1907 Solar Eclipse Expedition by Sergei Prokhudi-Gorskii, Russian Photographer in Central Asia.
This is my little blog on Tajikistan that comes out on Saturdays. If you are unable to click on all the links, come to my blog Different Stans as these can be blocked by some mail systems. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or requests to be added to the mailing list.
o Opposition Leader Missing Abroad...
o ...And Government Critic Missing at Home
o Russians Leaving Tajikistan in Droves...
o...and Tajik Migrants Returning from Russia in Coffins
o Everybody Worries About the Tajik Porous Border...
o...But at Least OSCE Tries to Do Something About It
o Earthquake...and Harlem Shakes...
People explain the missing opposition leader abroad and the missing region critic at home by the same factor: the forthcoming presidential election coming up in November of this year. Why it's necessary to disappear people, when you're going to sail through to an overwhelming victory with the same dubious high percentage for the win as all your Central Asian neighbours is beyond me, but perhaps that one tug on the thread unravels the whole thing...
What I think people need to understand about disappearances is that you don't have to be an exemplary citizen or innocent of crime to claim the right to security and life that your state should not take away from you. In Belarus, the Lukashenka regime has been charged with disappearing mafia kingpins along with opposition leaders, using the same methods, and of course in Russia, some 400 people in missing in the North Caucasus even by official admission. So it's not good wherever it happens and the Tajik government needs to explain what's going on.
Paul Goble covers the exodus of Russians from Tajikistan, a process that has been going on steadily and in large numbers since the civil war. From far-away Brighton Beach, I can anecdotally report that for the first time talking to Russians who work as home attendants or have "khom-atten" that there are Tajiks now reported among the many former Soviets fleeing the region. When there is a Tajik restaurant in New York City, I guess we'll know there is more serious migration. Arkady Dubnov says that Russian language isn't declining because Tajik migrants need it to speak in the near abroad, starting with Russia, where they seek work. And some meet tragic ends, as we are reminded once again just how many return in coffins after being murdered in hate crimes or dying on unsafe construction sites.
Let us think of the most OSCE extreme sports -- the Afghan-Tajik border patrol training in the winter and...the Minsk Group meetings in the summer. OSCE tries the patience of the saints who persist with it. Everyone talks about the porous Tajik border, and a video of a precarious plane flight over it (see link below) lets you know that it's porous, but, well, not so navigable. Even so, there is expected to be trouble after US troops withdraw, and OSCE is at least trying to train some local people to address the challenges. It seems like training for a few dozen people can't make much of a difference, but as the saying goes, it matters to the starfish....
Early on March 15, a 58-year-old man put on his tracksuit and left home in Qurghonteppa, a 90-minute drive south of Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital. Morning exercise was a regular part of his routine, says Amnesty International. But on this morning the man, a prominent critic of President Imomali Rakhmon, did not return.
Friends and political allies fear Salimboy Shamsiddinov was kidnapped for his political views, including his critique of Tajik-Uzbek relations. Shamsiddinov, head of the Society of Uzbeks of Khatlon Province, is no stranger to tough talk, often expressing himself freely on politics and interethnic relations in a country where questioning the official line is discouraged, especially in an election year.
«We looked into this theory as well. No kidnapping has taken place. Shamsiddinov has, himself, left the house and disappeared. We’ve received neither information of him having been beaten or forcefully taken out of his home nor any sign of kidnapping and this case must not be interpreted as “political”,» added E. Jalilov.
Global Voices points out that while disappearance of Umarali Quvvatov in Dubai is discussed, nobody seems to care about disappearance of Shamsiddinov within the country:
Over the last ten days, journalists and internet users in Tajikistan have actively discussed the ‘disappearance’ of a Tajik opposition leader from a Dubai-based detention center. Meanwhile, they have largely ignored another recent disappearance of an outspoken critic of the regime within the country itself. Salim Shamsiddinov, 58, has been missing since he left his house in the southern city of Qurghonteppa early in the morning on March 15.
For GV, Quvvatov is tarnished by his association with the fuel business, but not for many Tajiks:
Despite commanding some support, Quvvatov, as a once-successful businessmen, also has his doubters in the country. Before appearing as an ardent opponent of Rahmon, Umarali Quvvatov was a successful entrepreneur, the head and founder of two private companies that transported oil products to Afghanistan through Tajikistan. Quvvatov claims that his share in these businesses was taken by force by Shamsullo Sohibov, the son-in-law of the president.
However, the majority of internet users in Tajikistan seem to support him. Quvvatov has also attracted some followers due to his religious views. In one of the interviews that he gave [ru] to RFE/RL's Tajik service, Quvvatov described himself as a “Sufi”, practicing the tradition that focuses on the “esoteric” dimension of Islam. In Tajikistan, Sufis are popularly known as “pure Muslims”, which partly explains the support for Quvvatov among some religious people.
Paul Goble from Windows on Eurasia:
The ethnic Russian community in Tajikistan has declined in size from more than 400,000 in Gorbachev’s time to about 40,000 now, the smallest number of ethnic Russians in any CIS country except Armenia, a trend that has had a major impact on the internal life of that Central Asian country and on its relations with Moscow.
But according to Arkady Dubnov, a Moscow commentator, the situation with regard to Russian language knowledge there is somewhat better, largely because of the continuing impact of Soviet-era patterns and the more than 700,000 Tajiks who have gone to work in the Russian Federation
Well, according to the plan, anyway...From Asia-Plus:
The official poverty statistics show a noticeable decline in the poverty rate in Tajikistan.
According to Tajikistan’s Livelihood Improvement Strategy (LIS) for 2013-2015, the Tajik poverty rate is expected to decrease to 31.5 percent by 2015.
The Tajik poverty rate reportedly decreased from 50 percent in 2008 to 46.7 percent in 2009, 45 percent in 2010, 41 percent in 2011 and 38.3 percent in 2012.
Each day an average of three Tajiks return from Russia in simple wooden coffins. They are the victims of racist attacks, police brutality, dangerous working conditions and unsafe housing.
They go for the money, earning up to four times more in Russia than they would at home – if they were lucky to find a job in in dirt-poor Tajikistan. “They are saving to get married and build a house,” said Rustam Tursunov, deputy mayor of the western town of Tursunzoda.
In 2010, Rustam Khukumov was sentenced to almost 10 years in a Russian prison, charged, along with three other Tajik nationals, with possessing nine kilos of heroin.
Khukumov is the son of the powerful head of Tajikistan’s railway boss, Amonullo Khukumov. The senior Khukumov is an ally and relative of the Tajik strongman, President Emomali Rakhmon (Khukumov is father-in-law to Rakhmon’s daughter). Could that have anything to do with why the Khukumov scion was released early, under murky circumstances, only a year into his jail term?
For asking that question, the weekly “Imruz News” now owes Khukumov over $10,500 in “moral damages,” a Dushanbe court ruled on February 25. The paper vows to appeal, which means more embarrassing attention on Khukumov.
In case you care -- and it may not last:
After blocking the social network for about a week, Tajik authorities have gone back on the decision and opened up access to Facebook once again, AFP reports.
Last week, Facebook, along with three other websites, were blocked in Tajikistan, after authorities ordered ISPs to block access to them.
Facebook, along with several Russian news sites, namely zevzda.ru, centrasia.ru, tjk.news.com, and maxala.org, were blocked after several articles were published, criticizing the country’s president.
As EurasiaNet.org's David Trilling (@dtrilling) about this situation, "Look what's just across the porous and poorly secured border from Tajikistan":
For years, Badakhshan Province enjoyed life away from the action, an island of stability as war engulfed the rest of Afghanistan. But as the broader conflict winds down, the northeastern province is offering a bleak view of the future.
That's because NATO last year handed over security duties in Badakhshan exclusively to the Afghan National Army (ANA) and National Police (ANP), but the transition has coincided with a spike in violence and increased militant activity.
Amb. Susan Elliott, our envoy in Dushanbe, is not dancing like our US ambassador to Uzbekistan, George Krol, last year -- she's more serious.
But does this picture, well...sort of say something about US-Tajik relations? It belongs to the Soviet genre of "bread and salt celebration" photos that are an iconic staple for the region's media. But this more impromptu Twitter version can't help evoking a little bit more beyond the rituals. There's that studied indifference to her menial task -- or glassy-eyed boredom? -- of the young woman in front, and the faint half-smile of the one toward the back; and the very faint frown from the ambassador herself, which could be a wince from having to taste some kumys sort of thing -- although that grass looks yummy...
Lest you think women are only pressed into their bread-salt routine, here's a photo of women in Khorog described as "fantastic entrepreneurs" by our ambassador. Of course, it's the usual "women's work" of embroidery or sewing, from the looks of it, but that's a start...
TAJIKISTAN SHAKES, TOO
There was a moderate earthquake today in Turkmenistan, but it's not the only shake going on there.
Joining in the worldwide craze, Tajiks have turned in at least four Harlem Shakes: here, by the Tajik Debaters' Society, illustrating that without the props of the rich world, as in other Shakes around the world, the students have been ingenuous with tape and paper and bags; here, sort of a partial Harlem Shake in Tajik national dress; here, which may be the only Harlem Shake performed in chapans by menu.tj; and here, by crazy dudes, which may get the vote for "most minimalist Harlem shake, anywhere".
The OSCE Office in Tajikistan hosted an extracurricular day for 30 Afghan and Tajik students from the faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences at universities in Dushanbe. The event is part of an initiative to strengthen co-operation on hydrology and environment between Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the Upper Amu-Darya River basin.
Twenty-four officers from of the Tajik Border Troops, Customs Service and the Interior Ministry worked on evaluating context and potential risks, identification, analysis and classification of risks, and risk assessment at airport and land borders. The course was delivered by serving police and border police officers from Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Afghan students and their instructors take part in a high-altitude training exercise in preparation for two weeks of winter training on survival, mountaineering, search and rescue, avalanche awareness, and snow analysis in Khoja Obigarm, 50 kilometers north of Dushanbe, 12 February 2013. Photo by Mansur Ziyoev
This has got to be the most extreme OSCE activity, bar none. Those spotted coats make them look like snow leopards!
Afghan border police officers completed a two-week practical course on winter patrolling at the Tajik Border Troops Training Centre in Gissar today. The course was organized by the OSCE Office in Tajikistan.
Fifteen mid-rank and front-line officers from the Afghan Border Police attended the course, which was held as part of the OSCE Office’s Patrol Programming and Leadership project.
Go and see all of Eric Haglund's photos -- and perhaps someone can explain to me how they get the water that particular shade of blue in Tajikistan. Is it some chemical property of the rocks? Or?
In case you missed the interview with me in CA-News, here's the English version -- there's a bit on Tajikistan.
The definitive from Blake and my take -- The US Will Not Use Tajikistan as Its Backyard on the Way out of Afghanistan
Electricity Governance in Tajikistan -- things can only go up, right?
On the one hand, the working group found that there are no formal barriers to obtaining key documents or to public access to policy and regulatory decision-making processes. At the same time, there is no legal framework to facilitate public scrutiny and involvement, nor practical mechanisms to place information in the public domain. In practice, the lack of formal procedures makes meaningful public debate or oversight of the sector all but impossible.
MORE PHOTO LINKS
o This has got to be the most incredible flight over the mountains of Tajikistan in what the authors describe as a "lunchbox with wings" -- must see
o Pamiri home -- which seems very simple until you read about all the symbolic elements of faith in it