Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Hello all; first of all, I am sorry for my hiatus from posts (paucity of posting) for such a long time, but also, I am happy to say that I have found a new home on the web, and I will be once again posting much more frequently!

 

From now on, I will be posting about Tajikistan at

http://studentdigitalus.org/TajikistanFocus/

I hope you will head over and check us out.

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Tajikistan in 2012: A Year in Review

The past year was an eventful one in Tajikistan on the economic, political and military fronts, with both domestic and regional ramifications. Importantly for Tajikistan’s economy, in May 2012, construction on the controversial hydroelectric Rogun Dam on the Vaksh River—a tributary of the Amu Darya river—was suspended following an order from the World Bank. The suspension reportedly put 5,000 people out of work and will remain in effect until the ecological impact study of the dam is completed. It is expected that the Word Bank’s feasibility study will be published this summer. Rogun is commonly seen to be at the heart of the hostility between Tajikistan and downstream Uzbekistan, which fears that the dam would severely damage Uzbekistani farmers’ ability to irrigate their cotton crops and would accelerate the ecological disaster in the Aral Sea. Uzbekistan has retaliated by periodically not allowing Tajikistan-bound rail and truck cargo to cross its borders and cutting off the flow of natural gas, exacerbating Tajikistan’s perennial energy shortages (Ozodi, January 1).

The year 2012 did however bring some good news for Tajikistan’s hopes of energy security with the news of the discovery of potentially huge hydrocarbon reserves in the Bokhtar region. The find was announced earlier this summer by the Canadian firm Tethys Petroleum and was deemed credible enough to attract investment from both the French energy giant Total and China’s National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Corporation (CNODC) (Asia Plus, December 24, 2012). While further exploration needs to be done, the potential reserves of oil and gas are estimated to be more than enough to make Tajikistan a net exporter of hydrocarbons. Such a development would free Dushanbe from its energy reliance on Russia and Uzbekistan and no doubt influence its foreign policy calculations.

In December, Tajikistan joined the World Trade Organization, which local economists hope will lower domestic customs tariffs, curb the power of monopolies in certain sectors such as aviation, lower prices on domestic goods, and encourage foreign investment (BBC Tajik, December 11, 2012). On the other hand, some critics have raised concerns over the potential negative short-term effects on the competitiveness of Tajikistan’s two chief exports, aluminum and cotton. The country’s cotton industry is not only an important economic force but, given the continued existence in Tajikistan of Soviet-style collective farms (kolkhozy), an important socio-political institution as well.

On the political front, the big story looming in 2013 is the presidential election slated for November. The election will mark the first in Tajikistan since 2006 when Emomalii Rahmon secured his third term in office. That vote was boycotted by several opposition parties including the largest, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). However, this time the opposition parties are expected to participate and possibly put forth a coalition candidate. Nonetheless, 2012 was a rough year for the opposition as both religious and political figures such as Muhiddin Kabiri (the head of the IRP) and Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda (prominent cleric and former deputy prime minister) were legally harassed, imprisoned (such as Umarali Quvatov, businessman and head of the exiled opposition group “Group 24”), and even killed (notably, Sabzali Mamadrizoev, head of the IRP in the remote Gorno-Badakhshan region). Since the last presidential vote in 2006, Rahmon has seen neighboring states and allies embroiled in contested elections and subsequent hostility (witness Iran’s 2009 presidential election, the 2010 coup in Kyrgyzstan as well as the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011-2012). Despite assurances from some quarters that the country’s civil war has bred a war-weary and politically disinterested population, the regime will likely increase the pressure on the opposition and consolidate its power during the run-up to the elections in anticipation of potential unrest. President Rahmon may attempt to secure his rule by exaggerating the threat of Islamic extremism and proffering himself as a bulwark against regional instability in the context of a post-2014 Afghanistan. However the unrest this summer in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan that killed dozens was a sobering reminder of at least three things: 1) not all Tajikistanis are war weary, 2) not all threats to the regime are inspired by Islam, and 3) the regime underestimates the domestic and international backlash against such heavy-handed tactics.

via UNHCR | Refworld | Tajikistan in 2012: A Year in Review.

An agreement on financing ‘Professional literacy programs for poverty reduction’ was signed in Dushanbe between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), AsiaPlus news agency reported on Saturday.

The total project cost is $ 11 million on a credit basis. The project will be implemented until 2016.

According to the Secretariat of the Tajik Finance Ministry, the agreement was signed by the Minister of Finance Safarali Najmiddinov and Vice – President of the IDB, Ahmet Tiktik.

The ‘Professional literacy programs for poverty reduction” are aimed to decrease poverty rates, especially in rural areas; training of young people and women by enhancing relevant professional literacy, practical skills and productivity.

via IDB to contribute $ 11 million to Tajikistan to reduce poverty – Trend.Az.

Not long ago Tajik police were forcing men to shave their beards, convinced a terrorist lurked behind every whisker. Now the health minister has recommended salons stop trimming Tajikistan’s chins lest dirty razors spread HIV.
Nusratullo Salimov said barbers are not doing enough to disinfect their shaving equipment, RIA Novosti quoted him as saying on January 10. The health minister emphasized, however, that the majority of Tajikistan’s new HIV infections are transmitted via dirty needles and unprotected sex. He gave no statistics for new infections from tainted razors.
Facial hair is a popular topic of official chatter in Tajikistan. In late 2010, a number of bewhiskered men told local media outlets they were being harassed by police. Some reported being stopped and forced to shave. At the time, an Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed police were detaining “suspicious” men sporting long beards as part of their search for members of banned Islamic sects. Muslim men, moderate and radical alike, often wear beards out of reverence for the Prophet Muhammad.
More recently, in November, a new injunction sponsored by the State Committee on Religious Affairs reportedly prohibited men from wearing beards longer than their fists, though some officials later denied the existence of any rules. (Ironically, across the border in Afghanistan, the Taliban were once said to forbid men from wearing beards shorter than fist-length.)
The beard vs razor debate will likely overshadow a more pressing issue. HIV is spreading rapidly along the heroin trafficking routes that transit Tajikistan. And in Russia, where a million-odd Tajiks work as temporary laborers – and often engage in risky sex before returning home to their wives – the UN says there are 200 new HIV infections every day. Salimov said the number of new cases in Tajikistan shot up by 17 percent in 2012.

via Tajikistan Splits Facial Hairs | EurasiaNet.org.

Tajikistan blocked access to more than 100 websites on Tuesday, in what a government source said was a dress rehearsal for a crackdown on online dissent before next year’s election when President Imomali Rakhmon will again run for office.

Rakhmon, a 60-year-old former head of a Soviet cotton farm, has ruled the impoverished Central Asian nation of 7.5 million for 20 years. He has overseen constitutional amendments that allow him to seek a new seven-year term in November 2013.

The Internet remains the main platform where Tajiks can air grievances and criticize government policies at a time when the circulation of local newspapers is tiny and television is tightly controlled by the state.

Tajikistan’s state communications service blocked 131 local and foreign Internet sites “for technical and maintenance works”.

“Most probably, these works will be over in a week,” Tatyana Kholmurodova, deputy head of the service, told Reuters. She declined to give the reason for the work, which cover even some sites with servers located abroad.

The blocked resources included Russia’s popular social networking sites http://www.my.mail.ru and VKontakte (www.vk.com), as well as Tajik news site TJKnews.com and several local blogs.

“The government has ordered the communications service to test their ability to block dozens of sites at once, should such a need arise,” a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“It is all about November 2013,” he said, in a clear reference to the presidential election.

Other blocked websites included a Ukrainian soccer site, a Tajik rap music site, several local video-sharing sites and a pornography site.

via Tajikistan blocks scores of websites as election looms – Terra USA.

Tajikistan has ordered local Internet providers to block Twitter, one of more than 100 sites including popular Russian-language social networks starting next week, an industry representative told AFP Saturday.

“The (government) communications service has sent Internet companies a huge list of 131 sites that must be blocked in the country from Monday,” said Asomiddin Atoyev, the head of the Tajik association of Internet providers.

“The list includes social networking sites that are actively used by Tajik Internet users including government officials,” Atoyev said.

Among the blocked sites are Vkontakte, or In Touch, and Odnoklassniki, or Classmates, the most popular social networking sites in Russia with many users in the ex-Soviet Union, and Mail.ru, an email service.

via Tajikistan orders Twitter ban | The Raw Story.

World Report 2012: Tajikistan | Human Rights Watch.