Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 323 - (26/11/07)
Bombing kills a security guard near presidential palace
A strong blast shook a conference centre near Tajikistan's presidential palace
on November 14, killing a security guard and scattering debris, just as a
European Union-run conference was due to start.
The blast, described as a terrorist act by the prosecutor general, occurred at
the centre only 350 metres from President Emomali Rakhmon's palace. Observers
said it may have been timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Rakhmon
becoming head of this Central Asian ex-Soviet state. The president had left
Dushanbe a few minutes earlier for anniversary ceremonies in the north of the
Police said the dead man was a guard who picked up the device concealed in a
plastic bag while inspecting the site. Ironically, the conference, which was
organised by the European Union, was to be devoted to disaster preparedness!
The EU's ambassador in the region, Adriaan van der Meer, said there was no
reason to believe the blast was aimed at the EU. "There is no indication
whatsoever that it was against the EU.... We are waiting for exact news, and
expect a thorough investigation," he told AFP.
Several hundred people were believed to be in the building as the blast struck,
blowing out the building's windows. The dead man's body could be seen lying on
the ground under a white sheet. The conference was to be attended by Tajik Prime
Minister Akil Akilov; however after the blast the opening was delayed.
This mountainous republic of seven million people lies to the north of turbulent
Afghanistan and also borders China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It was torn apart
by a civil war in the 1990s that pitted secular and Islamist factions against
Rakhmon has since pursued an authoritarian secular course, keeping a tight
control on Islamic activism and winning praise from the West, which has poured
aid money into the impoverished nation. But domestic critics accuse him of
increasing interference in family and religious life.
Analysts suggested that the blast was evidence of discontented elements left
over from the civil war, which ended with a 1997 peace treaty. Tajikistan still
experiences periodic attacks, a previous blast having been aimed at the supreme
court on June 16, although no one was killed. "This isn't connected to the
EU conference, which wasn't to do with big politics," said independent
analyst Abdugani Mamadazimov, explaining that certain forces wanted to disrupt
the anniversary of Rakhmon's rise to power.
Another analyst, Khikmatullo Saifullozoda, said the blast could however be seen
as a warning to the international community. "The alarming fact is that in
Tajikistan there are certain forces that by such methods declare their presence
and their opinion. This is their signal to international organisations and
embassies," he said. However, the fact is that if no one claims
responsibility it is currently mere speculation, blaming "the ogre of
Opposition fears a new crackdown
Tajikistan's opposition expects a further clampdown on civil liberties by the
government which is worried by what it regards as growing Islamist militancy.
No one has claimed responsibility for this explosion in a building where the
Tajik prime minister had been due to attend a conference, nor for a blast in
June at the Supreme Court building. One person died in this most recent November
These attacks at government buildings in Dushanbe were a result of growing
popular discontent, the opposition says, as they would. This has been fuelled by
little tangible improvement in living standards since a 1997 peace accord
between pro-Russian forces and an alliance of Islamists and liberals. A civil
war in the 1990s killed more than 100,000 people in Tajikistan.
"I fear that after these explosions, the government will get yet another
excuse to step up pressure on the media and political opponents under the guise
of a fight for stability," said Rakhmatullo Valiyev from the opposition
The government has singled out Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan, both banned across Central Asia, as the main source of instability
"The explosion was organised by a small group of people unhappy with the
fact that Tajikistan has returned to peace and is moving towards
prosperity," was the favoured theory of Jurakhon Buriyev of the main
pro-presidential party - but many will wonder about the "prosperity".
Stability in the impoverished Muslim state bordering Afghanistan is key to its
Central Asian neighbours.
A disturbed economy and society
The Tajik economy remains in tatters and companies are reluctant to invest due
to red tape and business climate concerns. President Imomali Rakhmon, in power
since 1992, tolerates little dissent and the media never criticise him.
He has vowed to stave off any attempt to destabilise the nation. He has urged
clergy to ban all political debate in mosques across Tajikistan. Two opposition
newspapers have been closed and the BBC FM radio service was suspended in 2006.
"People are still very poor and expect the government to do something about
it," said Shamsiddin Saidov, a senior official from the Islamic Revival
party of Tajikistan. "Voices of discontent are rising across society."