It is not necessary to be a member of the ruling family in Tajikistan to land a top job. Being one of their friends is also enough, to go by an interesting recent appointment.
Earlier this month, Shohruh Saidzoda, son of the chairman of the customs service, Abdufattoh Goib, and a close friend of the president’s son, Rustam Emomali, was named deputy head of the country’s criminal investigation department.
Saidzoda, 30, has no background in law enforcement, but was elevated to the rank of police mayor all the same.
The chatter around the capital, Dushanbe, is that this may presage important movements at the top. One piece of speculation is that following a May 22 referendum that will, among other things, allow President Emomali Rahmon to run for office indefinitely, Rustam Emomali may be named Interior Minister.
Saidzoda first came to prominence a couple of year back, while Emomali was heading a government department fighting customs violations and serving as president of the national soccer federation. As a regular Emomali hanger-on, Saidzoda was regularly seen at high-profile events about town.
Rumors in April 2014, linked Saidzoda to a job heading the committee for youth, sports and tourism, but that came to nothing.
Saidzoda is a member of the football federation’s executive committee and president of the Dushanbe soccer team Istiqlol, which is reviled by most soccer fans in the country for the tacit assistance they are said to receive from partial referees.
Nobody seem wholly certain about Saidzoda’s main source of income, but there is a great deal of chatter about his private life.
Another rumor doing the rounds in 2014 had it that after Saidzoda parted from his wife Shahrzoda Abdullaeva, with whom he had one child, she was left penniless after being stripped of her belongings in messy divorce proceedings.
At a press conference around that time, Saidzoda’s father, Goib, scoffed at the gossip and said that Abdullaeva had not been deprived any property.
"This information is baseless. I go to see my ex-daughter-in-law and my grandson every single day," Goibov told reporters.
Saidzoda offered a few more details about himself in a 2014 interview to glossy magazine VIPzone. He was born in Dangara — where much of the nation’s current elite originated — but his family moved to Dushanbe when he was three years old. He studied in the economy and jurisprudence faculties of the Tajik National University. At some stage, he also attended courses in Moscow on the “provision of security to VIPs and strategic sites.”
Saidzoda was eager to dispel the impression that he belonged to the moneyed set of Tajikistan’s rich — typically a combination of affluent government employees and entrepreneurs.
“I am not a representative of the country’s ‘golden youth.’ My parents never spoiled us when we were young, and they still make sure that I remain on the straight and narrow,” he told VIPzone.
As for his friendship with Emomali, Saidzoda said that “being friends with him is not straightforward, it is a great responsibility.”
“Rustam and I met at school and studied in the same class. And then we were in the same group at university. For me he is more than a friend, and not because he is the son of the president. I know him as a man with a big heart. He would not allow himself to get involved in any dirty business. That is why I appreciate him and that I am the friend of such a guy,” gushed Saidzoda.
Outside his work obligations, Saidzoda is known as a sharp dresser. In January, he was included in the “Top 50 stylish people in Dushanbe 2005.” (Going by pictures on the award’s official website, the bar may not be especially high).
Despite the family’s clearly impeccable connections, the road has not all been smooth.
Asia-Plus reported in October that Saidzoda’s uncle — Goib’s brother Najmiddin Saidzoda (or Saidov as his surname is more commonly presented) — was detained by the State Committee for National Security on suspicion of fraud.
Najmiddin Saidzoda was accused as acting an intermediary in the payment of a $600,000 bribe while serving as head of the Dangara region branch of Tojiksodirotbonk.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, reported that authorities accuse Najmiddin Saidzoda of demanding the sum in exchange for setting the payer up in a job as head of the customs service in the Soghd province. Payment of the bribe was a sting, as it turned out.
A week later, Ozodi reported that Najmiddin Saidzoda had been released on bail after paying 200,000 somoni fine ($30,500 at the time).
The General Prosecutor’s Office said at a press conference in February that the investigation is still in force.