The Tajik Shoot-Out Behind Rumors of “Islamization”

Islamist Political Party Faces Conflict in Tajikistan

February 21, 2008


Ivan Watson, NPR

Mirzokhujar Ahmadov, a former Islamist opposition commander who now heads the anti-organized crime police unit in the former rebel stronghold town of Garm, walks past his jeep, which was strafed with bullets during a clash with an elite Tajik police unit in early February. Many Tajiks feared the incident would reignite Tajikistan’s civil war.

What role should Islam play in the daily life and politics of Muslim countries? Almost all of the secular authoritarian governments in former Soviet Central Asia have settled this divisive question by outlawing and, in some cases, brutally repressing Islamist movements. Only Tajikistan, a small country bordering Afghanistan, allows an Islamist political party to operate.

Muhiddin Kabiri is the chairman of Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance Party, the only legal Islamic political party in the former Soviet Union.

“It [makes] us unique and, at the same time, it’s a very big responsibility to show a new face of Islam, especially political Islam, in our region,” he says.

Kabiri describes himself as a moderate caught between two political extremes. He says the Central Asian region needs a new model “because the people are tired from secular authoritarian regimes and [religious] radicalism — radical groups, extremist groups,” he says.

A Party Increasingly Marginalized

The Islamic Renaissance Party started out in Soviet days as an underground youth movement. During the 1990s, it became a leading faction in an opposition coalition that fought a bloody civil war against the Russian-backed Tajik government. As part of a peace deal in 1997, the party’s fighters laid down their arms and promised not to try to turn Tajikistan into an Islamic republic.

“They reiterated their intent that they would not restructure the state — that Islam was part of their agenda, but it was not the only element,” says Roger Kangas, a Central Asia expert at the National Defense University in Washington.

But the Islamic Renaissance Party has been increasingly marginalized in the decade since the war. Kangas says its leader, Kabiri, is one of only two party members to win seats in Parliament after what he called deeply flawed elections.

“They’ve faced some difficult challenges, but I would say even with that, they’ve not radicalized,” Kangas says. “One could almost expect that to happen, but they’ve not.”

The Tajik government has jailed several top IRP leaders on corruption charges, while many former opposition fighters have been gradually forced out of positions in the Tajik security services.

Many Tajiks feared that a deadly clash earlier this month between rival factions within the Interior Ministry could reignite the civil war.

Echoes of Civil War

In Dushanbe, more than a hundred uniformed officers turned out for the funeral of an elite police colonel who was killed while trying to capture another police officer, former Islamist opposition field commander Mirzokhujar Ahmadov, who now heads a police department in a remote mountain town north of the capital.

In Garm, Ahmadov gave a visitor a tour of his bullet-riddled headquarters, where he was still working weeks after the incident. Dressed in a fur hat and flashing several gold teeth, Ahmadov insisted his men fought in self defense when they found themselves suddenly surrounded by more than 30 masked Interior Ministry troops.

The commander demonstrated how he fought with a Kalashnikov assault rifle from a window on the second floor of his building.

Outside the building, blood still marked the snow where the slain police commander, Oleg Zakharchenko, was shot in the head. During the civil war, Zakharchenko fought with the pro-government faction.

“Our [police] unit is the only left from the former opposition in Garm,” Ahmadov said. “That’s why they want to capture or prosecute us like they did the others.”

The former rebel commander said he would not abandon his post, even if the government sends more troops to arrest him.

“If they do that, it will mean the start of another civil war,” Ahmadov said.

Claims of Government Oppression

Kabiri, of the Islamic Renaissance Party, denies any links to Ahmadov. Instead, he complains about what he says is government oppression of the young generation of devout Muslims in Tajikistan.

In recent years, the government has banned women from wearing Islamic headscarves in schools, closed a number of mosques and banned woman and children from attending mosques.

In the town of Vahdat, the Muslim cleric claims observant Muslims had more freedom during the last years of the Soviet Union than they do today. Why, the priest asks, are women prohibited from entering mosques while they are allowed to go to bars and nightclubs?

As for the ban on children in mosques, that decree is largely ignored at the mosque in Vahdat. Many young boys prayed and studied the Quran side by side with more than a hundred men.

Creeping Islamization?

Among many secular Tajiks, there is growing concern about what some describe as the creeping Islamization of Tajik society.

“We’re scared they want to take us back to the Middle Ages,” says Saifula Safarov, who runs a government think tank in Dushanbe. “After all, we’re not very far from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Parviz Mulujanov, a Tajik political analyst, worries that government pressure may drive politically active Muslims underground.

“If you put pressure on them … you would see new leaders coming up. New leaders of a more radical character,” Mulujanov says. “You would see a rise of confrontation between this political party and the government.”

That’s a view echoed by Western diplomats in Dushanbe — and by Islamic Renaissance Party leader Kabiri, who says he has come under fire from hard-line Islamists, who accuse him of not being Muslim enough.

“Any violation of rights, they will help radicalism and radical groups,” he says.

Tajikistan: The opposition braces itself for clashes with the regular army

04.02.2008 12:56 msk

Kommersant (Moscow)

Oleg Zakharchenko. Photo by Asia-Plus

Situation in Tajikistan took a definite turn for the worse last week-end. Colonel Oleg Zakharchenko, commander of the Interior Ministry’s OMON (special assignment police squad) was killed in a clash between representatives of two different security structures in Garm located 220 kilometers east of Dushanbe. The opposition claims that OMON was dispatched to Garm to deal with former activists of the United Tajik Opposition energetically hunted down all over the republic these days. Official Dushanbe denies the innuendo. What information is available indicates that the Tajik authorities prepare a major military operation to find the officer’s killers and avenge his death. Garm population braces itself for defense of the township. Threat of a new civil war is once again the talk of the day.

Preparations for a reporting back conference of law enforcement agencies lasted in Garm all last week. The authorities maintain hat Zakharchenko with some subordinates set out for conference in Garm on Saturday. When Zakharchenko with his men approached the Garm District Department of Internal Affairs, however, they were set upon by men wielding automatic weapons. The skirmish lasted 30-40 minutes. “Zakharchenko was killed right then and there. His four subordinates were wounded and hospitalized,” RIA-Novosti quoted a source in the Tajik Interior Ministry as saying.

The opposition meanwhile claims that participation in the conference was not what Zakharchenko intended. “They [OMON servicemen – Kommersant] rode up in two KamAZ trucks, formed a ring around the building of the district department of internal affairs, and told the people inside to lay down their weapons,” Dodojon Atovulloyev of the movement Vatandor said. According to the opposition leader, the visitors were particularly interested in Colonel Mirzohodja Ahmadov, Organized Crime Department Commander. Ahmadov himself confirmed it in an interview with the BBC Persian Service on Saturday. A field commander of the United Tajik Opposition in the civil war in Tajikistan (1992 – 1997), he commands vast respect from his former subordinates and the locals. Ahmadov said he knew for a fact that the republican OMON was coming to eliminate him for his past with the United Tajik Opposition.

Representatives of the opposition maintain that an undeclared war on former activists of the United Tajik Opposition is under way in the republic, mounted on President Emomali Rakhmon’s orders. “A great deal of them were imprisoned. Others are waiting for their turn,” Atovulloyev told this correspondent. The authorities began with ex-leaders of the opposition (people like former head of the Customs Committee Mirzohidji Nizomov, Tajikgaz ex-director and Democratic Party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov) and worked their way down to whoever had never occupied any key positions in the United Tajik Opposition. Mukim Muhabbatov, commander of a border guards detachment and the brother of a prominent opposition activist Salam Muhabbatov, was killed last summer under suspicious circumstances. Major Tohir Chorshanbiyev, commander of another border guards detachment and another ex-commander of the United Tajik Opposition, was arrested in Gorny Badakhshan last year. The order to collar Chorshanbiyev came from Dushanbe and it was to Dushanbe that he was promptly escorted. When Chorshanbiyev was taken to Dushanbe, however, his followers in Gorny Badakhshan took a hostage (the head of the local state security department), and the authorities were compelled to let Chorshanbiyev go. Last but not the least, arrest of another former activist of the United Tajik Opposition was attempted in Garm not long ago. This man, however, escaped.

Spokesman for the Tajik Interior Ministry claims that this structure and the State Committee for National Security set up an investigation panel and dispatched it to Garm. What information is available to this newspaper indicates that the authorities prepare a major military operation to avenge Zakharchenko’s death. Several rallies took place in the Garm district yesterday, their participants demanding from the authorities to put an end to provocations that might trigger a new civil war.

Source: Kommersant, February 4, 2008, p. 10. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru

Summer of Discontent

Summer of Discontent

A growing mass of energized, angry White people have shifted the political spectrum. From a pro-White perspective, this is a good thing.

Atlanta, Georgia

Writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cynthia Tucker connects the dotsbetween the Arizona immigration showdown, the Ground Zero Mosque debate, opposition to birthright citizenship, Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, and the growing perception in America that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

White people are afraid of their impending minority status.

Changing racial demographics have created a season of “civic craziness.” It has provoked a “backlash against the browning of America” which is now “blowing” at “gale force.”

A broad economic recovery is needed to “drain the vicious energy from the backlash.” Economic prosperity will “restore faith” in the American Dream. Right now that “faith is fading” and Muslims are the “easiest targets.”

That’s not far off the mark.

First, there is an Implicit White Nationalist movement that is deformed in various ways by the reigning taboos of our society. The people involved in this movement yearn to return the more innocent days of White America while dodging uncomfortable questions about race.

Implicit White Nationalists are like nostalgic goldfish who demand to preserve their environment while failing to acknowledge the existence of an aquarium. They are animated by the same impulses as Explicit White Nationalists, but would never publicly admit it for fear of losing their respectability.

Second, the Implicit White Nationalist movement is fueled by the symbolism of a negro alien in the White House and the economic dislocation that has followed in the wake of his election. If the economy started booming again, as it did under Bill Clinton in the 1990s, “nativist sentiment” would undoubtedly subside, and would decline further still under a reassuring White president.

Third, Muslims and illegal aliens are soft targets, and White people can get away with attacking them in the mainstream without having to suffer much in the way of consequences. As Tucker points out, the number of illegal aliens coming to America has declined, but the perception that illegal immigration is a problem has grown.

White America has undeniably grown more sensitive about questions of identity. The terrible economy, a non-White president, changing demographics, and challenges to their cultural identity have all contributed to this insolent attitude.

This is also the exact opposite of the analysis that prevails in White Nationalist circles.

From the vantagepoint of the Far Left, White America is moving away from them in a reactionary direction. From the perspective of the Far Right, White America is still so far away from the radical position that it appears nothing has changed.

The mainstream Left has been discredited. Barack Obama’s coalition has collapsed and the Democrats will likely lose the House in November. The mainstream Right has been under attack from insurgent Tea Party candidates.

A growing mass of energized, angry White people have shifted the political spectrum. From a pro-White perspective, this is a good thing.

People who are mad as hell, politically engaged, feel like outsiders, and who are searching for answers to America’s national decline are already traveling down the road to radicalism.

The real question is this: are the existing radicals willing to build bridges to their peers, or will the purists continue to burn them?

Military Admits to Ultrasonic Mind-Control Devices

Standard Issue Mind Control DARPA wants ultrasound-enhanced helmets that allow soldiers to stimulate certain regions of their brains.

DARPA has been trying to crawl inside the minds of soldiers for a while now, but a new ultrasound technology could let them get deeper inside than ever. Working under a DARPA grant, a researcher at Arizona State is developing transcranial pulsed ultrasound technology that could be implanted in troops’ battle helmets, allowing soldiers to manipulate brain functions to boost alertness, relieve stress, or even reduce the effects of traumatic brain injury.

Manipulating the brain to enhance warfighting capabilities and maintain mental acuity on the battlefield has long been a topic of interest for DARPA and various military research labs, but the technology to do so remains limited. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), for instance, requires surgically implanted electrodes to stimulate neural tissues, while less-invasive methods like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) possess limited reach and low spatial resolution.

But Dr. William J. Tyler, an assistant professor of life sciences at ASU, writes on the DoD’s “Armed With Science” blog: “To overcome the above limitations, my laboratory has engineered a novel technology which implements transcranial pulsed ultrasound to remotely and directly stimulate brain circuits without requiring surgery. Further, we have shown this ultrasonic neuromodulation approach confers a spatial resolution approximately five times greater than TMS and can exert its effects upon subcortical brain circuits deep within the brain.”Tyler’s technology, packaged in a warfighter’s helmet, would allow soldiers to flip a switch to stimulate different regions of their brains, helping them relieve battle stress when it’s time to get some rest, or to boost alertness during long periods without sleep. Grunts could even relieve pain from injuries or wounds without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs. More importantly, in the periods after brain trauma ultrasound technology could reduce swelling and metabolic damage that is often the root cause of lasting brain damage.

The Overlooked Good Intentions of Turkmenistan

And no one, not an enemy, and so …

Bayram Kurbanov

The main foreign-policy doctrine of Turkmenistan is the so-called “permanent and positive neutrality.” In the photo: the presidents of the Caspian states summit in Tehran, October 2007

In addition to declarations of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty and others, the proclamation of neutrality had a very specific motives.

It is no secret that many of the CIS leaders anxiously watching for the national-communist renaissance in Russia, believing that after this may be followed by the Russian overtures to restore the Soviet Union. Not wanting to risk and hedging of such risks before the State Duma elections in Russia, the government of Turkmenistan has decided to further strengthen its sovereignty, and in 1996 adopted a constitutional law on the “direct and positive neutrality of Turkmenistan”, was amended in the constitution but on one of the meetings of the General Assembly was submitted a declaration of sovereignty, which received unanimous approval, which was confirmed by the relevant resolution. In fairness it should be noted that no legal filling this resolution the General Assembly and does not imply any obligation in respect of Turkmenistan, the United Nations in accordance with it shall not be held.

Another motive was the fact that the armed forces of Turkmenistan at that time were the weakest in the region. Affected the mass exodus of military experts in Russia and other countries, the lack of proper skills and base their training. And this at a time when Iran has already become a strong and well-armed and ambitious regional player, who proclaimed messianic ideas. In neighboring Afghanistan, was the height of the civil war and a wave of Taliban, rather transparently hinted at the establishment of the Caliphate, including the territory of Central Asia.

Also remained many unresolved issues with neighbors in the former Soviet Union. If Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have been no serious disagreement over territorial and other problems, then to Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, these problems were part of them remains to this day.

One of the main problems in Central Asia – access to water resources – both time and became the principal in the relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The main source of water – the Amu Darya enters the territory of Turkmenistan is from Uzbekistan, nourishes the Karakum Canal, and then plays the role of the border river between the two countries. The quantity and quality of water flowing into the territory of a State has always played the role of “powder keg”. And this issue is still unresolved, between the two countries do not have full agreement on the division of water and mutual guarantees of quotas and monitoring water quality. The existing intergovernmental commission annually produces the quota intake volume for each country, but alas, no full-fledged legal framework. Additional mutual suspicion and distrust is the fact of finding the head water intakes, carrying water into the country, the territories of neighboring states. It always leaves room for blackmail and speculation, especially because the Uzbek government has repeatedly hinted that they were ready to take control of strategic and vital facilities, even on the territories of neighboring states. Effect on the inter-state relations and the fate of a large Uzbek minority in Turkmenistan is exposed, and exposed hitherto national discrimination.

An even more serious situation around the Caspian Sea. Numerous speculations on commodities and transit potential of the Caspian Sea, has created a series of verbal and diplomatic conflicts and territorial claims. The quintessence of these disputes and conflicts have become words of the first President of Turkmenistan Niyazov at a meeting on the status of the Caspian Sea, that “… the Caspian oil does not smell, and blood …”. Things have gone so far that between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan until recently there was virtually no full diplomatic relations, including the lack of ambassadors and embassies. Was renewed dialogue between the countries after coming to power, the second president of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was again marred by a number of mutual claims and statements, which again postponed the decision of the territorial issues between countries. In this case, the Azerbaijani authorities are well aware that alternative routes for transporting Russian Turkmen main resource – natural gas from Turkmenistan to Europe can now take place only through the waters of the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan. Using this fact, the authorities have taken the last fence, leaving the decision on determining the status of the Caspian Sea and the delineation of the disputed fields “for later”, waiting for concessions from Turkmenistan.

Paradoxically, it is now the strongest guarantor of stability in the region is a country which has no common borders with Turkmenistan – China. After commissioning of the pipeline Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China, the latter to build a pipeline for their money, managed to combine economic and partly political interests of suppliers and transit countries, thereby forcing the delay, suspend or eliminate the critical moments in the relationship. None of the leaders in the region will not dare to jeopardize its gas exports to China to deal with some bilateral issues, which is a serious limiting factor in international relations. Moreover, given the fact that China and Iran have a long-standing “strategic” relationship, China has already performed a counterweight to Iran’s desire to occupy a dominant position in Turkmenistan. In fact, already happened division of spheres of economic influence, in which Turkmenistan is more involved in China’s orbit. Numerous Chinese loans, supply of equipment and contracts for maintenance, guarantees on long-term and increasing purchases of natural gas, on the one hand, and the fundamental failure of China to intervene in the internal affairs of Turkmenistan, on the other hand, make it until a certain time is almost the ideal partner for Turkmen authorities.

But the main problem for Turkmenistan, as well as for the whole of Central Asia, Afghanistan is long. Threat of the spread of radical Islam, terrorism, drug trafficking and the refugee problem, all this makes the government of Turkmenistan seriously engage in relationships with this country. Based on the principles of the concept of positive neutrality, at all times of internal conflict in Afghanistan, the Turkmen authorities were able to find common language with all parties, whether they are representatives of the Taliban, the regional leaders in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. After the departure of the Taliban, the Turkmen leadership also adheres to this strategy – on the one hand developing relations with the central authorities in Kabul and negotiating with them to build a trans-Afghan gas pipeline to Pakistan and India, on the other hand, developing cross-border cooperation with local authorities.

Having, as they seemed undoubted success in building a “positive neutrality”, the Turkmen authorities have gone further and have hosted the country’s Centre for Preventive Diplomacy United Nations, which aims to play a role no one arbitrator and the center of peacemaking in the event conditions for conflicts and their prevention. However, neither local nor international observers did not note a significant activity and activities of the Centre for conflict resolution in the region and regard the existence of the Centre solely as another fetish in the frame so dear to the Turkmen authorities’ positive neutrality. “

Belarus Secret Mission to Turkmenistan Hunt for Resources or Anti-Soviet Allies?

Secret mission to Turkmenistan Viktor Sheiman

Edward Gevarkin

Ashgabat visited the Assistant to the President of the Republic of Belarus Viktor Sheiman roving (pictured), who conveyed greetings to President of Turkmenistan and a written message from his Belarusian counterpart.

Information on the meeting there was little if any. Internet newspaper leads only “semi-official”:

– During the meeting the sides expressed mutual interest in the development of traditionally friendly relations between Turkmenistan and Belarus, to discuss the main directions of cooperation. Among them – the purchase of Turkmenistan of Belarusian agricultural and other special equipment, and training of Turkmen specialists in Belarusian universities.

In addition, it is reported that Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov addressed the Belarusian partners a proposal for construction of a residential village for employees of ore processing plant for the production of potash, which Belarusians erected in Lebap Turkmenistan.

However, what this all was the extent of how I can not believe. It is unlikely that the Assistant President for Special Assignments Viktor Sheiman cost to fly thousands of miles away, to express “their mutual interest in the development of traditionally friendly relations.”

“We all try to keep secret from their people” – said the correspondent of news portal http://www.UDF.BY political commentator Roman Yakovlevsky. He believes that the visit to Ashgabat spetsporuchentsa with a personal letter to Lukashenko, could pursue the goal of “somehow gain access to Turkmenistan’s considerable resources, both natural and financial.”

In this regard, R. Yakauleuski, given that Sheiman, chief curator of the Venezuelan project, did not rule out “the strategic plans Lukashenko on the relationship of Turkmen gas from the Venezuelan oil (supply, production). As for the silence of this visit in the state media, then, according to the political observer, it “shows once again who and what floor the authorities identifies and pursues a foreign policy of Belarus.”