Tajikistan is suffering from a case of Goldilocks syndrome when it comes to clothing.
Wear clothes that are too Muslim and you risk being dragged off the street by the police.
A group of parents in the capital, Dushanbe, is now facing the music for sending their children to school in excessively expensive garb.
Radio Free Europe’s Tajik service, Ozodi, has reported that the parents of 11 pupils from a school in Dushanbe’s Nosiri Husrav neighborhood have been brought to heel for violating the “Law on the Responsibility of Parents for Educating Children.”
The girls in question stand accused of spurning the uniforms made in a local neighborhood sewing factory, where pupils are expected to buy their school outfits, and instead buying their own in the market, Ozodi reported. Their parents now face a 120 somoni ($19) fine.
The thinking behind the action is said to be the need to protect poorer students from exposure to luxuries they could not themselves possibly afford.
“Those who have money can buy clothes for 300 somoni. Those who don’t (have the money), buy the cheap clothes. Students from poor families, when they see this, feel bad,” Bozorgul Saidova, deputy head of the Nosiri Husrav neighborhood, told Ozodi.
But the brother of one offending student, Murod Rahmonov, told Ozodi that the neighborhood sewing factory did not make a uniform for his sister’s size, which is why they had to look for alternatives at the market.
“My sister’s clothes were sewn badly and were too large for her. So she went to school in another dress. But they made trouble for us and summoned us to the prosecutors. I don’t know what is going to happen now,” Rahmonov said.
The practice of assisting the hard-up from having to indulge in unaffordable expenses has some vintage in Tajikistan.
The president of Kazakhstan’s eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, has been named deputy prime minister in an appointment that will reignite speculation she is being primed to succeed her father.
Nazarbayeva, 52, has hitherto spent the bulk of her political career in Kazakhstan’s rubber stamp parliament.
Nazarbayeva was appointed to the post by her father, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in a decree signed on September 11.
No explanation has been offered for Nazarbayeva’s elevation to the office, but she replaces Berdybek Saparbayev, who has been named governor of the oil-rich Aktobe Region as part of a reshuffle of provincial officials.
Nazarbayeva had previously held the position of deputy speaker of parliament, where she also headed the faction of the ruling Nur Otan party, which is led by her father.
Her appointment to government seals a political comeback that Nazarbayeva has made in recent times, following several years in the political wilderness sparked by the downfall of her former husband, Rakhat Aliyev. He fell afoul of Nazarbayev and fled Kazakhstan in 2007, after which the president’s daughter divorced him.
Aliyev was later found guilty in trials held in absentia in Kazakhstan of a litany of crimes ranging from kidnapping and embezzlement to plotting a coup d’etat.
In February he was found hanged in a prison cell in Austria, where he was on trial for the murder of two Kazakhstani bankers.
Kazakhstan has launched festivities to mark over half a millennium of Kazakh statehood in a celebration designed to shore up patriotism at home and make a geopolitical statement abroad.
“We pay tribute to the memory and deeds of our ancestors, remembering that the history of our sacred land dates back several centuries,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in Astana at the kickoff to a month of nationwide celebrations.
There will be festivities in Astana this weekend ahead of the main events in the southern city of Taraz in October as Kazakhstan marks 550 years since the khans Kerey and Zhanibek created the first Kazakh khanate.
The date seems arbitrary to some critics, but Nazarbayev defended it when he announced the plans for the celebrations last fall.
“The statehood of the Kazakhs dates to those times,” he said. “It may not have been a state in the modern understanding of this term, in the current borders. … [But] it is important that the foundation was laid then, and we are the people continuing the great deeds of our ancestors.”
A board showing exchange rates in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on September 10, 2015.
Kazakhstan’s currency hit historic lows on September 9 in another day of decline for the tenge on the stock exchange since the government last month stopped propping it up.
By the evening, the tenge was trading at 261 to the dollar in exchange offices in Almaty, the financial capital.
The currency recovered slightly on September 10, with bureaux de change in Almaty buying dollars at 258 tenge in the morning and at 253 by lunchtime. That was the same as the rate set by the National Bank, which has fallen by 6 percent over the course of a week.
The tenge closed at 255 to the dollar on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange on September 9, but appreciated to close at 252 at the end of morning trading the following day.
Exchange rates have experienced intense volatility since August 20, when the government announced it was finally abandoning costly efforts to maintain the national currency. President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the time that authorities had spent $28 billion since the start of 2014 on defending the tenge.
The move to a free float was inevitable, but it has been painful for Kazakhstanis, whose currency has depreciated by 36 percent since the decision was taken.
A former leading armed opposition figure, a businessman and a man trusted by President Emomali Rahmon.
Former deputy defense minister and general Abduhalim Nazarzoda was all these things before his sudden and inexplicable transformation into what Tajikistan’s state media have described as a terrorist bent on sowing unrest.
In a television report aired on September 7 on state television, Nazarzoda, who is also widely known by the name Hoji Halim, was depicted as a figure of the criminal underworld. He owns three illegally built dachas in the elite Varzob area outside Dushanbe, a construction business, and severals homes in the capital, the report said. Nazarzoda also has a bakery, expropriated land in Dushabe and illegally privatized a raft of other property across the country.
Nazarzoda was one of the very few remaining former opposition warlords that had managed to hold onto the government positions granted as part of the peace agreement that followed the civil conflict of the 1990s.
He was born to a family of manual laborers on January 1, 1964, in the collective farm settlement of Guliston, in the Rudaki district, near Dushanbe.
He completed his middle school studies in Dushanbe in 1981, and from 1983 he worked at a textile factory in the city. From May 1983 to May 1985, Nazarzoda served in the Soviet army.
After that brief stint in the military, he worked initially as a laborer in a construction company and then, through the year of Tajikistan’s acquisition of independence, as the head of a warehouse facility in Dushanbe.
In 1992, Nazarzoda became an active member of protests rally movement in Dushanbe. His associates have said Nazarzoda, always an eager hunter, took up his rifle to begin waging combat that year and joined the ranks of the armed opposition as a commander.
Shootouts in Tajikistan have once more exposed the fragile stability that only stands to be threatened by government efforts to marginalize all opposition to its rule.
Raids on police stations and military bases early on September 4 appeared well-coordinated and involved individuals that only recently occupied important government posts. According to the Interior Ministry, 17 were killed, including eight law enforcement officials and nine militant gunmen.
The sequence of events is unclear, but one of the first flashpoints seems to have been at a military base near the airport in Dushanbe, where a group of people intruded and carried away large amounts of small arms and ammunition.
A report carried on the Avesta.tj news website cited accounts provided by unnamed officials as saying that this armed group then headed to the town of Vakhdat, where they attacked the local police station.
The Interior Ministry said four police officers were killed in Vakhdat.
One of the alleged attackers killed was Ziyodiddin Abdulloyev, who was a field commander with the United Tajik Opposition during the civil war and was later appointed to a post in the Interior Ministry as part of the post-conflict settlement.
In a separate attack that occurred around the same time near the airport in Dushanbe, two special forces troops and one traffic policeman were reportedly killed in a shootout. Another opposition fighter, Junaidullo Umarov, who held a position in the Defense Ministry, has been linked to that incident.
Taking a leaf out of Turkmenistan’s book, Tajikistan may soon be getting its own statue of the president.
Asia-Plus website cited veteran politician Hikmatullo Nasriddinov as saying the time has come to erect a statue in honor of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. Just for safe measure, he also proposed bestowing Rahmon with the honorific of Hero of Tajikistan, for the second time.
Rahmon is hailed by local admirers, like Nasriddinov, for his role in leading Tajikistan out of the brutal 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.’”
To see where the statue proposal might head, it might be salutary to consider the example of other countries in the region — namely Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan — where leaders have professed humility only to then accept plaudits, monuments and titles.
In April, political scientists at the Pedagogical University, Nosirjon Salimi and Holahmad Sami, wrote an article in state-run newspaper Tojikiston and on the ruling party’s website arguing that Rahmon should be granted the title of “Leader of the Nation.”
The Kazakh parliament bestowed the same accolade on long-time president Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2010, changing the constitution to allow him alone to stand for office indefinitely.
Salimi and Sami said in their piece that the title could serve as a unifying impulse for the whole country.
Kazakhstan is at the center of a fresh controversy over freedom of speech, following the suspension of a hard-hitting magazine which was one of the country’s few remaining independent voices.
International press freedom watchdogs have expressed outrage over the suspension of the Adam (Person) magazine over a linguistic technicality, in a court ruling that editor-in-chief Ayan Sharipbayev says is political.
“In Kazakhstan the closure of any media outlet is a matter decided by political bodies,” Sharipbayev told EurasiaNet.org on September 2. “Of course this is connected to politics.”
He said Adam — known for its gutsy reporting and criticism of the administration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev — would appeal the three-month suspension handed down by an Almaty court on August 27.
When Adam registered with the authorities earlier this year (after the courts had closed a previously existing independent magazine called Adam Bol), it gave its languages of publication as Kazakh and Russian – but in fact it prints only in Russian.
The ruling was “discriminatory and utterly disproportionate,” Johann Bihr of the France–based Reporters Without Borders press freedom watchdog said in a statement on September 1.
“The use of such absurd bureaucratic pretexts is typical and cannot hide the fact that the authorities clearly want to close this publication for good because they regard it as a nuisance,” he said. “We urge them to rescind this unjust decision and to end this persecution, which has gone on for too long.”
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev is on a state visit to China hoping to shore up Astana’s tight-knit relations with a key strategic partner and drum up investment for his country’s ailing economy.
With China fighting its own battles, however, it may fall short of the largesse that is being expected.
As Nazarbayev made clear during a Sino-Kazakhstani business forum on September 1, Astana is eager for Beijing to broaden its investment portfolio — hitherto concentrated in Kazakhstan’s energy sector — and start pouring cash into the industrialization projects on which the government is pinning its hopes for recovery.
“I believe this visit is a turning point in Sino-Kazakhstani ties,” Nazarbayev said inremarks quoted by his office. “For over 20 years we have been actively cooperating with China, predominantly in the energy and natural resources sectors. In the new stage, we are starting to step up cooperation in the manufacturing sectors of the economy, including engineering and the processing of resources.”
Nazarbayev said that during talks on August 31 with Xi Jinping, the host president, the two leaders signed deals worth $23 billion to set up 25 joint projects. Another 20 deals are in the pipeline, he said.
Tajikistan’s justice system has set a disconcerting precedent by jailing an independent reporter for an offense purportedly committed when he was around six years old.
Human Rights Watch in a statement on September 1 decried the two-year sentence handed down to Amindzhon Gulmurodzoda, who was convicted on charges of forgery on August 18.
A court in Dushanbe found Gulmurodzoda, 33, who was formerly a reporter from the Tajik language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, guilty of obtaining falsified birth certificate in 1989. Prosecutors also accused Gulmurodzoda of obtaining a fake passport in 1998.
“The verdict is sending a chill throughout Tajikistan’s journalistic community as yet another example of the crackdown on free speech and independent voices,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
The jailing fits into a broader pattern of suppression of dissenting or independent voices on Tajikistan’s political and media scenes.
On August 28, the Justice Ministry sent a letter to the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan informing it that it was being abolished over alleged technical violations of legislation on political parties.
Less than two weeks earlier, IRPT’s printing house was closed over claimed health code violations, Interfax news agency reported. The government sanitary standards body said workers had not undergone regular medical checks and were not equipped with uniforms or provided with medical nutrition, as required by law.