Tag Archives: turajonzoda

Tajik Authorities Punish Dissident Clerics

Tajik authorities have apparently found a new way to discipline Islamic clerics daring to criticize state policies. The novel approach consists of mobilizing state-controlled Islamic leaders to discredit and penalize the dissidents. In December 2011, the nominally independent Council of Ulamo (CoU) accused three influential clerics, the Turajonzoda brothers, of performing “alien” Shia rituals at their mosque. This is a very serious claim given that most people in Tajikistan are Sunni Muslims. The CoU is a government-controlled body of clerics charged with regulating Islamic activities in the country.

The accusations against the Turajonzoda brothers were leveled in a public statement on December 6. The document alleged that the clerics had performed the Shia ritual of “Ashura” at the Muhammadiya Mosque. This mosque in the brothers’ native village of Turkobod, some 30 kilometers east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, is considered one of the most prominent in the country. Friday prayers at the mosque commonly attracted between 15,000 and 20,000 people, with many worshippers coming to listen to the traditional Friday sermons. These sermons were consequently circulated on CDs and DVDs across the country and were available for download on a website that the authorities have blocked since May 2011. The oldest of the Turajonzoda brothers, Eshoni Nuriddin, frequently used the sermons to condemn government policies which purportedly restricted Islamic expression in the country. He was repeatedly rebuked by the authorities for these criticisms. In January 2011, Eshoni Nuriddin resigned as imam, ostensibly under pressure from the security agencies. He was replaced by the youngest brother, Muhammadjon.
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Prominent Cleric and His Brothers Face Growing Pressure in Tajikistan

Prominent Tajik religious and political figure, Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, and his brothers, Nuriddin and Muhammadjon, have, in recent weeks, come under increasing pressure from the authorities. On December 6, 2011, the Council of Ulamo (CoU), a government-controlled body regulating Islamic activities in the country, accused the Turajonzoda brothers of observing the holiday of Ashura, which has a special significance for Shia Muslims. The holiday is not observed in Tajikistan where the majority of people are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi tradition.

The CoU’s statement alleged that on December 2, Nuriddin and Muhammadjon performed the Ashura ritual at the Muhammadiya Mosque. The mosque in the village of Turkobod, some 30 kilometers east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, is one of the largest in the country. It belongs to the Turajonzoda family. Muhammadjon Turajonzoda served as the mosque’s imam after the elder brother, Nuriddin, had been forced by the authorities to resign in January 2011 (EDM, March 3, 2011).

“We are surprised that the ritual [of Ashura] was performed by members of the prominent religious family of Turajonzoda who claim to belong to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam,” the statement said, adding “This ritual is entirely in contradiction to the Hanafi tradition… [The] Turajonzoda brothers want to popularize an alien religious practice among our people… We must stay vigilant and protect our faith from various plots; we must not allow hypocritical individuals to endanger the spiritual unity of our nation…” The statement also implied that Turajonzoda brothers were responsible for political confrontation leading up to the civil war in Tajikistan in 1992-1997 (www.khovar.tj, December 9).
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Tajikistan’s 20 Most Influential People

Tajikistan’s leading political newspaper, Asia-Plus, has presented a list of the top 20 most influential people in the country. According to the newspaper, their initial idea was to compile a list of the richest people in Tajikistan, something similar to the Forbes’ list. However, Asia-Plus had to abandon this idea because it is virtually impossible to collect credible information on the wealth of Tajikistan’s “moguls”.

Consequently, the newspaper decided to ask 30 leading journalists and political and economic analysts in the country to name the most influential individuals in Tajikistan and rank them in terms on their influence on political decision-making and appointments, economics and finance, security forces, and public opinion. As a result, the Asia-Plus has compiled a list of the top 20 persons that have the power to shape the future of Tajikistan.

The list is as follows:

1. Emomali Rahmon, the President of Tajikistan. This has hardly come as a surprise to anyone. He holds an unchallenged monopoly on political power in the country, and there are no signs that this might change anytime soon.

2. Mahmadsaid Ubaydulloyev, the chairman of the upper house of Tajikistan’s Parliament (since 2000) and the mayor of Dushanbe (since 1996). Ubaydulloyev’s second place on the list is rather surprising because his influence is not always apparent.
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Arson Attack Targets Prominent Tajik Cleric’s Cotton Plant

Arson is believed to be the cause of a fire on October 24 that damaged a cotton-processing plant belonging to Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, a prominent Tajik religious and political figure, in the town of Vahdat, some 30 kilometers east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe. The fire broke out early in the morning. The local firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to barns where processed cotton was kept. Some 600 bales of cotton were fully or partially destroyed, with damages estimated at about $200,000. A plastic tank containing gasoline was found at the site of the blaze, suggesting that the fire was not accidental (www.news.tj, http://www.rferl.org, October 24).

Speaking to journalists after the blaze, Turajonzoda said he did not know whether the reason for the arson attack was economic or political. “I do not know whom to blame,” he said adding, “I would rule out economic motives because I do not have conflict with anybody. Speaking about political motives, I do not want to believe that political enmity can take such ugly forms in our country. If this is about politics, it is very sad” (www.ozodi.org, October 24).
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