Tajik ex-soccer player Parviz Tursunov who was detained in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on September 18 under a Tajik extradition request has applied for getting the status of refugee in Belarus.  

Belarusian media reports say that at the time of consideration of the application for getting the refugee status that will take 40 days the study of the issue of extradition of Tursunov to Tajikistan has been postponed.  

Human right activists hope that even if Belarus refuses to grant the refugee status to Parviz Tursunov, there are other countries who will agree to grant the refugee status to him, says Belsat.  

Meanwhile, in a statement released last month, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Association for Central Asian Migrants said that Tursunov faces possible torture or ill-treatment if he is forcibly returned from Belarus to Tajikistan. 

Tajik authorities had reportedly demanded that Tursunov shave his beard, which he wears as a manifestation of his religious belief.  When he refused, in 2011, the Khayr team dismissed him.

Parviz Tursunov, 43, was a defender for the Khayr soccer team and popular in the team’s native city of Vahdat.  In April 2011, Tursunov was excluded from playing in games because “law enforcement bodies do not wish to see a soccer player on the field wearing a long beard, like a mullah.” 

Tursunov and his family later left for the United Arab Emirates, and then Turkey, where they worked as migrant workers, cooking and selling Tajik traditional cuisine.  In September 2018, the family decided to travel to Europe via Belarus.

Tursunov’s relatives told the rights groups that since his detention on September 18, Tursunov has been held in Minsk’s pre-trial detention center no. 1 pending possible extradition to Tajikistan.  The Belarus Prosecutor-General confirmed that it is awaiting documentation on the extradition request and that Tajik authorities have charged Tursunov with “public calls for carrying out extremist activity” and “organizing an extremist community.”