Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 309 - (26/09/06)
Tajikistan has lost an influential peacemaker and
The Tajiks have lost a great cleric and peacemaker, who was as responsible as
anyone for the pacification of the republic in the later 1990s after the civil
war between the former communists, whose base is Leninabad in the north and the
democratic and Islamicist opposition in 1992-97. Said Abdullah Nuri He
participated in peace talks that led to the creation of a democratic order that
is more tolerant and is far less repressive than the 'managed democracies nearby
in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. That is Said Abdullah Nuri.
With his death, Tajikistan has lost its most influential peacemaker and
opposition leader, diminishing the chances of what little opposition there is.
He always preferred peace to violence in settling disputes. Even his political
opponents in government had the highest regard or him.
Tajikistan has never been noted for having a particularly free political
environment. Its elections in 1999, 2000 and 2005 were all criticized for
irregularities, and its independent media and opposition parties are seen as
being influenced by the authorities. Nonetheless, it is the one Central Asian
republic with a legal Islamic party, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), and
the death of party leader Said Abdullah Nuri on 9th August, is likely to
diminish the country's political plurality.
The ruling elite has also had to contend with opposition politicians within the
governing structures as part of the 1997 peace agreement that ended the
country's five-year civil war. Since the post-conflict reconciliation process
was completed, however, the political opposition has found its forces diminished
as members were co-opted into the president's People's Democratic Party of
Tajikistan (PDPT) or forced out of office.
Even so, the IRP was able to continue functioning and even succeeded in winning
two seats in the 63-seat legislature in 2005. The only other party apart from
the PDPT that won seats was the Communist Party, which won four, but as it
supports President Imomali Rahmonov in all things except some social issues, it
is not seen as a genuine opposition party. That may appear paltry in comparison
to the political pluralism in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, but it shows considerably
more freedom than neighbouring Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.
Meagre as it may be, that political pluralism was largely due to the moral
authority wielded by the leader of the IRP's Nuri. With his death on 9 August
after a two-year struggle with cancer, Tajikistan lost its most influential
peacemaker and opposition leader, diminishing the prospects of what little
opposition there is in the country.
The 59-year-old had been prominent in Tajik politics since the Soviet era. He
was arrested in 1973 for distributing Islamic literature. In Soviet Tajikistan,
identifying oneself with Islam was a way for Tajik nationalists to express
themselves, and throughout the country Nuri was regarded as a symbol of
nationalism by both supporters and critics. He went on to organize an Islamic
youth movement and then the IRP.
When the USSR dissolved in 1991, he became the key figure in the United Tajik
Opposition (UTO) - the opposition movement opposed to the communist regime and
its successors. The IRP was the largest party within the UTO, which encompassed
a multitude of other parties such as the secular Democratic Party and the
regional Lali Badakhshan. Although Nuri himself went into exile in Afghanistan
and Iran during the country's civil war that lasted from 1992-1997, he was the
UTO's leader and signed the 1997 National Peace Accords on its behalf, bringing
an end to the conflict that left over 65,000 dead and over 600,000 refugees.
The accord was a compromise between the forces of President Rahmonov and the UTO.
It guaranteed the UTO 30 percent of central and local government posts, insuring
their interests would be represented. Initially, the political power sharing was
honoured and opposition parties were given government posts, even if they felt
they did not always receive the best posts. That meant Rahmonov had to contend
with opposition in the ruling structures.
Over time, as the peace held and Rahmonov became better entrenched, the presence
of the opposition in government began to wane. Rahmonov's supporters reasoned
that as there was no more conflict, there was no more opposition, and therefore,
no need to reserve posts for other parties. This explanation was dismissed by
the country's political opposition, which claimed individuals were either
co-opted into the PDPT if they wanted to keep their posts, or pushed out.
In parliament, the 2000 elections saw the communists win four seats, the IRP
two, and independent candidates five. In 2005, the number of non-PDPT delegates
fell to six - four from the Communist Party and two from the IRP. In the run-up
to that election, the Socialist Party split - effectively neutralizing it. That
split was widely viewed as having been engineered by Rahmonov. In addition, the
Tajik government had begun to crack down on Islamic groups as they represented a
rallying point against the government.
The IRP's ability to weather the clampdowns was largely due to Nuri's stature.
More than any modern Tajik political figure it was he who symbolized Tajik
nationalism and religious piety, and was generally perceived as putting the
interests of the nation before personal ambition.
The IRP itself had begun to fracture after 2000, as many saw Nuri as too
compromising with Rahmonov, and Nuri himself said in 2001 that he felt
compromise was necessary to maintain the peace and he was prepared to pay that
price to avoid re-igniting the war.
To many Tajiks, the fact that he stayed above the fray and did not run for any
political office after his tenure as head of the National Reconciliation
Commission came to an end only elevated his stature and gave him a moral
authority no other political figure in Tajikistan enjoyed. Even his political
opponents paid homage at his funeral. Parliamentary speaker and mayor of
Dushanbe Mahmad Said Ubaidulloyev, a close colleague of Rahmonov's, praised
Nuri's personal qualities and his contribution to Tajikistan's peace. His
larger-than-life persona is evident throughout the country by the awe and
respect inspired by the mere mention of his name.
Nuri's death deprives the IRP - the last opposition political party with any
real voice - of a respected leader just months before the presidential
Nuri's deputy, Muhiddin Kabiri, is expected to be confirmed as his successor.
Kabiri served with Nuri for years, and although at 40 he belongs to a younger
generation, he loyally supported Nuri's policies. Even when the IRP began to
splinter in 2000, Kabiri remained true and believed compromise was better than
war - a view strongly held by Nuri.
A devout Muslim himself, Kabiri nonetheless projects a more moderate picture as
he wears standard Western-style clothes instead of the Islamic robes worn by
Nuri, and will speak in Russian when interviewed, whereas Nuri would only speak
in Tajik, even if it required a translator. Kabiri is aware that he does not
have Nuri's stature despite their shared philosophies, and although it has been
rumoured that he may challenge Rahmonov for the presidency in November's
elections, he has not confirmed this.
At this juncture, Nuri's death removes a moral shield that protected the IRP and
allowed it to continue functioning after other parties became dysfunctional or
disintegrated. Kabiri's ideology is similar to Nuri's, but he is not as
untouchable as the late IRP leader. That makes the IRP vulnerable to the fate of
the Socialists, Democrats, Lali Badakhshan and other parties. If the IRP should
find itself marginalized like other parties it would spell the end to what
little political pluralism there was in the country.
Tajikistan stages mass wedding for poor
In the 1960s the popular slogan of the hippies and other opponents of the
Vietnam War was 'Make love, not war.' This idea now seems to have reached
Central Asia, at least Dushanbe.
The president of Tajikistan oversaw the simultaneous marriages of 250
disadvantaged couples in the capital Dushanbe on September 4th and then hosted a
President Rahmonov attended the ceremony for the couples, who the Itar-Tass news
agency said were either orphans, financially disadvantaged or from broken homes.
After the service, the entourage paraded to the city square where Rahmonov
congratulated the newlyweds, and offered wishes they remain healthy, build
strong families and live in prosperity.
Each couple also received refrigerators, washing machines and sets of
kitchenware as wedding gifts, paid for by the Tajik Ministry of Labour and
Social Welfare and the Iranian Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, the report said.
Russia blocks Tajik giant dam project
Tajikistan is urging the Russian government to help speed up construction of a
giant hydroelectric power scheme. Tajik Energy Minister, Abdullo Yerov, reported
that a phone conversation between Tajik Imomali Rahmonov and Russian Vladimir
Putin had resulted in a verbal agreement that the Russian government would
provide direct funding for the work needed to complete the dam, which if it
reaches a planned 335 metres will be the world's highest, reported Interfax News
Russia's nod for the dam project could clear the process that appears to have
run into trouble following the initial optimism that surrounded a deal with
Russian aluminium giant RusAl. It was recalled that US$ two billion package
agreed by RusAl in 2004, covering the Rogun dam and aluminium production, gave
rise to hopes that the troubled construction project would be resurrected at
The main aim of RusAl's interest is generating electricity for its investment in
the giant Tajik aluminium plant at Tursunzade, with a possibility that it will
also build a new smelter close to the dam. The dam turbines could generate
sufficient electricity to run the smelters and cater for Tajikistan's domestic
needs, and sell power to neighbouring countries.
Work on the Rogun hydroelectric scheme, on the Vakhsh river in southern
Tajikistan was stalled due to Soviet Union collapse in 1991. Tajikistan, the
smallest and poorest Central Asian republic faced an economic setback and for
the next decade there was no prospect of the project resuming. After two years,
officials in Tajikistan are complaining that the Russian company has not started
practical work. There is also disagreement about the materials to be used.
According to Rasul Sattarov, an independent economist, the dispute is also due
to the diverging interests of RusAl, which wants to power its aluminium
projects, and the Tajik government, which needs to satisfy a growing demand for
electricity in the rest of the economy as well. RusAl wants a lower and cheaper
dam which would be adequate for its own needs but Sattorov said this would not
yield any gain to Tajikistan.
Meanwhile, the Tajiks appear to believe government-to-government contacts are
the right way to proceed. "Tajikistan and Russia intend to resolve the
dispute surrounding the construction of this major Central Asian hydroelectric
station at state level," an anonymous source in the Tajik government told
IWPR. The next opportunity for this will come when an intergovernmental economic
commission meets in September.
Moscow, Dushanbe discuss interregional cooperation
Lawmakers in Russia and Tajikistan should concentrate their efforts on
removing transit barriers, Federation Council speaker, Sergi Mironov, said,
opening the inter-parliamentary forum "Tajikistan-Russia: Potential for
International Cooperation" in Dushanbe, reported Interfax News Agency.
Tajikistan is one of Russia's most reliable partners in the Commonwealth of
Independent States and Central Asia, he said. Mironov cited the positive element
of increased business and economic cooperation with Tajikistan and said this
cooperation should be further increased. "We need to concentrate on forging
regional ties in all areas, from business and economics to the humanitarian
sector," he said.
The Orenburg region delegation, headed by Governor, Alexei Chernyshov, attended
the forum. The Orenburg region and Tajikistan have long-term trade and economic
ties. Orenburg regional foreign trade turnover with Tajikistan totalled 25.5m
Euro. It is 2.5 per cent of the republic's foreign trade with CIS countries and
more than 12 per cent of the whole amount of mutual trade with the Orenburg
In the first half of the year, mutual trade of the Orenburg region with
Tajikistan exceeded 17.4m Euro. Regional enterprises exported to Tajikistan were
flour, fodder, oil products, general mechanical rubber goods, ferrous and
non-ferrous metals, products of inorganic chemistry, timber. The region imports
from Tajikistan fruits and vegetables, oil-yielding crops, tobacco, agricultural
animals. Orenburg has non-stop air connection with airports of Dushanbe, Kulyab
and Hujand. Ties between cities of Orenburg and Hujand (Sogd region) were
established in 2004.