Journalists of pro-governmental mass media in Tajikistan are told to recall all the titles of President Emomali Rahmon every time when they mention him. The titles “Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation” are stipulated by the Law dated December 25, 2015. Earlier, it was enough to write “Janobi Oli” (His Highness) or Leader of the Nation when mentioning President Rahmon, but things have changed dramatically. Farrukh Ziyoyev, Head of State Radio of Tajikistan, says media must observe the law and use all titles of the president in official reports, while in separate cases, the title “Head of State” or just “Leader of the Nation” will be sufficient.
Recall that after the law was passed, anyone deemed insulting the titleholder will face criminal responsibility under the Criminal Code of Tajikistan. Temur Varki, an expert from France, Tajik by origin, comments on the situation in an interview with EADaily.
How do you assess the novelty?
Tajikistan has set a new world record. We have gigantomania. Now, besides the highest flagpole, the largest tea house (“chaykhana”), construction of the largest mosque, and the most protracted construction of the highest dam, there will be another application for a record in the Guinness Book – the longest title of the president-for-life. I recall Pravda newspaper where my father underlined with a pencil 72 phrases “Dear Leonid Ilyich” (Leonid Brezhnev) in a stenograph of the CPSU congress. War veteran, an ordinary communist, my father was shocked with such glorification. Emomali Rahmon has beaten them all. Yet, I think that law is right and timely for the pro-governmental press. There is nothing to read there except glorification. Now, they can start and finish every governmental article with the president’s titles. All the same, there will be no place for anything else. Since, all news in the official press tell about the key figure, about where he cuts a ribbon, what or who he receives, headlines can be reduced to full title of the president for convenience.
May God keep journalists from making a misprint. A well-known newspaper, Nigokh, made a misprint in the word president – “presidlent” and there is no longer such newspaper in the country. A failure to observe the mandatory ritual of naming the president, zealous minions may interpret as an offence against “the one whose name is too long to write.” I haven’t heard anything of the kind about present-day European monarchs. After all, I am sure that after this law comes in effect, corruption will decrease drastically in Tajikistan, plants will be built and launched, and Tajikistan will develop leaving many countries where leaders have shorter titles behind.
Rahmon is called “the Founder of Peace and National Accord” after a relevant law was passed in 2015. Since 1992, as president of the country he represented one side of the conflict in the civil war (1992-1997). The other part, United Tajik Opposition, like Rahmon, signed the peace agreement. Why do they speak only about one side of the conflict now?
If I am not mistaken, there is a Chinese proverb that says: “You cannot clap just with one hand.” Emomali Rahmon has declared himself as “Founder of Peace and National Unity” and the parliament has approved that title after the second hand was cut. The verb “reconcile” requires an object, in the given case, this object is “with whom.” Where is the “one” with whom Rahmon “founded” peace? The word peace requires the preposition “between.” Whom the peace was “established” between? “The ones who are not named” are now serving life sentences in prison, have migrated from the country where undesirable questions result in imprisonment or murder by those who they have established peace with. The other part of the national reconciliation has been destroyed, foully slandered, outlawed over extremism and terrorism allegations. Consequently, the title “founder” is groundless either, as he undermined peace and the fundamentals of “Inter-Tajik Agreement of Peace and National Agreement” that was signed on June 27, 1997 in the Kremlin by the United Tajik Opposition led by Sayid Abdulloh Nuri and Emomali Rahmon’s government.
That milestone agreement put an end of the civil war in Tajikistan that continued from 1992 up to 1997. It would be logical to call the one who undermined the bases of the peace agreement as disturber of peace and national unity. You can put your boots in the oven, but that don't make them biscuits. The life of the people, economic and political situation will not improve. Kyzyak (pressed dung used as fuel) will not turn into dams of HPPs, jobs, TVs, vacuum cleaners, cars, carpets and red carpets. It is very hard to drive a tractor, work with ketmen (grub hoe), build house for successors with one hand and it is extreme stupidity and short-sightedness doing so, when there is second hand. However, history will put things in their proper places sooner or later.
What do you think of the social and economic situation in Tajikistan?
The social and economic situation in Tajikistan is deteriorating. Consumption level has decreased dramatically, as the greatest part of the population lives on transfers of labor migrants. Judging by the figures published in the press, money transfers have decreased fourfold, amid price hikes. Tax collection has failed for the first time over many years. Business is under heavy burden of taxes. Investors leave the country one after another, while no new investors agree to work without guarantees of at least not being deceived. By official data, inflation increased 6% in 2016, with currency depreciating by almost 100% over the last five years.
Yet two years ago, Emomali Rahmon blamed the opposition for falling currency rate and economic decline. Now, there is no opposition, it has become much harder “to dance,” though during Novruz celebrations, Emomali Rahmon danced without leaving his VIP-lounge. Meantime, banks are on the way out. Some have closed down, the other two large banks – Agroinvest and Tojiksodirotbank have survived just due to additional capitalization by the government and resumed service of credit cards. Government issues securities to support construction of the troubled construction of Rogun HPP. State-run enterprises, small and mid-sized businesses will be forced to buy securities and bank papers again at 2% interest for five years. Meantime, inflation has reached 6% and national currency depreciates 20% annually in average. What will people and Rogun HPP gain from all that? They have been waiting for years for the electricity to be generated by Rogun HPP.
While many face impoverishment, others become richer even in such conditions.
Big business and all money flows are controlled by one family. It appears that everyone who could leave the country have already left it, but migration continues. Hundreds of Tajik citizens stand in queues for participation in the program of resettlement in Russia. It is shocking! Dozens of Tajik journalists, political activists, human rights defenders, businessmen seek asylum in the West.
Young people leave the country, as they see no future for themselves there. Reports of suicides of teens, young woman throw into rivers with their small children and make suicide attempts. And finally, the number of Tajik suicide bombers among ISIS (“Islamic State,” IS, ISIL, Daesh, a terrorist organization banned in Russia) is the largest.
It is not right! Tajikistan is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It could include three Switzerlands. But we are lagging even behind neighboring Uzbekistan which is also an authoritarian country. The recent exhibition of Uzbek manufacturers in Dushanbe shocked our citizens. They saw their neighbors producing cars, modern TVs and other household devices, fine fabrics. The only positive thing I see in the efforts of Tajiks to find earning, better life and freedom in other countries, is that my counterparts will see the world, learn languages, get new skills and get valuable knowledge. Not all, but some of them will return one day.
EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau