Category Archives: Education

Lenin in Tajikistan: ‘Better Hitler’ or ‘Real Hero’?

Since independence, Tajikistan’s authorities have taken down almost all Soviet-erected statues of Vladimir Lenin across the country.

The removal of these monuments is quite controversial in Tajikistan, where some bloggers call Lenin a ‘better Hitler’ while others consider him a ‘real hero’. Read on Global Voices Online >>

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Filed under Education, Nation Building, Social media, Tajikistan

Absent: Tajikistani Voice at the Central Eurasian Studies Society Conference

The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) 2012 annual conference that finished today at the Indiana University (Bloomington) was fantastic in terms of the profile of scholars that attended the event, quality of research presented, and range of perspectives represented.

But there is one thing that I found troubling about this year’s conference: the absence of a Tajikistani perspective and voice. Out of the eight papers focusing directly on Tajikistan – and many more papers dealing with Tajikistan less directly – only one paper was presented by a Tajikistani (which happens to be me). Out of the about 180 participants, only one was Tajikistani (me again). I am not suggesting that the non-Tajikistani scholars doing research on the country are less competent in doing so or anything of the sort. However, I am really concerned about Tajikistanis playing no role in how the country is represented, talked and argued about in the western (effectively, global) academia.

In contrast, scholars from Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia’s Tatarstan, and China’s Xinjiang attended the conference and presented really interesting papers.

So why is Tajikistan absent from all of this? Does it have to do with the costs involved in attending such conferences? This is unlikely given that the Open Society Institute (OSI) is eager to offer travel grants to scholars in the country. Is this about Tajikistani scholars not speaking English and not being able to do research and write papers in the way that western academia would find acceptable? Maybe, but there are so many young people from Tajikistan who did their Master’s degrees in the West, in India, and Japan. Where are they? Is this perhaps about the lack of networks and connections as a result of which Tajikistani scholars simply do not know about such conferences being held? Or is it about lack of interest? Or all of the above?

Puzzling.

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Filed under Academia, Education, Tajikistan

Tajik Authorities Impose Heavier Restrictions on Islamic Education

With little discussion, Tajikistan’s parliament recently approved a number of government-proposed amendments to legislation. These amendments impose additional restrictions on religious education for Tajik nationals both at home and abroad. Young Tajiks seeking to study Islam abroad will now find it increasingly difficult or impossible to do so, and their options for studying religion at home will be limited to a few government-sanctioned schools. As a result, people wishing to learn more about the religion will have little other choice but to seek such education from clandestine groups.

BACKGROUND: On May 25, the lower chamber of Tajikistan’s parliament approved changes to the 2009 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, most commonly known as the “Religion Law”. The changes introduce two mandatory requirements for Tajik citizens wishing to study religion abroad. The first requirement is to graduate from a similar level school offering religious education within Tajikistan. The second prerequisite is permission from the country’s Ministry of Education and Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA). These restrictions effectively bar young Tajiks from foreign Islamic schools because few people in the country would be able to meet both requirements.
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Education, Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan

Tajik-Iranian Ties Flourish (Part II)

Iran’s recent economic expansion in Tajikistan appears to be part of Tehran’s broader strategy to strengthen its influence in the country. In addition to pledging to invest more in the Tajik economy, Tehran has reiterated its calls for Dushanbe to foster closer cultural cooperation and announced plans to build universities and hospitals in the Tajik capital.

Iran has traditionally emphasized civilization and linguistic bonds as the foundation for a “special relationship” with Tajikistan. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously referred to Iran and Tajikistan as “one spirit in two bodies,” and Tehran has long pushed for the expansion of cultural ties with Dushanbe. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s trip to Tehran on March 27-28, to celebrate Novruz with the Iranian leader for the second year running indicates the Tajik leadership’s willingness to embrace closer cultural links (www.president.tj, March 27).
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Filed under Education, Foreign affairs, Health, Tajik-Iranian relations, Tajikistan

Mosques and Islamic Education Under Increasing Scrutiny in Tajikistan

The Tajik government has recently taken steps to put the country’s mosques, imams (prayer-leaders) and madrasahs (Islamic schools) under greater centralized control. Speaking at the country’s Security Council meeting on February 10, President Emomali Rahmon urged more decisive measures against the unchecked proliferation of mosques. According to official estimates, 3,700 mosques have been registered with the government to date, while another 1,250 mosques continue to operate without a license (www.avesta.tj, February 10). The authorities believe that 5,000 mosques is too large a number for the country, compared, for instance, with only 3,800 schools.

Tajik officials view unregistered mosques with suspicion because they have no control over what is preached there. According to Rahmon, some mosques are used for fomenting religious radicalism and “recruiting young people to the ranks of extremists.” The Tajik president also asserted that such mosques had served as a starting point for the “events in Rasht,” referring to the recent conflict in the Rasht valley. The conflict claimed the lives of at least 80 government troops, becoming the most serious episode of violence in the country since the late 1990’s (www.news.tj, February 11). The government closed and demolished dozens of unregistered mosques in recent years. In 2011, only 10 mosques have so far been shut down in the country (www.regnum.ru, January 10).
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Education, Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan