Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)
Tajiks 'must drop Russian names'
Tajikistan's president has ordered his countrymen to drop Russian-style
surnames, in a move to break with the Central Asian nation's Soviet past.
Emomali Rakhmon recently removed the Russian suffix "-ov" from his
surname, saying this made him sound more Tajik.
Newborn babies must now be registered with Tajik names. Soviet-style school
graduation parties are also banned.
Tajiks - who speak a language similar to Persian - are de-Russifying their names
after decades of the Soviet rule.
President Rakhmon, as he is now known, told the nation to follow his suit and
register babies only under Tajik surnames at a government meeting late on
In recent years, reverting to original surnames has become increasingly popular,
but this is the first time that the change is being enforced at the highest
level, the BBC's Central Asian correspondent Natalia Antelava says.
In a country that has been trying to move away from its Soviet past and develop
closer cultural ties with its neighbours, Afghanistan and Iran, many welcome the
idea, our correspondent says.
But she says that some residents of the capital, Dushanbe, say they do not look
forward to the red tape and additional expense that registration of names is
likely to entail.
A new tight grip
Hitherto IN central Asian terms Tajikistan has been comparatively liberal and
inclusive in its political life, ever since a peace accord in the mid-1990s
ended a bitter civil war.
But there are signs the government is changing course.
Tajikistan is constitutionally a secular country, but more than 90 percent of
the population is Muslim. The former Soviet republic of 5 million, which borders
Afghanistan, was wracked by a 1992-1997 civil war between the secular government
and the Islamic opposition that ended with a U.N.-brokered power-sharing
The influence of pro-Islamic politicians has weakened in recent years as
President Emomali Rakhmon tightened his grip on power. But the government
continues to be troubled by the spread of various radical Islamic ideologies.
In March, authorities in the capital, Dushanbe, launched a crackdown on dozens
of illegal mosques, fearing they could foment extremism.
While discouraging some Islamic customs such as wearing headscarves, Rakhmon's
government has also cracked down on dress and conduct that officials associate
with the West and say is inappropriate and clashes with tradition.
In March, Rakhmon banned high school graduation parties, saying he was concerned
about the "pompous" and "excessive luxury" of school
festivities. Earlier, he ordered a ban on the use of mobile phones and private
cars at high schools.
Rakhmon has ruled impoverished Tajikistan since 1994, and was re-elected last
year in an election that foreign observers said was flawed.
Government reinforces headscarf ban
Tajik education authorities are introducing a new dress code that reinforces
a ban on Islamic headscarves and bars female students from wearing revealing
Western clothing, the latest edict on young people's conduct in the
predominantly Muslim Central Asian nation.
"The hijab (headscarf) is not a student's uniform. If religion means more
to you than studies, you should study at a religious school," Education
Minister Abdudjabor Rakhmon told students at the Tajik State University on April
The ministry introduced a ban on hijabs in 2005. Rakhmon said it would be part
of a dress code that will soon be published and distributed at schools.
"Female students must dress in accordance with their status and national
traditions," Rakhmon said, adding that they should wear clothes that are
"quite modest and not provocative."
The Uzbek model of repression is close to home
Tajik authorities are seeking a six-month ban on the opposition Social
Democratic Party over accusations that it has "undermined laws and
regulations." The prohibition could become permanent unless the party's
leadership supplies more information about its activities.
Social Democrats are accusing officials of the kind of authoritarianism that has
long dominated politics in neighbouring Uzbekistan -- where opposition groups
are harassed and pro-government parties fill the landscape. Social Democrats
have long been critical of President Emomali Rakhmon's administration. Most
recently, the Social Democrats were among several parties that dismissed as
illegitimate the presidential election in November that handed Rakhmon a new
Now the Justice Ministry accuses the party of failing to provide an obligatory
annual report and has asked the Supreme Court to ban its activities for half a
Social Democrats have been joined by other opposition politicians in
describing the ministry's accusation as the latest effort to pressure government
critics and independent groups.
Opposition politician Rahmatulloh Valiev, whose own Democratic Party was torn
apart by a rift over support for the administration, tells RFE/RL that he thinks
it is the Social Democratic leaders' criticism of the government that most
concerns the authorities.
"[The Social Democratic Party] had dubbed the last presidential election
unlawful," Valiev said. "In the past, the party's leader, Rahmatulloh
Zoirov, had written to the Supreme Court that President Emomali Rakhmon has been
holding the post of president unlawfully." Rakhmon changed his name in the
new year to make it sound less Russian.
The party argues that a referendum that extended presidential terms to seven
years was invalid, and that Rakhmon should therefore have left office in 2004.
Justice For All?
The Justice Ministry stresses that Tajik law requires all political parties
and groups to file a report with the ministry, providing a full account of their
Davlat Sulaimonov, the ministry official responsible for party registration,
said the ministry has repeatedly asked the leader of the Social Democrats to
supply the required report.
"Rahmatullo Zoirov had personally signed that he received our written
warning," Sulaimonov said. "We asked him several times to provide the
report to the ministry. But the party did nothing to solve existing problems. So
we sent a letter to the court."
But Social Democratic Deputy Chairman Shokirjon Hakimov dismissed that account.
"We have submitted the written report," Hakimov said. "But as far
as I know, the authorities asked for more documents which are not required by
law -- such as the number of party members, the number of party members in each
district, and so on."
Valiev said it is not the first time that Tajik authorities have tried to
weaken or eliminate opposition groups. He claims officials use legal avenues or
meddle in parties' internal affairs.
Tajikistan's Development Party has sought unsuccessfully to register with the
Justice Ministry since 2002.
One major opposition party, the Socialists, split into rival wings in 2005 in a
move initiated by members who backed the government. The pro-government wing was
then granted registration by the Justice Ministry, inheriting the party name as
A split of the Democratic Party ahead of Rakhmon's re-election in 2006 followed
the same script.
Opposition politician Valiev accused the government of trying to create an
opposition-free political environment -- like in neighbouring Uzbekistan or
Turkmenistan. He says Rakhmon's administration works to weaken rivals and
replace them with pro-government parties.
"If these pressures continue, and if the government does not change its
position regarding political parties, it is possible that Tajikistan will be
turned into a country like neighbouring Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan," Valiev
But Valiev also noted that it would be difficult for the government to exclude
all true opposition parties from the country's political life. He said that
after more than 15 years of activity in post-Soviet Tajikistan,
independent-minded politicians will not give up easily.
UAE, Tajikistan sign 5 cooperation agreements
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Tajikistan signed on April 9 five agreements
on economic, trading and technical cooperation, Emirates News Agency reported on
The batch of agreements, signed by UAE Minister of Economy, Sheikha Lubna Al
Qasimi, and her Tajik counterpart, Ghulomjon Boboyev, was a milestone in
boosting economic and technical cooperation between the two countries, the
report quoted Sheikha Lubna as saying. The agreements provided for cooperation
in the fields of trade, industry, agriculture, transportation, communications,
education and research, technology, tourism and investment, she said. The
agreements would encourage joint ventures and the exchange of expertise as well
as enhance trade exchange between the two countries, Sheikha Lubna added.