On Friday afternoons, imams across Tajikistan read their weekly, government-drafted sermons. The theme is often political, and often supports strongman President Emomali Rahmon. Last Friday, March 27, imams called on the faithful to demand the authoritarian government ban Tajikistan’s largest opposition party, the only legally operating religiously oriented party in Central Asia.
The Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) helped ensure peace at the end of Tajikistan’s devastating civil war in the mid-1990s. But Rahmon has steadily reneged on his promise to give 30 percent of government positions to his opponents in the war. Until a deeply flawed election early this month – which featured ballot-box stuffing and intimidation, according to international observers – the IRPT had managed to hang on to a couple of seats in parliament.
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Edward Lemon is pursuing a political science PhD in the UK. A EurasiaNet.org correspondent in Dushanbe contributed reporting.