Tajikistan’s Unlikely Street Protests

by Christian Bleuer on 3/4/2010 · 6 comments

About a week ago I was asked if I would be following Tajikistan’s parliamentary elections. I didn’t see the point, as the outcome was known before the actual election. But others paid more attention to the actual process and this week we have the even more predictable international reaction to the government’s solid win. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) says “Well done. Clean Win.” And The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says “Boo. You cheated.”

So once again we have the Central Asian election and international reaction dance. But the international media is tossing out the prospect of street protests and conflict. The Financial Times talked of a possible legal challenge by the IRP, accompanied with the usual “there are Muslims there” commentary. Over at RFE/RL there is even more excitement. They write:

Tajikistan’s opposition threatened today to call street protests to challenge the result of a parliamentary election in the impoverished nation bordering Afghanistan. Any unrest in Tajikistan could worry the West, which uses the Muslim nation of seven million as part of a northern route supplying NATO troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Well, good luck with that. I would be surprised if you could get 50 people to show up. Check out John Heathershaw’s book on post-conflict Tajikistan, especially the parts on the “don’t get involved”-ism on the part of people in Tajikistan. The last time there were serious street protests in Tajikistan things got just a little out of control. By the time the dust had settled 70,000 people were dead. In February of this year Ferghan.ru ran an article on the 20th anniversary of the first round of protests. Check it out as an introduction.

But it was in the Spring 1992 protests that really got things moving. The difference now? Besides the post-conflict lack of enthusiasm for getting involved in political struggles there is the issue of an extremely weak opposition. IRP leader Kabiri was quoted in the RFE/RL article:

“If the courts take unfair decisions, we can organize public acts of protest as well as other actions within the country’s legislation,” said the party’s leader Mukhiddin Kabiri.

You know, I don’t think they can. In Spring 1992 the IRP and their allies in the opposition were able to bring in a large number of demonstrators. The IRP drew heavily on “Gharmi” Tajiks from rural areas, bringing them into Dushanbe on buses and other less glamorous forms of transportation. Some came willingly while others felt pressured into coming. But they came. The Hizb-i Nahzat network that had been in development since 1973 delivered big time. And then the demonstrators were fed and “housed” while they protested.

Can the IRP do the same today? I really, really doubt it. They are a meek shadow of their former selves. I expect no serious demonstrations.


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{ 6 comments }

Turgai Sangar March 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

Islamic opposition in Tajikistan is also no longer the monopoly nor the initiative of the IRPT.

Ekspeditsya March 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

Rather than adding my long-winded tuppence worth on the Tajik elections here, I revived my own long-dormant blog:

http://ekspeditsya.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/tajikistan-what-next/

prairiegirl March 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Just heard a mini documentary on Tajikistan on CBC radio program dispatches, and the guest referred to Tajikistan’s government as the Sopranos…only led by Fred Flinstone! Any funny enough, the metaphore works!

Grant March 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I can’t see any reason for the West to be worried at all. A. We already know who the winner will be, this isn’t that hard to figure out and B. I sincerely hope that at least some of the Western leaders can differentiate between militant groups such as the Taliban and normal political parties.

Toryalay Shirzay March 4, 2010 at 9:07 pm

This is addressed to the people of central Asia and Tajikistan in particular. Do not mix politics and religion or you will get a very explosive mixture especially if the religion happens to be Islam.This was proven during the Tajik civil war.The Tajiks haven’t gotten smart since then,if they had,they would never have allowed any Islamic political action to continue to flourish.Many Islamic thugs with strong support from Iran,SAUDI Arabia,Pakistan,Arab oil shieks,etc fueled the Islamic bloodbath in Tajikistan ,all because of the relentless dictates of Islam for power.We who live in this region of the globe are very tired and sick of Islam,this bloodthirsty religion of the goddamn Arabs.How long must we continue to be intimidated by this evil religion,we cannot afford to see our mothers,fathers, relatives,etc blown up because this nasty religion and its murderous supporters are so thirsty for power.
Therefore in central Asia there must be a total separation of state and religion for ever.You Tajiks,you will have endless Islamic uprisings and bloodbath if you continue to allow Islamic political activity, and because this is a very intolerant fascist religion,you will be better off without it.You will be glad you did in the years and centuries to come!!

Turgai Sangar March 7, 2010 at 5:24 am

Yawn.

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