06/05/2023, 09.59
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Hunt for Tajik migrants in Russia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Mass arrests of Dušanbe workers and students have been reported from various Russian regions in recent weeks: checks and searches for no apparent reason and also numerous acts of violence. 

Dushanbe (AsiaNews) - In recent weeks there have been many cases of "Tajik hunts" in various regions of Russia, from the westernmost to the Asian ones, with mass arrests of migrants - working and non-working - checks and searches for no apparent reason, and also numerous acts of violence. The Russian authorities will not clarify the reasons for this crackdown on a people who have been used to travelling to Russia to study, or to do the most menial jobs.

Some official structures in Tajikistan, starting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have approached their counterparts in Russia with a request to investigate these cases, but the situation does not seem to change much. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Tajik citizens travel to Russia to earn some money to support their families, due to the lack of work and decent wages back home.

The Ozody website tried to find out more by interviewing several Tajiks involved in such dramatic circumstances. Mekhriniso Sulaymonova's daughter, for example, studies in Russia, and has seen several of her Tajik friends and fellow students beaten up by the police.

She herself has suffered various harassments and insults, belonging to a family of labour migrants from Central Asia, towards whom there is in her opinion a 'strong racial prejudice'. Her mother called her after seeing the videos of the violence, and her daughter was barricaded in the house to study, saying that 'I can understand the plight of many parents who have made every effort to have their children study in Russia'.

In the Khabarovsk region in the Far East last week, the Omon attacked 100 Tajik students with batons and other white and chemical weapons, breaking into the youth hostel without warning.

One of them, who wished to remain anonymous, recounted, 'at seven o'clock in the morning, they hammered on the door shouting and cursing at us and demanding our documents, then they lined us up in the corridor, continuing to insult us with irreverent expressions. Those who dared to object were beaten savagely, and we had no idea as to why such violence, some were even tazered'.

Many similar arrests and pressures occurred in St. Petersburg, in Kotelniki in Moscow province and in various districts of the capital. Several Tajik youths and adults were fined and released, and for several dozen, reports were drawn up with criminal charges that were completely unfounded.

On social media there are hundreds of reactions to these events, with different evaluations, which on the whole agree that in this way Russia is trying to put pressure on Tajikistan, the most loyal of the Central Asian states, to counter the centrifugal drives of all the others. Some think that the growing instability in Russia, due to the war in Ukraine, is pushing Moscow to increasingly involve the 'Asian subjects' in war operations.

Tajik expert Abdumalik Kodirov believes that the persecution of his compatriots in Russia is the result of a sense of desperation, which is increasingly assailing Russia isolated from everyone because of the Ukrainian war.

'The Russian authorities need people to send to their death without piling on more guilt: so far they have used soldiers from the Asian and Caucasian regions of the Federation and prisoners, now they need more cannon fodder,' he says. Some even speculate that there are secret agreements to this effect between the leaders in Moscow and Dushanbe.

London based Tajik analyst Ališer Ilkhomov puts together three factors that link these disturbing circumstances: 'the meeting of Central Asian leaders in China, which cut off Russia, the problem of Afghanistan, which is particularly felt by the Tajiks, and the war in Ukraine, in which Tajikistan forbids its citizens to participate, while Russia would like to recruit thousands of them'.

This is not the first time that Russia has put pressure on Tajikistan, trying to force it to play a pro-Moscow role, but the particular violence and brazenness of the persecution in recent days nevertheless arouses dismay and fear, revealing a condition of collective hysteria in Russia that is exceeding all limits.

Photo: Flickr/International Labour Organisation

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