Tag Archives: Tajikistan

Dushanbe court sentences lawyer to 5-1/2 years in prison for Facebook post

JUNE 16 2021 (The Bulletin) — A court in Dushanbe sentenced Abdulmajid Rizoe, a human rights lawyer, to 5-1/2 years in prison for posting what it said were extremist comments on Facebook. In the offending comment, Rizoe quoted a poem that said “ignorant governments fight protesters”. He has denied any wrongdoing. Human rights activists have been increasingly concerned about Tajikistan’s commitment to political plurality. 

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Uzbeksitan and Tajikistan agree bilateral deals worth $1b

JUNE 11 2021 (The Bulletin) — At a meeting in Dushanbe designed to show off their new and strengthen friendship, Uzbek Pres. Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Tajik Pres. Emomali Rakhmon signed bilateral deals worth $1b. Relations between the two neighbours have improved markedly since the death in 2016 of Islam Karimov. The bilateral deals were focused on industry and manufacturing.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajikistan accused of sending Uyghurs to China

DUSHANBE/JUNE 10 2021 (The Bulletin) — The Tajik government is rounding up Uyghurs and sending them to China where they are imprisoned in so-called re-education camps, rights activists told the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

In a statement to the ICC, the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE), an Uyghur group that wants to see an independent Xinjiang, said that Chinese agents were directing Tajik police in raids against Uyghurs. It said that the number of Uyghurs living ins Tajikistan had dropped to 100, from around 3,000.

“Those without the ‘correct paperwork’ are then deported back into China by Chinese authorities in small groups of up to 10 to avoid international attention,” the ETGE told the ICC. “The remaining Uyghurs are completely controlled by the Consulate and have to participate in weekly meetings with informers who report back to the Consulate.” 

Neither the Tajik nor the Chinese government has responded to the accusations. Tajikistan is a member of the ICC but China isn’t.

Western governments have accused China of trying to wipe out Uyghurs by imprisoning 1m Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz living in Xinjiang. China has denied the claims and said instead that it has set up a network of camps to re-educate Muslims to help them succeed in modern-day China.

Activists have accused the Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments of ignoring the plight of their people in China but this is the first time that a government has been accused of rounding up Uyghurs for the Chinese authorities. Activist hope that they are able to bring pressure on China by highlighting Uyghurs’ plight in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan has built up strong relations with China over the past decade, taking cheap loans to build roads and infrastructure and to beautify its towns and cities.  

In return, China has built up major political and economic patronage, controls many of Tajikistan’s most valuable mineral and energy assets and has reportedly set up a military base in the Tajik section of the Pamir Mountains.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajikistan’s Rakhmon signs weapons deal with Pakistan

JUNE 3 2021 (The Bulletin) — On a trip to Pakistan to meet with PM Imran Khan, media reported that Tajik Pres. Emomali Rakhmon had signed a deal to buy arms. The deal could potentially irritate India, a regional rival to Pakistan, which sees Tajikistan as an entry point into Central Asia. India has been trying to make up ground in Central Asia, where China dominates. 

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajikistan celebrates Day of the Media despite poor press freedom record

MARCH 11 (The Bulletin) — Media activists criticised the Tajik government for celebrating a Day of the Media despite having one  of the world’s worst media freedom records. During the day, six journalists were given awards. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has lodged a complaint with the authorities after two of its journalists were attacked at the end of February while investigating stories about fuel prices increases.

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— This story was published in issue 475 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 15 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajik labourers say that Chinese firms abuse them

DUSHANBE/MARCH 5 (The Bulletin) — Tajik labourers working for a Chinese firm constructing a  new government building in Dushanbe have complained of poor conditions and harassment, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported (March 5).

The Tajik workers refused to give their names to reporters because they said that if they were caught complaining, they would be fired. “All heavy and manual work in construction is done by Tajiks, and local workers wear yellow helmets and Chinese wear red hats. Most of them are employers, engineers and office workers,” one worker told RFE/RL.

Tajikistan is heavily in debt to China which has given dozens of soft loans to build roads, new government buildings and beautify Dushanbe and other cities.

Activists have said that Chinese companies’ attitude towards different workers has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most of the workers here are former migrants who can’t go to Russia because the border is closed,” said another person working on the site. Remittances from migrant workers typically make up around half of Tajikistan’s GDP.

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— This story was published in issue 475 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 15 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajik president calls for “Year of the Glacier” to highlight Global Warming

MARCH 3 2021 (The Bulletin) — Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon said that a “Year of the Glacier” was needed to draw attention to the impact of global warming on glaciers. The Pamir Mountains dominate Tajikistan and hold world-renowned glaciers. One of them is the 75km-long Fedchenko Glacier, the longest glacier in the world outside the Polar regions, which Mr Rakhmon said had retreated by 1km.

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— This story was published in issue 474 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 5 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajik court imprisons son of opposition leader

MARCH 1 2021 (The Bulletin) — A court in Tajikistan sentenced Shaikhmuslihiddin Rizoev, son of imprisoned opposition leader Mahmurod Odinaev, to six years in prison for hooliganism and rape, the US-funded RFE/RL reported.  Supporters of Rizoev have said that his sentence is being used to pressure his father and that he was attacked by unknown men and was defending himself during the alleged fight. His trial was held in secret.

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— This story was published in issue 474 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 5 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Tajikistan says it has beaten the coronavirus

FEB. 1 2021 (The Bulletin) — Tajikistan’s government said that it has defeated the coronavirus as there hadn’t been any recorded cases of the virus for three weeks. It immediately ordered the reopening of mosques which had been closed since April as a lockdown precaution. Tajikistan has recorded 90 Covid-19-linked deaths. Analysts said that the real figure was likely to be far higher.

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— This story was first published in issue 471 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Comment — Vaccine programmes show geo-political bent

JAN. 22 2021 (The Bulletin) — Governments in the region are taking different approaches to vaccinating their populations against Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. And it makes for instructive analysis.

In Georgia, the most pro-Western country in the region, the government has said it intends to start inoculating its population next month with the Pfizer vaccine. Sputnik-V, the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, doesn’t even feature in the thinking of the EU-dreaming, NATO-aiming Georgian government. 

In Armenia, though, Sputnik-V is at the top of the list, although its inoculation ambitions are more limited. Economically, Armenia has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic and it plans to inoculate just the 10% of the population that it considers to be most at risk.

You may have expected Azerbaijan to also prioritise using Sputnik-V to get on top of the coronavirus but, instead, it has placed its cornerstone order with China and its vaccine Sinovac. This reflects growing tension, and possibly even rivalry, between Azerbaijan and Russia. Azerbaijan heavily leaned on Turkey to defeat Armenia in a six-week war for control of the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and in the process appears to have secured Turkey a foothold in the South Caucasus, irritating the Kremlin. Azerbaijan has also completed construction of a gas pipeline running from the Caspian Sea to Europe and will come into direct competition with Russia.

Azerbaijan hasn’t ignored Sputnik-V altogether and has put in an order, spreading its bets, a tactic it uses, some would say, in its foreign policy.

On the other side of the Caspian Sea, it’s a more opaque, or should that be confused, outlook for vaccine orders. Turkmenistan, which officially denies that it has ever had a case of Covid-19 within its borders was the first country in the region to approve the use of Sputnik-V. Why? 

In Kazakhstan, the authorities have said that they will use the Sputnik-V vaccine to inoculate a third of the population by the end of the year and in Uzbekistan, one of the test centres for Sinovac, the government there has said it will deploy a mix of the Russian and Chinese vaccines to inoculate its population. Uzbekistan, with a population double the size of Kazakhstan’s, has the biggest inoculation logistics challenge.

Bottom of the list are Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Reflecting their far poorer status, both countries are relying on donations from Russia and China as well as the UN’s COVAX scheme for their inoculation cover. Officials in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have said that the coronavirus pandemic has largely passed. This is, like their vaccine rollout plans, largely wishful thinking.

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— This story was first published in issue 469 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021