Friday, May 25, 2007

No Embarrassment For The Past

This is another phase of our lovely discussion with Anon 2. It began here and will go on forever.

Dear Anon 2,

Welcome back again. Let me go to the point straight away.

Whenever we talk of our shameful civil war, we must remember that it was not something rare in the world. On the contrary, discontents, wars and dramatic upheavals have been recognized as a linkage between two different phases of a nation’s development. You will not be thoroughly refined through the process of evolution without those upheavals. Perhaps, Europe would have never achieved political and social maturity without the French Revolution (1789-1799). Russia would have never risen to be a world superpower without getting involved in the World War II. Or as Emmanuel Todd, a French political thinker puts it in his “After the Empire”, “the 350-year-old English Revolution is a good example of the paradox of modernization. No one would deny the crucial role that England played in the political and economic development of Europe. It was also a country with high levels of literacy early on. But one of the first effects of the English move into modernity was an ideological crisis, expressed politically and religiously, that led to a civil war most Europeans would have a hard time understanding today.”

The Jewish French thinker who had predicted the fall of the Soviet Union in his “La Chute finale” (1976), believes that the way to modernity usually lies through fearsome upheavals and an explosion of ideological violence. If you remember, in the very famous English Revolution in 1649 King Charles I was decapitated. We are not here to argue about its level of morality or amorality. It is just the natural normal independent course of the history. Hence, there is no need to curb our socio-political activities just because 10 years ago we had a bloody fight. That fear will remain in our blood vessels, only if we do not succeed to realize the necessity to move on. The period of stagnation must be evolved to a period of brave prosperity-motivated movements. The very fact that you are speaking of ‘our trauma’ may lead you to the point that you’d resist the traumatic effects of the past and start looking to the future. I think there should be no embarrassment for the past as well as no extreme pride for it.

Moaning about our disadvantages ‘despite having brilliant individuals’ does not make the situation less frustrating. Whenever we look for an excuse, we are trying to mask our weakness. As I argued before, we don’t have to be ashamed to reveal all our weakness in its entirety. Before operating a heart a surgeon has to unhinge the breast to have a proper look at the heart which is causing a problem for the rest of the body.

I do not believe that “many of our failures are the result of our “99% of literate population”. Perhaps, overall literacy was one of few advantages we had had from the Soviet Empire. That means, the task of a social change could go on smoother; almost everyone would be able to grasp and absorb the purpose of the change. What is not working well in Tajikistan is inherited from the Soviet Empire too: mismanagement, lack of perspective, political vision and national self-determination.

Furthermore, dramatic increase of literacy at the beginning has got some negative side effects and that’s ‘the psychological disorientation of population.’ I suppose, that’s what we are experiencing right now.

By the way, English teachers would never teach my children how to die for their Motherland. That’s the task of their parents indeed.

I wish you all the best, dear Anon 2.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Join In!

A lovely discussion is going on between me and a reader of one of my postings. It derived from my remarks about the falling image of our nation.

Since the posting is going further down and not being noticed by many, I decided to bring it up here to continue and attract more participants to speak out on the issue.

The entire discussion could be found under this link.

My latest response was as follows:

"Hi Anon 2,

Actually I am not enjoying 24/7 Internet access either. At least not at the moment. I just like polemical discussions of this kind and so far I can see a good speaker and listener in you. Hence I prefer to get back as soon as possible. But your latest posting reached me a bit later, since my weblog had been forgotten by me for that inhospitable attitude towards its owner the other day.

I stick to my opinion that the atmosphere and especially the traditional one must be altered profoundly for our children. We have to change our approach to our children. Every child is not considered a mere child by him/herself. They tend to acquire a distinguishable personality from the very dawn of their lives. In our society that innocent strife is still being oppressed and suffocated.

We (the society) like them to gaze vaguely like a sheep, with no hassle created by their activities, no questions to be asked. “Just-shut-up-and-sit-down” approach is not going to “bring more fruits for their children.” It will bring up dull stupid robotic type of people who would not care a damn about anything beyond their houses. That results in “Nasha Rossiya” style descriptions of Tajiks abroad. To be precise, you and I have different understandings of the topic. You want our children to be more inward-looking as they are today, but I want us to be more outward-looking, more involved in societal affairs, more concerned of the stance and image of our nation in the world, more aware of the very image in reality, more helpful to create a better image via facilitating our own lives in the country.

All of this depends on our awareness self-esteem. I don’t want my children to sit just by my side until I take in my last breath. They belong not only to me; first and foremost, they belong to my nation. Hence, they must take care of their Motherland as well as they take care of their mother and father. Our traditionalist lifestyle does not encourage it. It’s too narrow and simplistic. It does not tolerate questioning; otherwise one could be named “shakkok” or outcast. It’s too defensive for it is too feeble and uncertain. It’s afraid of other life-styles, just because it’s aware of its unattractive weak nature.

And you have complemented my allegation by putting forward more examples. The way Manija was treated, they way children are manipulated, and that people are more financially motivated with no proper knowledge how to achieve that fortune… indicates the necessity of a deep and far-stretching change in our culture. I am not suggesting that our traditions as a whole are an obstacle to our progress. However, I do insist that some parts of them are lethal and suicidal and must be put aside and forgotten for good.

And we have to stop bragging. We to boast about have created nothing lately. Modesty makes sense in this respect. “Hidden talents”, if they truly exist, must unhide and come out, since coming out needs some extent of talent as well. Even after that we have to restrain from reacting arrogantly and bluffing. Let others see and tell what they think of us: “Mushk on ast, ki xud bibuyad, Ne on ki attorash biguyad.”

Thus, we have almost nothing left of our past glory. But a healthy reaction to this bad news must be encouraging and creative. First, we have to acquaint ourselves with realities, before undertaking any adventure. Then good news might follow.

All the best,

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Kambiz Arman 5/02/07

Tajik President Imomali Rahmon’s grip on power seems tighter than ever. But that doesn’t mean some of his rivals in exile have abandoned dreams of regime change and the introduction of political reforms.

In recent weeks, Rahmon, who won a third presidential term last November, has taken steps to remake the country in his own image, prompting some observers to voice concern that he was laying the groundwork of a cult of personality. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. First, the president announced that he was Islamicizing his identity, dropping the Slavic "ov" from his last name. Then, he imposed new standards of behaviour on school children, including a ban on miniskirts and headscarves. He has also demanded that Tajiks lead more austere lives.

In his April 30 state of the nation address, he chided the bureaucracy, along with the general population, for not following his earlier order against holding "extravagant rituals."
"If we do not do this [curb ostentatious displays], I will issue another, more serious order," Rahmon cautioned. He added that as the duly elected leader of the nation, he "enjoyed the right to introduce certain orders for the sake of progress, prosperity and the prestige of the nation."

The recent moves appear to be an outgrowth of views embodied in books that Rahmon has authored. These volumes, the last of which was published in late 2006, conjure a romanticized notion of Tajikistan’s history, as well as its future. In a review of the most recent volume - titled, Tajikistan in the Mirror of History - Khovar, the national information agency of Tajikistan, had this to say: "In this book, Imomali Rahmon provides accurate and scientifically proven answers to questions on the origin of Aryan civilization, the Tajik nation and its place in global history."

The president’s website characterizes the book as "a spiritual present to the nation of Tajikistan from the head of state."

It’s also notable that the president’s historical works are now used as textbooks in Tajik schools. The subject matter and style of Rahmon’s tomes have prompted comparisons to the Rukhnama, the spiritual guide of the deceased despot of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

A decade ago, Rahmon’s control over the government was far more tenuous. Under a deal that brought a five-year civil war to an end in 1997, Rahmon had to share power with his main enemies, the leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Since then, however, the president has steadily expanded his influence and outmaneuvered his rivals. [For background see the Eurasia Insight]. It has reached the point today that no individual politician or political party can muster a viable challenge to his authority.

Despite the present appearance of the president’s political invincibility, opponents living outside Tajikistan have not abandoned hope for change in the Central Asian nation. This aspiration has propelled some to forge a new political movement called ?Vatandor’ (Patriot), complete with an idealistic motto: "A new path, new authority, new ideas, and a new life."

"We want Imomali Rahmon to leave his post voluntarily and enjoy the privileges of an ex-president for the rest of his life," Vatandor’s leader, Dodojon Atovulloyev, told EurasiaNet. "We intend to establish a government of national reconciliation followed by truly democratic elections with numerous contenders."

Atovulloyev, a dissident journalist who has lived abroad since 1992, is convinced that hundreds of thousands of Tajiks are prepared to support the new movement, given the fact that poverty in the country remains widespread and Rahmon’s government has yet to show itself capable of promoting economic growth.

Atovulloyev claims that Vatandor unites several ex-premiers, regional and religious leaders, various party representatives and, most importantly, some members of the government with close ties with Rahmon. But "over a million Tajik guest workers abroad constitute the cornerstone of the movement," he said. The remittances made by guest workers to relatives back home play a major role in propping up the Tajik economy.

Tajiks are tired of being migrant workers, Atovulloyev insisted. He has a simple message for these supposed legions of the disgruntled citizens yearning for a different life: Rahmon’s departure from power would solve a lot of problems.

For some opposition politicians still inside Tajikistan, Atovulloyev’s remedy for perceived problems is simplistic. Living in exile makes it difficult for Vatandor’s leadership to obtain an accurate reading of the popular mood, suggested Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the Tajik Islamic Renaissance Party. The population has grown politically apathetic and has long been conflict averse. "It is impossible to urge Tajiks to gather for an anti-government rally after the civil war," Kabiri explained. It’s unlikely that an outside party like Vatandor can have a tangible impact on the political process, Kabiri maintained.

But the deputy head of the Social Democratic Party, Shokirjon Hakimov, suggested that Vatandor might be able to make political inroads since it is not burdened with the same restrictions that domestically based opposition parties must contend with. The lack of such restraints could give Vatandor more leeway to attract support. Some observers add that if Vatandor succeeds in its goal of capturing the hearts and minds of migrant workers, it indeed could become a force that Rahmon would have to reckon with.

Dushanbe’s reaction to Vatandor’s appearance suggests that Rahmon’s administration is far from dismissive of the new movement. In an official statement distributed by Tajikistan’s Embassy in Moscow, Atovulloyev was vilified as "a provocateur, and traitor." It also called him "a terrorist associate and a self-obsessed maniac," and described Vatandor as a figment of Atovulloyev’s imagination.

Editor's Note: Kambiz Arman is the pseudonym for a Tajik journalist.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

RFE/RL, Farda & VOA Scrutinized

نگاهی به سياست تبليغاتی آمريکا و رسانه‌های فارسی خارج از ايران
موسسه مطالعات خاور ميانه در واشنگتن پژوهشی را زير عنوان "از خلال حجاب: نقش سخن پراکنی در سياست تبليغاتی آمريکا در قبال ايران" به قلم مهدی خلجی چاپ کرده است که ارزيابی فعاليت ايستگاههای راديويی و تلويزيونی ايرانی در بيرون از ايران است.*
خلجی در اين نوشته با تمرکز ويژه روی کار راديوهای "فردا" و "صدای آمريکا" به سياست تبليغاتی آمريکا و نحوه ارائه آن از طريق اين رسانه‌ها می‌پردازد.
"Through the Veil: The Role of Broadcasting in U.S. Public Diplomacy toward Iranians" by Mehdi Khalaji in English