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Belarus Events: Reaction in Tajikistan

Politicians and experts in Tajikistan believe that the authorities will seriously discuss the latest events in Belarus.

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Protests in Minsk. Photo: reuters.com
Protests in Minsk. Photo: reuters.com

For several months now, protests against the results of the Presidential elections held on August 9 are continuing in Belarus. Today, elderly people previously supporting Alexander Lukashenko are participating in the protests and rallies. On October 12, dispersing pensioners’ march in Minsk, the security forces used flash and noise grenades and tear gas, but even after that, many did not stop protesting.

On October 16, the news appeared that the authorities placed the ex-candidate for the Presidency Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on the interstate wanted list “for calls to harm national security”.

The European Union and the USA did not recognize the elections in Belarus as legal and valid. However, on August 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the Presidential elections in Belarus as valid and was among the first to congratulate Lukashenko on winning.

Dushanbe authorities refrain from commenting on the mass demonstrations in Belarus.

Saidjafar Usmonzoda, Member of the Parliament and Chairman of the loyal to government Democratic Party of Tajikistan, believes that the Belarus events are the foreign powers’ work.

Saidjafar Usmonzoda. Photo from personal Facebook page
Saidjafar Usmonzoda. Photo from personal Facebook page

“Such mass protests can arise [in any country] if the policies do not correspond to the geopolitical interests of other countries,” Usmonzoda says.

According to him, the Tajik government will also monitor, analyse and consider the events in Belarus, and discuss the possibility of a similar situation in Tajikistan.

“The Center for Strategic Studies under the President of Tajikistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Committee for National Security and the Ministry of Internal Affairs monitor and analyse all events outside the country, and consider the probability of their influence on Tajikistan and submit this data to the government. The authorities cannot fail to notice these events,” Usmonzoda says.

According to him, in order to avoid such situation, the government should think about the socio-economic problems of the country, the wages of the population, as well as the consideration and resolution of people’s complaints. Usmonzoda also believes that the state should combat the import of “alien ideology and the influence of some powers and large companies operating in Tajikistan”.

He believes that the repetition of the Minsk events can be disastrous for the Central Asian countries due to the difference in mentality.

There, people come to the squares with posters, but people in our country would start breaking bus stops and start riots.

“There, people come to the squares with posters, but people in our country would start breaking bus stops and start riots,” Usmonzoda said and added that such processes could lead to the state’s failure.

Shokirjon Khakimov, a lawyer and Deputy Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, also believes that the authorities, including the Presidential administration, will seriously study the Minsk events.

According to him, the authorities are concerned because they have a lot in common with Lukashenko.

“Especially corruption, fictitious elections, nepotism, unwillingness to part with power contrary to public interests, etc.,” Khakimov said.

Shokirjon Khakimov. Photo from personal Facebook page
Shokirjon Khakimov. Photo from personal Facebook page

At the same time, he does not believe that any “serious qualitative changes in the internal political processes of the Central Asian states”, including Tajikistan, are possible in the near future.

According to him, the most important factor of change in Central Asia is the change of the regime in Moscow and “formation of a modern successful effective state in Russia”.

On August 10, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon congratulated Alexander Lukashenko on winning the Presidential election.

“Your victory in the Presidential election demonstrates the recognition by society of your enormous contribution to the development and strengthening of the foundations of the sovereignty of the Belarusian state, as well as confirms the correctness of the forward-looking policy you have chosen on this path, aimed at consistently improving the welfare of the country’s citizens and the global authority,” President Rahmon’s congratulatory message states.

How Tajikistan’s State Media Covered Belarus Events

The authorities’ opinion on the Minsk events is reflected in the article “Do not violate regional security!” published in the government newspaper “Jumhuriyat”.

The author of the article, little known analyst Shamil Nazarzoda writes that the Presidential elections in that country were held in accordance with international law, but the political opposition believes that the elections were rigged.

“Unfortunately, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other “friends” of the Republic of Belarus support the views of the political opposition and provide political asylum to dissidents,” the article claims.

The author also adds, “After the events in Belarus, the followers of parties and movements banned in Tajikistan support the behaviour of traitors of the Belarus people”.

“They want to destabilize the situation and upset the political stability,” Nazarzoda states.

Another official media Khovar did not publish any news about the protests in Belarus, but highlighted that the candidate Svetlana Tihanovskaya “called for an end of the protests”.

In addition, the authorities’ opinion about the events can be seen in the social networks publications of the so-called ‘Answer Factory’ – a group of pro-government fake social media users.

The content of these publications can be judged by the headlines: “The haters of Belarus want to transfer the country to their masters”, “Who benefits from Belarus collapse?” and “Tajik 1990s scenario in Belarus”.

The publications claim that opposition in Belarus destabilized the country with the assistance of the “foreign masters”, and that this scenario dates back to the 1990s, implemented by the Islamic Renaissance Party banned in Tajikistan.

In particular, one of these publications concludes that “the political situation in Tajikistan is also complicated” and there are forces wishing to repeat the Minsk scenario in the country.

“Various extremist parties and movements want to remove the legitimate President of our country, and we must not forget the contribution of the head of our state, so as not to lose peace, stability and tranquillity of our country and not get lost, like Ukraine and Belarus,” the author notes.

What Do Independent Media and Civil Society Think About Belarus?

Journalist and civic activist Khilvatsho Mahmud emphasizes that the Tajik society receives information indirectly.

“Neither state nor independent media in Tajikistan have representative offices in Belarus, and news and articles about the events in Minsk reach Tajikistan via second and third parties,” Mahmud said.

Khilvatsho Mahmud. Photo: Asia Plus
Khilvatsho Mahmud. Photo: Asia Plus

According to him, state media receive news and video reports directly from Russian media, while independent media broadcast news from Western or some independent Belarusian media.

Ozodi (Tajik service of RFE/RL) and the independent news agency Asia Plus published most of the materials about Belarus events. In particular, on August 24, Ozodi published an article “After the “March for New Belarus” Lukashenko came out in a bulletproof vest and holding arms,” which sparked debates on the Ozodi Facebook page.

Opinions were divided: some criticized Lukashenko, some supported him.

“The Presidential elections for two terms multiplied by four! Lukashenko stayed too long. Nothing will help him. Even a gun with three loading cases,” wrote one of the commentators.

“The contribution of this great man [Lukashenko] will be appreciated after his resignation, but there will be no use in regretting this,” another commentator said.

In the similar way, the subscribers of the Ozodi Facebook page discussed the article “A month of unrest in Belarus. What awaits them in the future?”.

“Belarus is the only peaceful country where people have good jobs and good wages; all industry and communications, collective and state farms are developed and managed by the state. Look, how much money the West allocated to gather people for the protests,” a commentator states.

Another social media user Bahrullo Odinaev wrote, “In fact, old Putin plays the key role here, not Lukashenko”.

Some of the commentators on the Asia Plus Facebook page recommended Lukashenko “to leave peacefully, with dignity with the head high, to leave on time, and not to leave without saying goodbye”.

“Everything is right, what other re-elections can be there? Batka [“Father” – Tr.] is Batka. Many people remember the Union, but he is only one who preserved all this in his state,” says a Lukashenko supporter with nostalgia.

During the discussion of the Ozodi video survey on the opinion of Tajik citizens about the Belarus events, an incident occurred in Akhbor Baroi Afkor/Information for Thought group of the Tajik Facebook segment.

Rajab Mirzo. Photo: Asia-Plus
Rajab Mirzo. Photo: Asia-Plus

Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Youth Affairs and Sports under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan Shodi Nazarzoda called the Tajik journalist Rajabi Mirzo, who administers this group, “dishonourable”.

Perhaps, Nazarzoda did not like that Mirzo cited in the title a quote from one of the survey participants: “If one person remains in power for a long time, he annoys people”.

Rajabi Mirzo wrote an article about Belarus in his personal blog, which later was posted on the Ozodi and Asia Plus websites.

Rajabi Mirzo compared the recent events in Belarus with the last days of the Soviet Union collapse, which marked a turning point in global politics.

According to him, “one of the reasons why Lukashenko’s government faced a crisis is that it believed in its own false ideological and legal constructions and moved away from the realities of the country. As a result, the “unknown opposition” suddenly appeared and caught the authorities by surprise”.

Another problem of the dictatorship is the emergence of a bottomless void where no one can be trusted and from which there is no way out,” Mirzo writes.

Tajik journalist Khilvatsho Mahmud believes that the events in Belarus will not influence Tajikistan greatly.

“There is no such civil society in Tajikistan as in Belarus or neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. In addition, the Minsk events take place in the region that is called the heart of Europe, and Belarus is surrounded by democratic countries. Therefore, it is unrealistic to talk about the impact of these events on Tajikistan,” says Mahmud.

According to another Tajik journalist Irshod Sulaimoni, civil society in Central Asia should draw different conclusions from the Belarus events.

“For example, learn how to conduct civilized and ethical protests and rallies. However, in many respects, positive or negative conclusions of Belarus events will depend on how the people’s campaign under the slogan “go away, go away” ends,” Sulaimoni said.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.

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