Images of a horrendous car crash last week in the heart of Tajikistan’s capital have been circulating widely on social media and among messaging app users.
Multiple sources have now confirmed to Eurasianet that fatalities in the accident, which occurred on the night of March 23, included the son-in-law of Saimumin Yatimov, the head of the country’s feared security services.
Footage of the crash captured by traffic camera showed a Lexus SUV driving at high speed along Dushanbe’s central Rudaki avenue before plowing into a lamppost.
Prague-based news website Akhbor cited unnamed sources as saying that the drivers of the vehicle were racing their friends when the collision occurred. Two of the passengers were grievously injured, while another two, including Yatimov’s son-in-law, Saidjafar Saidov, were killed on the spot.
Saidov, 19, married Yatimov’s daughter in January.
Eurasianet has learned that the passengers of the Lexus had earlier in the evening been attending the wedding party of the younger sister of Zarifbek Davlatov, one of President Emomali Rahmon’s sons-in-law, at the Hyatt Regency Dushanbe hotel.
According to Eurasianet and Akhbor’s sources, following festivities, schoolmates of the bride decided to hold a car race through the center of the city. The car involved in the crash belonged to Kabir Kabirov, a son of the owner of Dushanbe’s main bazaar. Kabirov, who survived the collision, was admitted to the hospital for treatment but was later placed in jail, pending investigations.
The other injured passenger was the nephew of the speaker of the upper house of parliament Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloyev. He is in critical condition.
The monied children of Tajikistan’s political and business elite — known informally as the “golden youth” — routinely organize similar high-risk contests. The sound of powerful cars tearing through Dushanbe’s deserted streets late at night are commonplace.
Rahmon last year approved legislation envisioning fines of up to $1,500 for people participating in such illegal races, but the sanctions have posed a weak deterrent for close relatives of senior officials.
Officials queried by journalists have denied, however, that the driver of the Lexus was racing or that he was under the influence of alcohol.
Under Tajik law, traffic violations leading to fatalities are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If the driver is intoxicated at the time, the envisioned penalty can rise to 15 years in prison.
But experience suggests the investigation into this accident may not be very thorough.
In September 2016, the 23-year-old son of the first deputy prime minister crashed his Toyota Camry into a public-utilities vehicle, killing one pedestrian and a fellow passenger. Police investigators opened a probe into the accident, but prosecutors later determined that Faromuz Saidov, who was at the wheel, was not at blame as “there were technical problems with the car.” His father, Davlati Saidov, is still first deputy premier to this day.
Three people were killed in October 2014, when Rasul Amonullo, the 16-year-old son of the chief of Tajikistan’s railway company, plunged his BMW head-on into another vehicle. No criminal action was taken against Amonullo after the Interior Ministry intervened to insist he bore no culpability. Amonullo’s mother was fined $25 for violating legislation on parental responsibility.
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