Halimov was killed in an air strike in Mosul.
Murodova said that her husband has made no contact with her since he left on what he said was a trip related to his job.
The family cannot afford Internet access and gets scraps of information through television reports and rumors, she said.
Tajik media have reported that Halimov's longtime partner Humairo Mirova, a former state customs service employee, joined him in Syria in February 2016 along with four children they had together.
“My father had become distant from us after he decided to be with Humairo,” Halimova said. “It’s especially difficult for our mother, because we go school but she is always at home alone, thinking all the time.”