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Tajikistan: Airport Director Killed By President’s Helicopter

The director of an airport in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains was killed on September 13 after being blown off his feet by the downwash from a helicopter carrying the country’s president.

A source in the Interior Ministry told EurasiaNet.org that Dildor Maksudshoyev, 60, was stood at the end of a red carpet, seemingly too close to the departing aircraft carrying President Emomali Rahmon, at the time of the accident. The strong gust of air lifted up the carpet, throwing Maksudshoyev off his feet. Maksudshoyev banged his head on impact and later died as he was being taken to the hospital.

Rahmon was visiting Darvaz to lay the founding stone for a new $46 million road being funded by the Islamic Development Bank, the Saudi Fund for Development, OPEC Fund for International Development and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

In characteristic fashion for visits by the president and esteemed foreign guests, when their arriving helicopter flew in, a red carpet was rolled to ensure none of the dignitaries was required to walk on the ground. The guests were likewise accompanied to their transport on the red carpet as they left.

The police are treating the death as an unfortunate accident and say that there will be no effort to establish if there were any guilty parties.

As if the drive the point home, the head of the Darvaz district told RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, that Maksudshoyev, who was the director of the airport in the Pamirs city of Khorog, suffered from a weak heart.

"I would bring to your attention that Maksudshoyev suffered from chronic heart disease and twice suffered a heart attack. He had previously had to have a damaged heart valve replaced. So his death has nothing to do with the visit by the head of state,” the official, Saudburhon Abdurahmonzoda, told Radio Ozodi.

This is hardly wholly accurate.

It has become an obligatory custom for welcoming delegations to show extreme devotion to the president when he comes visiting in the provinces. No sooner does Rahmon emerge from his vehicle that a crowd must burst into song, bring forth fruit and vegetables, and otherwise show the extreme gratitude for his arrival. There have been times when failure to show such zeal was punished.

In one recent instance, on August 15, a female musical ensemble in the Hurasan district in southern Tajikistan greeted Rahmon at the entrance to a stadium with the collective banging of doiras — a kind of large tambourine. Unfortunately, the performance was deemed below-par as some players drifted off the rhythm. Rahmon’s furry eyebrows visibly knitted with irritation, spelling trouble for the head of the local women’s affairs committee, who organized the festivities.

Immediately after the performance, the official was fired, although she was a week later quietly reinstated.

Tajikistan: Airport Director Killed By President’s Helicopter

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