Refusing to be Putin’s cannon fodder: Tajiks resist Kremlin manipulation – Kyiv Post
Residents of Russia Central Asia territory, and specifically the Tajiks, from neighboring Tajikistan, were recruited at much higher rates than ethnic Russians for Putin’s war in Ukraine. The Kyiv Post spoke with Muhiddin Kabiri, the de facto leader of the Tajik democratic opposition, to discuss how hehas been lead the fight to keep his compatriots out of the ranks the Russian army.
Tell me about the job you to help the Tajiks in Russia avoid mobilization.
We are doing active work among Tajiks explaining why they should not participate in the war against Ukraine and how to avoid mobilization. That works. Many managed to avoid mobilization and remain in Russia itself. It is too early to speak of resistance on the part of the individual diaspora, even if the Tajiks have proven that they can resist with dignity and defend their values. The resistance must have no national or religious connotation, it must involve all the peoples of Russia.
There is evidence that Tajiks and other Central Asians are being harassed or beaten for being Muslims in the Russian military, particularly after Tajiks were murdered at a Russian military training center earlier this month. What happens next?
Russia itself has already realized that Islamophobia weakens the already demoralized Russian military. Imams, influential Muslims and opinion leaders are “ideologically mobilized” to carry out propaganda work among Muslims, especially migrants. Working groups have been created, which include our knowledge. Their task is to justify in the eyes of Muslims the actions carried out by Russia in Ukraine, and to make this war “sacred” for Muslims in the eyes of Islam. Special attention is paid to the Tajiks and this is natural after shooting at the training center.
What is your own role in Tajik politics?
It is difficult for me to say anything about my role in Tajik politics. Experts and/or voters could talk about it if there was a transparent electoral system in place. I represent a generation of politicians who formed in the last years of the Soviet Union, who witnessed or participated in its collapse, participated in the formation of independent nation states and are now fighting against dictatorship of these same states.
To be more precise. I lived through the civil war in Tajikistan, I participated in the peace process, I was a member of the National Reconciliation Commission and, in 2005, I was elected to Parliament as a legislator (until 2015). In 2006, I led the largest parliamentary opposition party, the PIVT (Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan). The party was banned in 2015, I left the country and since then I have been fighting politically from abroad.
Russia’s mobilization of such large numbers of ethnic Tajiks would have caused greater instability in Tajikistan. What do you think?
Tajikistan cannot be a stable country for many reasons: the weakest economy in the region, which also relies on remittances from migrants, one of the most totalitarian regimes in the world, a high corruption and nepotism, proximity to Afghanistan, etc. Tajikistan today is a well-preserved powder keg that could explode at any moment.
How many Tajiks are there in Russia?
According to various data, more than 40 million people around the world identify as Tajiks. About 8 million live in Tajikistan (which has a total population of 10 million). There are more Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan itself. In recent years, many Tajiks have obtained Russian citizenship; around 410 people per day.
Are the people of Tajikistan afraid that their friends and relatives living in Russia will be taken to war? Do you think they will start speaking out against their government?
Many people are worried, but this is not yet a reason to oppose the government. Tajiks are not used to protesting, demanding or criticizing the authorities. It’s very dangerous. This is why people migrate. It is also a protest. Those who are tired of migration succumb to radicalism. So there are a lot of Tajiks who are members of IS, Taliban and other armed groups. Migration to Russia has reduced social tensions in society. Now the situation is changing, and that’s why I call the country a powder keg. People may not come out to protest a particular issue, but any spark can be a catalyst for conflict or revolution.
How close are the governments of Tajikistan and Russia?
Very close. Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon and Russian President Vladimir Putin can criticize or complain about each other, as Rahmon did recently in Astana [at the Central Asia– Russia Summit], but they are very close in spirit, mentality and worldview. More importantly, they equally and pathologically hate everything about democracy and liberalism.
What do the people of Tajikistan think of the war in Russia?
If you had asked me this question before the mobilization, my answer would have been unambiguous: the majority of Tajiks believe that Russia’s actions are right. Because there is no alternative to the propaganda of the Russian and Tajik authorities. The situation is changing. The mobilization shifted the war from Ukraine to Russia, and even to Tajikistan. Now everyone is feeling the results of the war on themselves. Russians and Tajiks who fled the mobilization provided alternative opinions and viewpoints. People wonder if the war on the Russian side is fair and why are the Russians themselves fleeing? And the doubts grow every day.