A middling functionary at the state insurance company in Tajikistan has got the ball rolling on an initiative that may end up with President Emomali Rahmon’s face on what would become the highest-denomination banknotes in circulation.
Writing in national newspaper Tajikistan, Sharif Karim, head of local branch of Tajiksugurt in the town of Shahrinav, suggested that Rahmon have his image included on the heretofore inexistent 1,000 somoni note. (If that bill existed it would be worth $127).
The proposal is fully in keeping with the creeping cult of personality devoted to a president whose priorities have latterly focused on obliterating all opposition to this rule.
In typically effusive and inaccurate fashion, Karimov hailed Rahmon for making Tajikistan and Tajiks famous all around the world, as well as saving the country from certain famine and war. On state media, Rahmon is now referred to on every mention as “the leader of the nation and the founder of peace and unity.”
"On the threshold of Tajikistan’s 25th anniversary of independence it would be a good thing for the country, since a just and wise leader is a gift from God to the nation,” Karimov said.
While Karimov is low in the pecking order, it is in the normal course of things for such proposals to first be aired by relative nonentities so as to create the impression that the impetus for this idea is coming from the grassroots.
Then again, such is the sycophancy of Tajik functionaries that this may just as well be an exercise in self-abasement and greasy pole-climbing.
This is far from the first such exotic suggestion to be aired out loud in Tajikistan, and not all hare-brained proposals get to leave the drafting table.
Last year, a Soviet throwback politician who later went on to become chairman on the Agrarian Party, Hikmatullo Nasriddinov, suggested erecting a statue to Rahmon in the capital, Dushanbe and to bestow the president with the honorific of “Hero of Tajikistan” (again). It was Rahmon, argued Nasriddinov, that brought Tajikistan from the verge of extinction during the civil war of the 1990s.
“In that distant Fall of 1992, when the historic 16th session of the Supreme Council of Tajikistan was being held in Khujand, I noticed in my capacity as a deputy that many experienced politicians did not at that time want to take the leadership of the country into their hands,” Nasriddinov told Asia-Plus in an interview. “Rahmon agreed to take on this heavy burden of the country’s leadership, saying at the time: ‘I will bring Tajikistan peace and reconciliation.’”
Nasriddinov went a step further and suggested that Rahmon be put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize. Tajikistan’s president was certainly more deserving of the prize than US President Barack Obama, Nasriddinov argued.
Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his “effort to strengthen international diplomacy” in 2009, just nine months into his presidency.
That statue has not materialized yet, but in 2014, Tajik sculptor immortalized Rahmon with a 40-centimeter tall marble bust that was later handed for safekeeping to the National Museum in Dushanbe.
Rahmon has even had a village named in his honor. When a village in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region was washed away by flash floods in 2015, a replacement hamlet was swiftly built nearby with international aid money. Although funding for the new homes came all but entirely from foreign donors, the government hastily claimed all the glory and duly named the new village Rahmonobod.
Rahmon’s wife is not to be left out either.
In January, in the wake of a trip to Mecca by the presidential family, religious commentator Abdullo Muhakkik suggested that the rarely seen Azizamo Asadullayeva should be given the title of “Leader of Muslim Women in Tajikistan.”