Unemployment fears are a constant for most people in Tajikistan, but they have never bothered the family of President Emomali Rahmon.
The clan leading the country continued to cement its positions in power on January 27 with the appointment of Rahmon’s daughter, Ozoda, as head of the presidential executive apparatus.
Ozoda Rahmon, 38, previously served as first deputy foreign minister and head of the foreign ministry’s consular section. She has five children and has, according to her official biography, studied at both Georgetown University and in the languages department at the University of Maryland, both in the United States. She is the second of Rahmon’s nine children.
Ozoda’s husband, Jamoliddin Nuraliyev, is the first deputy chairman of the central bank.
Another son-in-law, Shamsullo Sohibov, is Tajikistan’s trade representative to Great Britain. And then there is another son-in-law, Ashraf Gulov, who is Tajikistan’s Consul General to Russia.
Best known among Rahmon’s offspring is, of course, 29-year old Rustam Emomali, who is often touted as a possible successor to the presidency. Emomali currently heads the anticorruption agency — a job that comes on the heels of his appointment to the rank of general at the tender age of 25, when he was also named head of the customs service.
Another Rahmon daughter, Zarrina, is married to the son of the notorious Beg Zukhurov, head of the communications service. Zukhurov is best known for his predilection for blocking websites and phone services, and for accumulating a vast array of business interests while in post.
Rahmon’s brother-in-law, Hasan Asadullozoda, controls Orienbank, one of the country’s largest lenders, and the TALCO aluminum plant. For the last word on Asadullozoda’s convoluted and murky business interests, read here.
Despite his undoubted importance within Tajikistan’s hierarchy, Asadullozoda may best be recalled from a rumor doing the rounds in 2009, according to which he was shot by Rustam Emomali during a particularly heated dispute.
(Side note: This branch of the family presents particular difficulties with surname spelling. Asadullozoda was born Sadulloev before changing the surname to a more native Tajik version. In Russian-language reporting, he also continues to be referred to as Sadullayev, which the preference here for other family members).
Meanwhile, another Asadullozoda/Sadullayev brother is Amirullo, the mayor of Kurgan-Tyube (or Qurghonteppa if you prefer), a city of 100,000 people in southern Tajikistan.
Rahmon’s wife, Azizamo Sadullayeva, has had a pretty low profile compared to other family members, but that may soon change. A religious affairs commentator proposed in an article published by the state news agency earlier this month that she could be endowed with the title “Leader of Muslim Women in Tajikistan.” The article suggested she had earned the honorific, which does not currently exist, after her landmark visit to Mecca at the start of the year.
Cynics might argue that this pyramid of family appointments could only last as long as Rahmon is in power.
Just as well that authorities have announced plans to change the constitution to allow Rahmon to stand for president as often as he likes. And the lower age limit for prospective presidential contenders is to be lowered from 35 to 30, which would allow Rustam Emomali to run in 2020.
None of this familial coziness is doing much for Tajikistan’s international standings. Transparency International newly released 2015 corruption perception index confirmed Tajikistan as a serial wrongdoer and placed the country in 136th position out of 161 countries on the list.