Category: Silk Land of Tajikistan

July 31, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a car-and-knife attack on Western tourists cycling in Tajikistan that killed two Americans and two Europeans. Officials in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation didn’t publicly address the IS claim and instead blamed the Sunday attack on a banned local Islamist group. The young men featured in an IS-linked video resembled the individuals that Tajik authorities identified as attack suspects who were later killed by police.

The Islamic State group said in a statement late Monday that several of its soldiers attacked the “citizens of the Crusader coalition.” The four tourists were killed when a car rammed into a group of foreigners on bicycles south of the capital of Dushanbe, Tajik officials have said. The driver and the passengers then got out and attacked the cyclists with knives.

Two of the victims were American, one was Swiss and the fourth was from the Netherlands, foreign and Tajik officials said. The three people injured included a woman from Switzerland. A video posted on an IS-linked website Tuesday shows five men sitting on a hill against the backdrop of a black-and-white IS flag and declaring allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The men say they’re from Tajikistan and pledge to slaughter disbelievers in the name of Allah. A note accompanying the video said the men took part in the weekend attack.

Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry posted photos Tuesday of what it said were the bodies of four suspected attackers lying dead in a field. Three of the men resemble ones in the IS video. It blamed the attack on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, a local party banned several years ago for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

Tajikistan, an impoverished, predominantly Muslim nation of some 8 million people, was devastated by a 5-year civil war with Islamist-inspired rebel forces that ended in 1997. Alarmed by the rise of the Islamic State group in recent years, Tajik authorities have clamped down on behavior and traditions associated with Islam, regulating how people dress and behave at funerals and ordering men to shave their beards. Critics say the restrictions could help radicalize secular Muslims.


DUSHANBE – Tajikistan has granted amnesty to more than 100 of its nationals following their return home from Syria and Iraq, where they had joined radical Islamist groups, the interior minister said Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda said the returnees had been pardoned in line with a 2015 government pledge.

“Regarding the fate of 111 Tajik citizens who returned from Syria and Iraq voluntarily, all of them are free under Tajik law,” Rahimzoda said.

Most of the returnees in question had spent time in Syria, which became a magnet for jihadists from around the globe following its descent into civil war in 2011.

Rahimzoda also told reporters that 250 citizens of Tajikistan, a majority-Muslim country, had died fighting for radical groups in Iraq and Syria, mostly the Islamic State group.

Authorities have previously said that over 1,000 Tajik citizens, including women, had joined the radical militants.

Most had traveled to Syria and Iraq through Russia, where over a million Tajiks are believed to work as labor migrants.

The Islamic State group’s most high-profile Tajik recruit Gulmurod Khalimov had served as the chief of the interior ministry’s special forces unit prior to his sensational defection in 2015.

Russia’s defense ministry said in September last year that Khalimov, who may have been IS’s “minister of war”, had been killed in an airstrike.

Rahimzoda said Thursday that Tajikistan was still verifying that report.

Mountainous Tajikistan, the poorest former Soviet republic, shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Afghanistan, long a hotbed of Islamist militancy and the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin.

Governments have warned that fighters returning to their home countries after the collapse of the Islamic State group could raise the terror threat there.

Source: Middle East Online.


29 October 2016 Saturday

Ex-Soviet republic Tajikistan on Saturday marked the start of construction of a controversial $4 billion Rogun hydroelectric dam conceived in the Soviet era, the presidential press service said.

The high-profile ceremony was held in Rogun some 100 kilometers from the capital Dushanbe and saw veteran President Emomali Rakhmon spend an hour-and-a-half behind the wheel of a bulldozer pushing soil to block the Vakhsh river.

According to his press service Rakhmon, 64, “poured gravel onto the bed of the (redirected) River Vakhsh, marking the beginning of construction of the Rogun hydroelectric plant vital for the people of Tajikistan.”

Speaking at the ceremony Rakhmon called the start of construction “the achievement of the year.”

He also promised states in the region worried about the project that Tajikistan would “never leave its neighbours without water.”

The dam, initially conceived by Moscow in the 1970s, has been severely criticized by Uzbekistan.

Saturday’s ceremony came a day after most of Tajikistan was plunged into darkness for several hours following an accident at the Nurek hydropower plant that supplies the bulk of the country’s electricity.

In July, Tajikistan announced that Italian company Salini Impregilo had won a $3.9 billion contract to build the Rogun dam, which at 335 meters (1,099 feet) would be the world’s tallest.

Downstream neighbor Uzbekistan strongly opposed the Rogun project under late president Islam Karimov, who feared its impact on Uzbek agriculture.

Karimov’s likely successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who became interim president after the autocrat’s funeral in September, also publicly criticized the project earlier this year.

In addition to helping the country achieve energy independence — planned shutoffs affect many parts of the country during the winter — Tajikistan believes Rogun will transform the country into a regional hub for electricity exports.

Tajikistan is a key node in the US-backed CASA-1000 project that aims to increase supplies of electricity from the region to South Asian countries Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Source: World Bulletin.


May 22, 2016

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Tajikistan is holding a referendum on changing the Constitution to allow its authoritarian president to run for the office indefinitely, effectively allowing him to rule for life.

The 63-year-old President Emomali Rakhmon has ruled the former Soviet republic in Central Asia since 1992. During those 24 years in power, he has crushed or cowed all opposition to his rule and the referendum is expected to pass easily.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, the official turnout for the referendum was about 80 percent. One of the constitutional changes considered in the vote would lower the minimum age for presidents from 35 to 30 years. This would allow Rakhmon’s son, now 29, to run in the next presidential election in 2020 and succeed him as leader of the country.

16 May 2015 Saturday

Tajikistan has closed its eastern border to tourists as a result of fighting in the Badakhshan province.

In a statement to Asia Reports, Rezo Nazarzoda, the deputy head of the Committee for Youth, Sports and Tourism Affairs under the Government of Tajikistan, said that entry of foreign citizens to Gorno Badakhshan has been temporarily suspended because of uneasy situation in Afghanistan’s districts bordering the region.

The Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) makes up roughly 45 percent of Tajikistan’s territory, but is home to only 3 percent of the population. Nazarzoda said that 80 percent of Tajikistan’s tourists come to visit the province specifically to see the breathtaking Pamir Mountains. The Pamir Highway that traverses the mountains is one of the highest roads in the world, an ancient piece of the Silk Road, and modern GBAO’s only real supply line.

Source: World Bulletin.


01 July 2014 Tuesday

On June 30th that the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan appealed to the authorities of the country to allow minors to attend mosques during the month of Ramadan, Interfax reported.

“If visiting mosques may harm school performance, we suggest the schoolchildren to attend them outside regular school hours,” the statement said.

Tajikistan adopted a new version of the law on religious associations in 2009 which prohibits anyone under the age of 18 to attend a mosque, in exception to funerals. In 2011 the law was changed slightly to – on responsibility of parents.

Human rights activists said that they violate the rights of religious persons, criticizing both laws. However, the authorities explained the necessity for prohibitions with the desire to protect children from the radical religious movements.

The party members believe, the ban on mosque attendance in spare time tramples the rights of the children.

Source: World Bulletin.


November 07, 2013

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Tajikistan’s president has won a fourth term in an election that has been criticized by Western observers and extends his more than 20-year rule in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation.

The Central Election Commission said Thursday that Emomali Rakhmon won 83.6 percent of the vote, but monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, criticized the previous day’s vote.

They say that state media had been dominated by coverage of Rakhmon’s campaign and that registration requirements were designed to limit competition. “While quiet and peaceful, this was an election without a real choice,” Gerdana Comic, Special Coordinator for the OSCE mission, said in a news conference in Dushanbe.

The Tajik government long has drawn criticism for its crackdown on dissent and its tight grip on the media. Authorities in the impoverished Sunni Muslim nation of 8 million have sought to exploit public fears of a replay of a bloody civil war of the 1990s, casting the opposition as a threat to the country’s stability.

Rights activist Oinihol Bobonazarova was denied registration after the election commission claimed she had failed to gather enough signatures to run, and the remaining five challengers waged lackluster campaigns and praised Rakhmon’s rule.

They voiced little criticism after the official results were released. The president’s closest rival only took 5 percent of the vote. “There were some insignificant flaws and shortcomings, but nothing that could have truly influenced the results,” said Olimdzhon Boboyev of the Economic Reform Party, who polled at 3.9 percent.

Tajikistan has hosted a Russian military base and recently allowed Moscow to extend its lease until 2042. Along with five other ex-Soviet nations, Tajikistan is part of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization.

It also has been an important partner for the United States, allowing coalition troops and cargo to travel to and from Afghanistan over its territory. However, its ex-Soviet neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have played a far greater role.

“We welcome the progress Tajikistan has made in improving its electoral process, but there is still a long way to go,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We urge the Tajik government to begin working now to strengthen political pluralism, allow true opposition parties to operate, and expand operating space for independent media and civil society groups.”

November 06, 2013

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Voters in Tajikistan cast ballots Wednesday in a presidential election all but certain to extend the incumbent’s more than 20-year rule after officials barred the only real opposition candidate from the race.

President Emomali Rakhmon, 61, is running for his fourth term in the strategically important Central Asian nation neighboring Afghanistan and China. The Sunni Muslim country of 8 million is one of the poorest among the ex-Soviet nations. It depends on the remittances of the more than 1 million Tajiks working in Russia to make up nearly one-half of the nation’s GDP.

For many years, Rakhmon’s government has cracked down on dissent and maintained tight control over the media, drawing harsh criticism from international rights groups. He faces virtually no competition in this vote. Rights activist Oinihol Bobonazarova was denied registration on the grounds she failed to collect the signatures of 5 percent of the nation’s voters. She insisted she had done so, but the Central Election Commission claimed she fell short because the number of eligible voters had changed.

The remaining five presidential challengers have campaigned together and have even praised Rakhmon. Tajik authorities have sought to exploit public fears of a replay of a bloody civil war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“(The authorities) tried to create an impression that if people support (me), it could lead to a war and bloodshed as in the 1990s,” Bobonazarova said. Rakhmon, a state farm director during Soviet times, took the helm during the war that erupted in 1992. Russia backed Rakhmon’s faction against a coalition of Islamists, nationalists and democratic groups.

A 1997 peace deal gave the opposition a significant number of government posts, but Rakhmon later consolidated his power, gradually squeezing the opposition members out. There were clashes between government troops and militants in 2010 and 2012, but the government has moved quickly to uproot its foes and cement control.

“Rakhmon’s positions are very strong,” said Nurali Davlat, an independent analyst. “The opposition has failed to consolidate.” Tajikistan has allowed U.N. coalition troops and cargo to travel from Afghanistan over its territory, although its ex-Soviet neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have played a far greater role.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

October 05, 2012

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Russia and Tajikistan agreed Friday to extend the presence of Russian troops in the ex-Soviet nation on Afghanistan’s northern border until 2042.

An aide accompanying Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, said Moscow would be assured use of the facility “virtually free of charge.” Central Asian nations are apprehensive at the prospect of the NATO coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and have expressed fears that violence could spill over, prompting them to see security guarantees from their Russian and U.S. partners.

“The Russian base in Tajikistan is an important factor in stability in this republic, with which we are bound by special, brotherly and very close strategic relations,” Putin said. Tajikistan is believed to have sought large rental payments from Russia for use of the base, but those requests appeared to have been successfully resisted.

“We are talking about certain sums, but we are getting this base virtually free of charge,” said Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov. The current base lease is due to expire in October 2014. The Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division deployed in Tajikistan numbers around 7,000 servicemen and is the largest current deployment of Russian troops abroad. It is based in three garrisons — near Dushanbe and in the southern cities of Kulyab and Kurgan-Tube.

Russia’s military presence played a part in negotiating an end to the five-year civil war that devastated Tajikistan in the 1990s. Tajikistan economy is heavily reliant on the money sent home by the roughly 1.1 million migrant laborers working across Russia. Remittances from Russia in 2011 totaled around $3 billion, equivalent to around half Tajikistan’s gross domestic product.

Putin and President Emomali Rakhmon reached an agreement Friday to relax bureaucratic procedures for Tajik migrant laborers seeking to work in Russia, many of whom are frequently compelled to work illegally due to the complications of registration. Under the new terms, migrants will be granted work permits valid up to three years from one year, as currently.

“This will positively impact on the state of the labor market in (Russia) and enable the citizens of Tajikistan to form their life plans on a more solid basis,” Putin said.