Tajik defense officials worry about hazing, army morale

20/04/2016 09:23
Asia-Plus
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DUSHANBE, April 20, 2016, Asia-Plus -- An article released by EurasiaNet.org on April 19 notes that with Tajikistan now in the midst of its spring conscription drive, Tajik defense officials are worrying about the state of discipline and morale among the armed forces.

Authorities say they have already enlisted 50 percent of the required number of conscripts this season.  The techniques used to hit targets strike terror into the hearts of young Tajik men and for many they amount to little more than legalized mass kidnapping.

EurasiaNet.org reports pictures have appeared on social media showing young men being rounded up directly from the streets of the capital, Dushanbe.  Social media has also served as a platform in the past for anonymously spreading alleged photographic evidence of hazing among conscripts.  Media reported last year on four deaths in Tajikistan as a result of hazing: Firdavs Rahmatov, Abduvahhob Qayumov, Parviz Dustmatov and Azam Ubaidulloyev.

In an unhappy piece of timing, a court in Dushanbe has just heard the trial of 22-year old man Umedjon Amrokhon, who is accused of involvement in the fatal attack in November on a group of military mobilization personnel.  Two of the officers were killed in the assault.

Prosecutors have asked that Amrokhon be thrown behind bars for life.

“This is too grave a sentence. During the final address [to the court] we asked the judge for a milder sentence, and we have also written a letter to the president of Tajikistan,” Amrokhon’s mother, Savlatbi Rahmatova, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service.

Investigators denied at the time of the arrest that the killings were linked to Fall recruitment drive.  But a law enforcement official has told EurasiaNet.org that Amrokhon was in the process of being forcibly press-ganged at the time of the fatal confrontation.

“They wanted to take him away into the army and he began putting up resistance with a knife that he had with him.  After he was detained, he freely admitted his guilt, but he expressed no remorse for what he had done and said that he was only defending himself,” the law enforcement source told EurasiaNet.org on condition of anonymity.

Amrokhon is the only son in his family, which appears to partly explain his reluctance to be conscripted.  In similar situations, Tajik families will go to extreme measures to ensure at least one young male member of the family is spared being made to go through military service as the man will often serve as the household’s only breadwinner.

Also, as Amrokhon is from the city of Kulob, the recruitment officers were not technically allowed to take him away for conscription in Dushanbe.  Such legal distinction rarely trouble enlistment brigades, which scramble desperately to fulfill the requisite quotas.

According to the official account of the murder, Amrokhon attacked his victims when they asked to see his identification.  He fled and hid at the home of some relatives, five of whom are now also facing charges of aiding and abetting Amrokhon.

The officers allegedly killed by Amrokhon were from the military commissariat in Dushanbe’s Sino district, which has been involved in another unfortunate incident.

Last May, 21-year old Emomiddin Kholov was visiting the capital from his home in Rasht for a medical check-up related to his chronic kidney condition.  While in Dushanbe, however, he was scooped up by recruitment officers from the Sino district military commissariat. As a result of the intensive training regime, Kholov suffered complete kidney failure, according to EurasiaNet.org.

Kholov is now in urgent need of a costly kidney transplant operation. Meanwhile, the military medical officers that ruled Kholov as fit for service were fined between 7,000 and 10,000 somoni ($900 and $1,270).

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