I was going to write a full response for neweurasia to Alpharabius’ last post on the ongoing conflict in Rasht, but it ended up being expanded and I decided to publish it with opendemocracy, in two parts. Nevertheless, Schwartz has allowed me to publish the two links in case any of neweurasia‘s readers are interested (and besides, I owe it to them for the inspiration).
The movement “For a Free Internet” has issued an appeal, expressing its concern with the current situation in Tajikistan, primarily due to a number of recently blocked internet sites.
Indeed, the government has been involved in blocking a number of independent online resources. Experts link the move to the ongoing military operation in the Rasht Valley.
Editor’s note: Tajikistan’s government has offered rebels in the Rasht Valley an amnesty in exchange for a cease-fire, but neweurasia’s Botur doesn’t think they’ll take the offer. In his opinion, the new revolt has deeper systemic roots than most people realize. “I cannot avoid the truth that the lies and dirty secrets of this government has undermined the prosperity of our nation,” he writes, “This new revolt is really just the logical result of the Rahmon administration’s terrible practices.”
It’s been two weeks since neweurasia‘s Alpharabius commented on the growing revolt in the Rasht Valley. Since then, ambushes and a helicopter crash have left over 50 soldiers dead. The big news this week happened yesterday, when the authorities offered the rebels a full amnesty in exchange for a cease-fire.
There’s been no information yet whether the rebels will agree, but right now, I doubt they will. The reason is simple: they are probably increasingly of the belief that this government cannot be trusted, and that they must fight in order to survive.
Editor’s note: In the lead-up to Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary elections, neweurasia’s Marat gives the view from Dushanbe. And, well, the view isn’t much, actually. “The two poorest countries in Central Asia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, share a lot,” he writes, “[But] Tajikistan is now landlocked not only geographically but also politically.”
One of the “stans” in Central Asia, Tajikistan, has been undergoing major challenges as of lately. What the government labeled “terrorists groups” have been assaulting and killing state troops in a volatile eastern valley, several recidivists were able to escape from confinement earlier, a suicide bomber hit northern troops, the president has been strongly critical of youngsters and women resorting to religious attire and practices rather than the “Aryan-originated Tajik” traditions, to name a few.
But let us leave Dushanbe’s internal issues for a moment and try to shed light on its foreign policy towards what is imminently approaching as a “revolutionary” transformation in Central Asia: the parliamentary form of governance to be introduced in Tajikistan’s immediate neighbor, Kyrgyzstan, within a week’s time if no force-majeure takes place.
What is going in my country? Six Islamic militants, including a “foreign mercenary,” were killed during the anti-terror operation in the east of the country, the spokesmen of the Tajik Defense Ministry Faridun Mahmadaliev told journalists in Dushanbe yesterday. He confirmed that the special operation to”‘neutralize illegal armed groups in the Rasht Valley” is continuing.
According to authorities, these groups are responsible for a deadly ambush that killed 28 Tajik soldiers on September 19 in Kamarob. Initially, according to the authorities, the soldiers were sent to the region to hunt a group of prisoners who escaped jail in Dushanbe on August 23. However, local sources say the preparation for the operation was already under way long before the massive jailbreak. They also add that not one of the escaped prisoners are Rasht Valley natives, making the area an unlikely hideaway.
Another bit of suspicion was added when high profile government figures said the soldiers are seeking to eliminate Mullah Abdullah, a former opposition commander who did not accept the peace deal of 1997 and left the country for Afghanistan in 2000. Hunting Abdullah had also been the aim of the previous massive anti-terror operation conducted by the Tajik special forces last summer in Tavildara Valley. That mission did not succeed in capturing or killing Abdullah, but it did kill one-time Emergency Minister and former opposition field commander Mirzo Ziyoev under suspicious circumstances.
All this has led some independent newspapers in Dushanbe to dub Mullah Abdullah the “Tajik Bin Laden,” a vague phantom with the power to “appear” in other areas of the country and thus instigating new anti-terror operations resulting in more deaths problematic individuals. The authorities harshly criticized these papers, saying, “The independent papers are trying to demoralize our brave militaries, put in doubt our noble mission, and make our population hopeless.”
Yet, skepticism is a perfectly logical reaction to the situation, and here’s why.
Although the Monday statement by Uzbek President Islam Karimov would make one’s eyebrows raise, he did recommend that an “independent, impartial and international” probe should be carried out into the June events in Southern Kyrgyzstan. One could argue that Islam Karimov is not in a position to make such a recommendation given his refusal to hold a similar probe into the May events in eastern Uzbekistan’s Andijon in 2005. However, that is not important in this case where we want to talk about not internal affairs of Uzbekistan, but an event that could “destabilize the whole Central Asia.”
It is noteworthy that Islam Karimov has allocated about one third of his 15-minute-long speech before the global leaders to talk about “events which were carefully organized by third forces.” According to Mr Karimov, the interethnic clash was the culmination of events which were triggered by the April revolution which “overthrew the discredited presidential power.”
Undoubtedly the call for an international investigation as such is much welcomed. “But he [Karimov] could stop the massacre of Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan” without engaging the Uzbek army, a former Uzbek diplomat told BBC. According to the diplomat, “even an oral warning on part of Karimov” would be enough.
“Many, if not all, ethnic Uzbek residents share this thought,” an ethnic Uzbek young man who fled Osh following the events told NewEurasia.Net. Read the full story »
We’ve previously published an earlier phase of the Tajikistan chapter rough draft, but that was over a year ago. Since then, Tajikistan’s gone through a parliamentary election and the latest phase of the Roghun saga. The chapter’s basic message hasn’t been changed: the people have Tajikistan have manifold reasons to despair but also to persevere, while their government struggles to follow its own better angels — or succumb to its devils.
“Sisyphus“, by the way, is ancient Greek legend concerning a man cursed to forever push a boulder up the side of a mountain. Ever time the summit seems within reach, the boulder rolls back down the mountain. Ben and I thought this was an apt metaphor for the struggles of Tajikistan, for it captured the way in which mountainous geography and the existential struggle to survive have come to define the nation since the end of its civil war.
Re: Alpharabius’ comment to my boss Schwartz’s chapter on religion for Cyber-Chaikhana, here’s a rather patriotic YouTube video with this interesting remark by the user about Zoroastrianism in Tajikistan:
A Tajik can be an adherent of any religion such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, or he can be an Atheist or Agnostic. But regardless of his religious beliefs, his cultural Identity is Zoroastrian. Zoroastrianism is embedded in his culture and identity for thousands of years and good thought, good words and good deed is the pride of every Tajik.
Editor’s note: With an average age of 24, Tajikistan is one of the world’s youngest countries. But this may be a curse rather than a blessing, argues neweurasia’s TajikVoice in the second post of a series exploring youth culture in Tajikistan, this time, the return to religion: “Religion today has replaced the Communist Youth [but] the key thing is to have a charismatic leader: a Communist Youth Organizer or a mullah.” [Translation of TajikVoice’s post (RUS). Read the first part here.]
There remain those for whom life still has something to offer, and that’s religion. I expect a blow to come from here. Tajikistan has suddenly become a mass of young men in white skullcaps and white robes, carrying prayer mats, and girls, covered up until there’s nothing left to see.
A large section of young people is sincerely devoted to worshiping Allah and spends time in mosques listening to sermons. What they say in these sermons – God only knows. This is real power. I’m sure whatever they tell these guys in the mosque, they will go ahead and do.
Editor’s note: With an average age of 24, Tajikistan is one of the world’s youngest countries. But this may be a curse rather than a blessing, argues neweurasia’s TajikVoice in the first post of a new series exploring youth culture in Tajikistan. “Young people are not interested in anything, be it their future, the future of the country, their career or opportunities in their native Tajikistan.” [Translation of TajikVoice’s post (RUS).]
Do you remember the association game? Mother – child – fun – game – football – goalkeeper – ball – grass, etc. If somebody tried to play that game with me today and started with the word “youth,” I would probably get confused, pensive and lose.
I don’t want to seem like a pessimist, but my associations with “youth” have to do with something bad, evil, pointless and wasteful. I’ll tell you a secret: I’m 27 years old, and this is not an old person’s monologue about the perennial “fathers and sons” issue.
Live and Be Happy or What?
Tajikistan is a unique country: the average age here is 24. It is one of the youngest nations in the world. Just imagine – a country of young people. Life must be a joy here, it would seem. Yet our real-life prospects are not so optimistic. The government has done nothing and continues to do nothing for its youth.