Tajikistan: Nationalism Suspected as Train Attacked in Russia
A group of more than 20 people, some shouting nationalist slogans, are reported to have attacked a Tajik train crossing Russia.The attack took place at midnight on October 26, Asia-Plus news agency reported on October 29, quoting a Tajik diplomat in Moscow. Around 20 young men of Slavic appearance attacked the train at the Ternovka railway station in southern Russia, the report quoted Mohammad Egamzod, a spokesman for the Tajik embassy in Moscow, as saying. He said the assault was “accompanied by offensive words and racist threats against the passengers,” several of whom had been “slightly injured” while train windows had also been broken. Egamzod added that Russian transport police and railway staff “did not take any measures to prevent the attack.”The Tajik embassy in Moscow has asked Russia “to impartially investigate the xenophobic attack that occurred with the connivance of local law enforcement authorities and representatives of the Yugo-Vostochnaya Railway and to cover all expenses related to the attack,” the Asia-Plus report added.Yet Tajik Railways disputed this version of events, saying that the incident amounted to no more than a few children throwing stones at the train, breaking six windows. “I would like to note that this happens everywhere, and even in our country children throw stones at trains,” Mamadyusuf Abdurakhmonov, the head of the Tajik Railways passenger service, told the Tajik Telegraph Agency (TajikTA) on October 29.Adding to the confusion, Asia-Plus quoted a different, unidentified source at Tajik Railways as speculating that anti-migrant sentiment was behind the attack. “I cannot say why a group of 20 people attacked our train,” the source said. “It is possible that it is linked to a strengthening in anti-migrant moods in Russia.” The Moscow-Dushanbe train is frequently used by labor migrants. Approximately one million Tajiks are thought to work abroad, mostly in Russia, where labor migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus sometimes face racist-inspired violent attacks. Anti-migrant sentiment in Russia has been fueled by a murder blamed on a man from Azerbaijan that sparked race riots in Moscow earlier this month.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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