DANGHARA/Tajikistan, July 30 (The Conway Bulletin) – To passersby this town of 25,000 people south east of Dushanbe, is indistinguishable from any other poor Tajik settlement.
On one side of the drag running through its centre there is a crowded but limited bazaar, hawking cheap products from China. On the other, the standard array of grocery stores with little to sell and taxi drivers waiting for non-existent customers.
But Danghara is an important part of impoverished Tajikistan’s political vocabulary. The town’s most famous son, Tajik president Emomali Rakhmon, stuffs his government with people from Danghara and its eponymous district.
Making up only 1% of the total population of Tajikistan, Dangharans nevertheless head the ministries of education, health and internal affairs. The first Deputy Prime Minister is also Danghara-born.
“Half of Danghara has already moved to Dushanbe,” said Daler Khalidoev, a courier who lives in the capital but comes from Khujand. “They still smell of the village.”
Since Soviet times, regional divisions have plagued Tajikistan. Back then most of the local elite were plucked from Leninabad region (now Khojand) in the north, now it seems that Dangharans are in favour.
At Mr Rakhmon’s encouragement international organizations have built and equipped Danghara general hospital, one of the best in the country, at a cost of roughly $20m. The newly created Danghara Free Economic Zone 10km outside the city, will host strategic investments such as an Iranian detergent factory worth $1.4b and a Chinese oil refinery that will refine over 1m tonnes of crude per year.
“(It’s) jobs for his people,” said Khalidoev, the courier from Khojand.
This article was first published on July 30 in issue 193 of the weekly Conway Bulletin, a newssheet covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus. For more information go to www.conway.starbit.co.uk