Tajik-Turkmen Relations Tested by Rape Claims
A series of alleged tapped telephone conversations among senior Tajikistan diplomats discussing plans to cover up a purported rape in Turkmenistan is threatening to sour relations between the otherwise friendly nations.
The recordings appeared earlier this month on a 20-minute YouTube video edited clumsily to appear to like a news report on Turkmen state television. A link to the video — the origin of which is uncertain — is now being widely shared by exiled Tajik opposition groups, which are pointing to the claimed incident as evidence of moral corruption among officials.
None of the recordings could be independently verified and none of the governments involved have commented officially on the alleged events described.
The narrator of the YouTube video, whose voice has been distorted, possibly to disguise his identity, opens the account with praise for Turkmenistan and its leader, only to note “there are some who are prepared to do almost anything to spoil relations with our country” — a reference to Tajik diplomats.
The speaker claims in the narration that the third secretary of Tajikistan’s Embassy in Turkmenistan, Golibshoh Kayumov, was earlier this year detained by police in the city of Chardjou on suspecting to rape a minor earlier this year.
As supporting evidence, there is a lengthy recorded telephone conversation between people identified as Tajik Embassy second secretary, H. Rahimov, and then-ambassador Mahmudjon Sobirov. After some initial pleasantries, Rahimov explains to this superior that Kayumov was caught in flagrante delicto with the young girl and was later forced to sign a statement admitting to having sexual relations with her.
A subsequent taped conversation between Sobirov and his boss in Dushanbe, Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov, indicates that the matter is being addressed at the highest levels.
“Makhmudjon Nasyrovich, this thing has taken on massive proportions. Our big man has discussed it with their big man. It has reached the point where me must remove you from your post. Don’t take it to heart,” a man identified as Aslov is heard to say.
In yet another conversation, Sobirov and an advisor at the Tajik embassy, Abdulfaiz Atoyev, exchange exasperated remarks at what they perceive to be a fuss over nothing.
“Why raise such a noise about such a little thing?” the man identified as Sobirov asks, without indicating that he did not think Kayumov was guilty of attempted rape.
All of this time it is unclear what has happened to Kayumov, but the next conversation, allegedly between second secretary Rahimov and a Tajik Foreign Ministry official identified simply as Sharifkhon, may be the most egregious of all.
In their conversation, the two discuss ways of making life uncomfortable for their Turkmen counterparts in Tajikistan — as payback for the (assumed ongoing) detention of Kayumov.
“We are going to take adequate measures, like they did. We have also received orders. We worked out that their two [diplomatic] cars have not undergone technical review for the last four years,” Sharifkhon says.
The suggestion is that road police will pull them over and take their car off the road.
Yet another strange and unrelated claim about the goings-on at the Tajikistan Embassy in Turkmenistan appears at the start of the video, where the narrator claims a car belonging to the mission and loaded with illegal narcotics and contraband tobacco was stopped at the Iranian border in May 2015. A photo of the vehicle shows it piled high with cigarettes.
While it is important to stress again that there is no way of verifying the recordings or any of the claims, people familiar with individuals identified in the video have said the voices appear to match those of some people identified. And if the recordings are indeed genuine, two questions arise: Who is behind them? And what is the possibly fallout?
Since some of the recordings can only have been done within Turkmenistan, it has to be supposed that they are the work of the security services in Ashgabat, which is known to regularly listen in on conversations of diplomats, journalists and regular citizens.
One possibility is that the leak was the handiwork of indignant Turkmen apparatchik — a theory supported by a remark by the narrator about how Tajikistan is “sending us diplomats that rape our daughters and rudely violate the constitution of our great nation.”
That latter remark was made while onscreen an image appeared of a map of the proposed route for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway, a $2 billion trade-boosting link that has for one reason or another failed to get off the ground.
Cracks in relations notwithstanding, other mooted project are unlikely to be put in much danger. Line D, a projected branch of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline that would thread through Tajik territory and net the government around $100 million per year in transit fees, is being supported by Beijing as a matter of the highest priority.