Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 289 - (27/01/05)
Tight grip on power by leader
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has shored up his hold on power as Tajikistan
soldiered on with a halting recovery from the dual blows of post-Soviet
transition and a devastating 1992-1997 civil war. Tajikistan, like Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan, has experienced varieties of the post-Soviet doldrums, with
pervasive corruption, lingering socialist-era inefficiencies, and lagging
foreign investment hampering growth and allowing poverty to keep a vice-grip on
swathes of the population.
A number of Rakhmonov's old comrades-in-arms found themselves behind bars in
2004. Russia deported former Interior Minister Yaqub Salimov in February 2004
for trial on treason and coup charges. Drug Control Agency head Ghaffor Mirzoev
was arrested in August on corruption and weapons possession charges.
Perhaps Russia's most significant foreign policy highlight in 2004 came in June,
when Putin and Rakhmonov agreed on terms for the creation of a permanent Russian
military base in Tajikistan. In October Rakhmonov tied up loose ends with
Russia, which received a permanent military base for its 201st Motor Rifle
Division in Tajikistan, the use of the space-surveillance facility in Nurek, and
a share in Tajikistan's Sangtuda hydropower plant. In return, Russia wrote off
US$300 million in Tajik debt, and Russian Aluminium pledged over US$1 billion in
investments into Tajikistan's aluminium industry. Meanwhile, Russian troops
completed the handover of the Pamir section of the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajik
jurisdiction on 1 December.
But the unease in Tajikistan centres less on purely political concerns, although
parliamentary elections are nearing in February 2005 amid traditional tensions
between the authorities and the opposition, than on the country's overall
ability to overcome the depredations of the 1990s, withstand the avalanche of
heroin from neighbouring Afghanistan, and carve out a place for itself in a hard
corner of the world. Tajikistan faces daunting difficulties, but it has
weathered tougher times and now has reason to entertain higher hopes than some
of its neighbours, and with that greater cause to fear failure.
President's remarks on women and mosques draw sharp reactions
Developments in Afghanistan next door are a particularly sensitive subject in
Tajikistan. Ethnic Tajiks there have been a mainstay of the Northern Alliance.
The US uses Tajikistan as one of its main bases to bolster up support for
President Karzai, elected in the Afghan elections in October.
All this makes the religious issue especially important. President Rakhmonov
wants to keep Islamic fundamentalism at bay, without resorting to the crude and
brutal repression of the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan.
His recent remarks on women and Islam are drawing sharp reactions. In an address
to the nation marking the 10th anniversary of the Tajik Constitution, Rakhmonov
reminded women that the Council of Ulema -- the country's highest Muslim body --
has forbidden women from attending mosques, calling them a distraction.
Farrukh Umarov is an expert on Islam at the Center for Strategic Research in
Dushanbe. He said he believes Rakhmonov's reinforcement of the August ban is
correct: "The position of the president on this subject is positive. He
just wants to prevent any religious conflicts." Umarov said he believes
there are no situations in which women should attend mosque and mix with men.
Rakhmonov said as much in his speech. He said religion helped fuel tensions
during the country's civil war from 1992 to 1997. "Some religious figures
and former politicians," Rakhmonov said, "didn't draw the right
conclusions from the lessons of the recent civil conflict in the republic."
Hikmatullo Saifullozoda said he disagrees. He is the head of the central office
for Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), which has been attracting an
increasing number of women into its ranks. Saifullozoda hinted that the
prohibition against women in mosques is an attempt to discredit his party:
"The head of state is hoisting unresolved problems onto the shoulders of
others, and I see this as preparation for the [February 2005 parliamentary]
The IRP is legal in Tajikistan now, but was banned during the civil war. During
the war, the IRP was the backbone of the United Tajik Opposition, which grouped
Islamic fighters with democratic and regional organizations.
The war was a stalemate, and Iran and Russia eventually helped broker a peace
agreement that legalized banned parties -- among them the IRP -- and gave the
opposition 30 percent of the positions in the government. But that arrangement
has since proven problematic.
Tajik politician and lawyer Shokirjon Hakimov said Rakhmonov's comments appear
to be part of unresolved issues that date back to the civil war: "The
dispute is between the government and the Islamic party and some clergy. It is
interference in the activities of religious organizations."
While Rakhmonov's warnings were likely intended as a general admonition about
the misuse of religion, he also said racial hatred and terrorism are being
taught in some mosques. He indicated that he believes women are increasingly
vulnerable to these radical teachings.
But Hikmatullo Baratov, a teacher at Tajikistan's Imam Termezi Islamic
University, said he has not heard of any such problems: "To what extent it
is true, we do not know. We have not heard that there are some [radical]
activities in the mosques."
During his speech, Rakhmonov also called on women to raise their children
properly to help ensure the country's future. "We can't hide the fact that
we are not allowing our children to learn a profession, to study technology. We
can't build the Rogun hydro-energy plant because of this," Rakhmonov said.
"For three years, we have been negotiating the purchase of three Boeing
[aircraft], but we can't buy them because we have no pilots."
The Tajik president added that there are plenty of young people studying
religion, and that some are regrettably concentrating on more extreme forms of
Islam. Rakhmonov appealed to the "mothers and sisters, the young women of
Tajikistan," telling them to "please freely read your prayers at
home." He said "no one is trying to offend your rights."
Building of new hydroelectric plants to begin
RAO Unified Energy System of Russia (UES) hopes to start building the Sangtuda
Hydroeelctric Plant in Tajikistan and the Kambarata Hydroelectric Plant in
Kyrgyzstan this year, UES CEO, Anatoly Chubais, said at a ceremony to mark
energy day on December 22nd 2004, Interfax News Agency reported.
"At the order of the Russian president, in 2005 we will start a huge
project in Tajikistan and, I hope, that we will start to build the most
important hydro plant in Asia - Kambarata Hydroelectric Plant in Kyrgyzstan,"
he said. He also said that the implementation of these projects marks "a
return to where we always had strong positions - the CIS energy sector."
Tajikistan targets tourism sector development
Issues related to the development of tourism in Tajikistan was at the centre
of talks at the third international tourism development conference that opened
in the Tajik capital on December 7th, Asia-Plus reported.
Experts from Austria, Iran and Kyrgyzstan also attended the conference. They
acquainted participants at the conference with international experience and
achievements in this sphere.
The Director of international mountaineering camp Alp-Navrus, Rano Sobirova,
said the conference had been staged by the Tajik Branch of the Open Society
Institute/Assistance Foundation (OSI/AF) within the framework of its
"Raising Educational Level of employees of private Hotel and Tourism
Service" project that is run within the "Economic Development and
Enterprise Support" programme.
The conference aimed to inform hotel and tourism structures of results of study
of the present state of tourism sector in Tajikistan. The study was carried out
by Friedrich Falch, an expert of the Austrian private consulting company Falch.
The conference considered a strategy of development of tourism in Tajikistan and
establishment of a council for development of this sector in the republic.