Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 319 - (26/07/07)
Civil war took a toll
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan fought a fierce civil
war between former communists and Islamic fundamentalists.
With the help of the Russian troops in 1992, President Emomali Rakhmon put down
the unrest and formed a government. He reached a peace accord with the Islamic
groups, and has operated a moderate government while several Central Asian
neighbours have ruled with iron fists.
This landlocked former Soviet republic is surprising the world's powers with its
diplomatic skill in coaxing economic assistance from three global rivals: the
United States, Russia and China.
Situated in Central Asia, this small country has a population of about 7
million. It is primed to become a key connection point between the southern part
of the former Soviet Union and South Asia.
Tajikistan barters diplomatic clout for key development loans
Tajikistan is one of the beneficiaries of 9:11. It immediately offered full
assistance to the US, its airports being bang in the frontline against the
Taleban. As a result it is receiving decisive US assistance. Since the Afghan
war began following the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, the United States has been
Tajikistan's largest financial contributor.
The U.S. engineering corps, for instance, is constructing a 670-metre bridge
across the Amu Darya river on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan,
paid for with $36 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Defence. The
bridge is due to open in August.
U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Tracey Ann Jacobson said the bridge would increase
traffic and trade between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It will also promote the
economic integration of Central Asia, rich in energy resources, and South Asia,
mainly the huge markets of India and Pakistan, she said.
Tajikistan allows both Russian troops and U.S. forces to be stationed in the
country. It has also joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a
regional cooperative group consisting of Russia, China and four Central Asian
countries with a generally anti-western bias.
Tajikistan is also taking the diplomatic initiative to expand its relations with
South Asian countries in general.
China, Russia interests abound
Neither China nor Russia needs reminding that ~Tajikistan, for all its
remoteness, is at the heart of Central Asia. China announced last year that it
is offering US$600 million (74 billion yen) to it in loans for road and
power-line construction under an SCO framework. An additional US$400 million is
due this year from China for the same aims.
"The Chinese government is contributing to the development of Tajikistan,
as it fears the spread of Islamic influence into the western part of
China," a diplomatic source said. Chinese businesses are independently
making their way into Tajikistan, and China is sending workers to the country.
Their presence can be seen in the rising number of Chinese restaurants in the
Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
In 2005, Russia resumed support for the construction of electric power plants in
Tajikistan, suspended since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, Iran, whose people share ethnic roots with the Tajiks, is also
offering electrical power cooperation.
"Our doors are open to any country. We are building constructive
relationships with big countries," President Rakhmon said in Dushanbe.
Regional integration with South Asia is important, the president said.
"If we have close relationships with Afghanistan, we will get closer to the
Arabian Sea. Trade with Iran and India will increase, and, as a result, we can
help the entire Central Asian region to prosper," the president said.
However, the sharp rise in loans has boosted Tajikistan's debt load. Although it
registered a GDP of US$2.3 billion in 2005, it currently owes about US$1
billion. It has reached the limit of its ability to garner new loans--a
predicament that is affecting Japan.
Last year, the Japanese government hosted the Central Asia Plus Japan meeting of
foreign ministers in Tokyo.
Japan considered extending yen loans to Tajikistan, but the country's debts have
quashed that idea for now.
"It is difficult to do so for the time being because of the debts (of
Tajikistan)," a Foreign Ministry official said. Japan is offering only
small grants and technological cooperation.
"There are many fields, such as natural resources, transportation and
communications, in which we can cooperate with Japan. We hope that Japan will
help promote the development of Central Asia," President Rakhmon said.
There is a misunderstanding about that should be corrected. The West developed
liberalism, well before it did liberal-democracy. There are welcome signs that
Tajikistan is becoming liberal and modern, even if in aspiration only.
Court Rejects Student Challenge Of Head-Scarf Ban
A Tajik judge has thrown out a 20-year-old female student's legal challenge of
an Education Ministry decision to outlaw Islamic-style head scarves -- known as
the "hejab" -- on campuses. The case is believed to be Central Asia's
first legal challenge to a ban on Islamic dress.
Issuing his verdict, the presiding judge said Davlatmoh Ismoilova's lawsuit has
no legal basis. Ismoilova responded to the decision with a vow to exhaust the
legal channels to allow her to wear the hejab. "I will continue -- I am
going to appeal to the city court, and we will see what happens there," she
said, according to RFE/RL's Tajik Service. "If that court [rules against
me], then I will go to the country's higher court, too. I am not going to change
The Education Ministry earlier this year reiterated a ban on the Islamic head
scarf -- along with the miniskirt -- and hinted at stricter enforcement.
Education Minister Abdujabbor Rakhmonov personally visited universities in April
and demanded that young women choose between "hejab" and university
Ismoilova's lawsuit accuses her university, along with the ministry, of not
allowing her to wear a head scarf to school and thus violating her rights.
"I only want my freedom; I want to be free," she said before the
verdict was announced. "No one should tell me, 'Don't wear a head scarf,'
or, 'Don't wear this or that.' I have to able to make my own choices."
Ismoilova said five female classmates at the State Institute of the Languages
decided to remove their head scarves during lessons, but added that she will not
acquiesce so quietly.
There has been no sign that officials are prepared to back down. In fact,
Minister Rakhmonov reiterated on July 11th that his ministry will not tolerate
Islamic dress in state schools.
Tough Official Line
President Emomali Rakhmon's government has taken a tough line on religious
issues -- even closing down several mosques and preventing them from using
loudspeakers to call people to prayer.
Public reaction to such measures has been mixed in this predominantly Muslim
country. Some Tajiks have welcomed the hejab ban at schools, while others say
they resent the official interference in people's private lives.
Education Minister Rakhmonov has suggested in the past that Tajikistan has no
hejab tradition. In April, he described girls who wear Islamic-style head
scarves as "followers of Islamic movements who seek to promote their agenda
in educational institutions."
He made a similar charge on July 11. "These types of clothing are foreign
to us," Rakhmonov said. "This is propaganda by other countries, and we
will not allow it. If we're a sovereign country, we have to have our own model
Rakhmonov said his ministry will soon introduce school uniforms, and he made it
clear that students will be expelled if they refuse to comply.
Rakhmonov chided leaders of the country's only Islamic political party --
the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) -- for its frequent public criticism of the
ministry's stance on head scarves. He said it "would be better if party
leaders came to the ministry with their suggestion about the school uniforms
IRP leaders have condemned the ban as a violation of freedom and rights.
Ismoilova has claimed that IRP leader and parliamentarian Muhiddin Kabiri has
pledged to pay her legal fees connected to the current case.
"I have a defence lawyer," she said, "but Majlis member -- member
of the lower house of the parliament -- the honourable Muhiddin Kabiri decided
to pay all the expenses."
Kabiri told RFE/RL that he is not covering defence fees but rather his party's
lawyer is providing the legal assistance free of charge.
Ismoilova has maintained that her legal challenge is entirely her own decision.
In fact, she said, she has applied for membership of the ruling People's
Democratic Party of President Emomali Rakhmon.
Ismoilova is one of 10 children of retired working-class parents who
encouraged all their children to pursue university educations to avoid the
"unskilled jobs and hard lives" of their parents.
Ismoilova says neither of her parents is a conservative Muslim and that they
opposed their daughter taking the matter to court. She says they have encouraged
her to abandon her hejab dispute and "not waste those three years she spent
studying." Ismoilova said she bought a religious brochure in a market a few
years ago and learned about Islam, then decided to wear the hejab.
The court's decision comes amid heated public debate around the head-scarf
issue. In the meantime, no such public or media frenzy has accompanied the ban
on miniskirts. Some female students continue to wear short skirts, and
authorities have vowed to tackle that problem in time -- perhaps once the hejab
problem is resolved.
But the debate over young Tajik women's choice to wear Islamic-style head
scarves looks far from over.
Tajik Air buys a Boeing 737-200
The state owned enterprise "Tajik Air" has purchased for lease one
Boeing 737-200 (rus) and by capacity the plane is able to replace partly three
Tu-134. The plane which will carry Tajik Air logo will fly from Dushanbe to
Khujand. The plane is also expected to make voyages to Tehran (Iran), Samara,
Ekaterenburg (Russia) and Almaty (Kazakstan), reports New Europe.
It is the first Boeing ever purchased by Tajik Air. The flight by Tajik Air has
already become a hackneyed subject. All the planes that the Tajik Air owns these
days were inherited from Soviet Aeroflot and after the collapse of Soviet Union,
the Tajik air-fleet was not supplied with new planes. Some of the planes are
already 25 years old. John Mussara says that 'one who wants to get to know
Tajikistan is well served to take a Tajik Air flight between Dushanbe and
Khujand.' The news about the purchase of Boeing does not say anything about
those who provided Tajik Air with funds, but previously it was reported that
EBRD gave a long-term loan to the company, so that it could buy new planes.
Tajikistan has been receiving some other grants and loans from international
donors to improve the country's air services. It was reported that Tajikistan
received four million Euro in EBRD loans and two million Euro from the Japan
Fund for Post-Conflict Support to improve air traffic control and other aspects
of flight navigation at the two airports, a 1.8 million Euro EBRD loan and 2.5
million Euro grant from the Japan Fund 1999 for repairs to the Khoujand runway;
four million Euro grant from the Netherlands for runway repairs in Dushanbe.
Putin, Rahmon to boost political, military-technological ties
The Russian and Tajik presidents are satisfied with political and
military-technological cooperation between their countries and are determined to
intensify their trade and economic interaction, Interfax News Agency reported.
"Our trade turnover has grown 60 per cent since the start of this year
alone, and although this does not look too impressive in absolute figures, the
trend is very positive," Putin said at a meeting with Tajik President,
Interfax quoted the Russian leader as saying he hoped the events of June 8 and
June 9 at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum would benefit
bilateral relations and cooperation between the former Soviet republics in
Rahmon said in response that trade turnover between his country and Russia grew
by 44 per cent in 2006 and by another 70 per cent in January-April 2007.
"But there are more reserves," he said. "Bilateral cooperation in
the political and military-technological sectors is developing successfully, and
there are virtually no unsolved issues. We should provide a good incentive to
economic cooperation between the two countries today," Rahmon said.
"The development of the hydropower industry is very important to us. I
think we will find common ground in solving some of the remaining
problems," Rahmon said.
Highest inflation in Tajikistan and Azerbaijan
The highest rate of inflation in the Commonwealth of Independent States was
recorded in Tajikistan and Azerbaijan within the first three months of 2007, CIS
Statistical Committee recently announced the records about the inflation rate in
member states, Interfax News Agency reported.
Inflation within first three months in Azerbaijan was 16.5 per cent compared
with January-March last year.
Tajikistan is the leader among CIS countries (18.3 per cent). Increase of
consumer prices was 11.7 per cent in Moldova, 10.3 per cent in Ukraine, 9.8 per
cent in Georgia, eight per cent in Kazakstan, 7.5 per cent in Belarus, 4.7 per
cent in Armenia and 4.5 per cent in Kyrgyzstan in January-March.