04/04/2022, 09.39
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Poverty overshadows Tajiks' Ramadan

by Vladimir Rozanskij

President Rakhmon asks the population to extend the planting of all crops and intensify agricultural activities. The country's economy in deep crisis, also due to Western sanctions against Russia. The head of state prepares the succession of his son Rustam Emomali.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - President Emomali Rakhmon of Tajikistan was one of the most solicitous heads of state in congratulating the population of the Islamic faith on the start of Ramadan, followed by all his counterparts in the countries of Central Asia.

In his message, he pointed out that this year's Muslim holiday coincides with the beginning of the spring planting season, "and this means that we must effectively use every favorable day of spring, extend the planting of all crops and intensify agricultural activities."

Rakhmom expresses all his concerns for the future of the economy in a severe crisis, and therefore insists that "we need the basis for a bountiful harvest, always remembering that each family must be able to stock up on food for the next two years".

The difficulties of the pandemic period have left their mark, and without directly mentioning the nearby war events, the Tajik leader warns that "today it is essential to take all measures so that our children and members of our families do not face other insurmountable difficulties, suffering from the lack of food or the increase of its prices, in view of the coming autumn-winter".

The war recalled by Rakhmon is that of the "civil clashes that were imposed on us", referring to the division following the end of the USSR and in particular to 1992-1993, when Tajikistan found itself effectively split in two between the supporters of the central government and the oppositions led by the party of the "Islamic rebirth".

At that time, not only political factors, but also ethnic and religious ones came into play, starting with the first uprisings in Dushanbe in 1990, and the conflict ended only in 1999 with the election of the current president, one of the most moderate ex-Soviet hierarchs, who was able to integrate even Islamists into the state's leadership structures.

Since then Tajikistan has enjoyed political stability and has developed a remarkable cult of personality of Rakhmon, called the "Pevšoj Millat" (Father of the Nation), to which are added the definitions of "founder of peace and national unity", in the manner of several other post-Soviet "eternal presidents".

A Sunni Muslim, the 70-year-old Rakhmon made the Umra, the minor pilgrimage to Mecca, in 2017 and now seems willing to cede power to his son. Like his seven older sisters and younger brother, 34-year-old Rustam Emomali holds several prominent positions, most notably that of president of the Tajik Football Federation, which makes him very popular among the country's nearly 10 million inhabitants.

The January riots in Kazakhstan, after the Belarusian crisis of 2020 and also the current conflict in Ukraine, attest to a decline in the post-Soviet satrapies of the last thirty years: in neighboring Turkmenistan succession from father to son has already taken place, to avoid being overwhelmed by events.

The prices of food and all raw materials in Tajikistan have undergone vertiginous increases in the last two years and after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although in March they have slowed down slightly, at least for some products such as seed oil, sugar, potatoes and carrots.

The Tajik president's concerns are very real, considering the effect on the country of Western sanctions against Russia, Dushanbe's main economic partner. The collapse of the ruble has also led to the devaluation of the somon, the local currency, especially against the dollar, which is causing a crisis in imports, primarily of foodstuffs.

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