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Tajikistan Not Likely to Experience Popular Revolt

(Washington, DC -- May 6, 2005) Despite a worsening political situation and a poor economy, a popular uprising similar to those that have recently occurred in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan is unlikely in Tajikistan, according to RFE/RL Tajik Service Director Massoumeh Torfeh. Torfeh told a recent RFE/RL audience that, in contrast to the political events in these post-Soviet countries, change in Tajikistan is more likely to occur along "a slow road to democracy."

Torfeh explained that Tajikistan "already had its street revolution" in April and May, 1992, when the "Tajik opposition staged the longest-lasting street demonstration ever seen in the region -- 53 days." Torfeh said this "street revolution" led to a "civil war that people hated," and now the people of Tajikistan are "against politics, especially the youth." They would rather accept almost any situation other than war and as a result are "silently suffering," she said.

Torfeh noted that international sources have expressed concern about the democratization process in Tajikistan, since the constitution was amended to allow President Emomali Rahmonov to stay in power until 2020. Torfeh said that the opposition claims this change "negated an agreement that was reached between the opposition and Rahmonov in 2000 under United Nations auspices." The opposition has also claimed that, since the change, the composition of the government has become a problematic issue, according to Torfeh, because of complaints that it has not received the thirty percent share of government posts it had been promised under the 2000 agreement. Today, Torfeh said, only two such figures remain in government. The OSCE declared that Tajikistan's most recent parliamentary elections "failed to meet key commitments and international standards." At the same time, the six major political parties are "weak, don't have platforms, nor do they try to attract members or voters," Torfeh said.

Tajikistan's human rights situation, described by Torfeh as "fragile," is another cause for concern. Torfeh said that numerous media watchdog organizations have reported that Tajikistan's government continues "to put pressure on opposition, independent media and independent religious groups" and that "freedom of expression remains under threat." Torfeh noted that most media watchdogs also say that "obtaining official registration is the main obstacle for independent television and radio stations." She added, however, that foreign journalists are not affected by these restrictions to the same degree and that official cooperation in providing information, especially during the February parliamentary elections, were viewed as positive.

Torfeh also said that journalism standards needed to be strengthened in Tajikistan if media are to protect themselves from legal proceedings. She said that, by publishing unsubstantiated accusations the press had often put itself in a vulnerable position and that weak media could hinder the development of civil society.

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