Russian politicians and state-controlled media outlets have been taking lots of potshots at Tajikistan lately. Some observers believe the barrage of verbal darts may be a precursor to retaliatory measures by the Kremlin for Dushanbe’s delay in ratifying a military basing agreement.
The concept of term limits seems like a contradiction in terms when it comes to Tajikistan. The Central Asian state’s constitution specifies that the president can serve only two consecutive terms. Yet the incumbent, Imomali Rahmon, has been in office since 1994, and is widely expected to secure another seven-year term when a presidential vote is held in November.
Tajikistan is not a place that sees a lot of protests these days. So it is a cause for wonder when demonstrators spontaneously gather outside the US Embassy and United Nations offices in Dushanbe to air complaints that mirror authorities’ stated views – without facing any serious challenge from law enforcement authorities.
Last summer, a small international prospector operating in the poorest of former Soviet republics released some sensational news: Tajikistan, it announced, is sitting on enough oil and gas to make everyone rich.
As President Imomali Rahmon gears up for a reelection bid later this year, he’s apparently trying to take care of some unfinished business from Tajikistan’s civil war, which ended 16 years ago. Specifically, Rahmon is striving to neutralize a prominent political rival, former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullajanov.
Tajikistan is turning ageism into state policy. Supposedly seeking to “attract young specialists” into government service, the president’s office has instructed officials to lay off elderly government employees –including teachers, doctors at state hospitals, and office functionaries – regardless of their qualifications.
Something strange happened in Tajikistan over a late December weekend. On a Friday evening, the government’s communications agency ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to block 131 websites for “technical” reasons. Then suddenly, a few days later, the ISPs were told, in effect; ‘never mind.’
Longtime residents of Dushanbe say Tajikistan’s capital is changing, and they’re not talking about the destruction of city parks to make space for empty new skyscrapers. The use of the Russian language, once a unifier in multi-ethnic Tajik cities, is rapidly fading.