30 september 2020

Central Asia news

Said Abdullo Nuri's death put the Islamic Revival Party on the threshold of disintegration

21.08.2006 14:09 msk

Dmitry Glumskov

Religious life Tajikistan

One of the most prominent Tajik politicians who would have certainly affected the outcome of the presidential election come November, Said Abdullo Nuri died in Dushanbe on August 9. His followers were expecting it. Cancer in advanced stages had compelled Nuri to abandon active politics months ago. Unable to run for president against his enemy of old Emomali Rakhmonov, Nuri would have backed some candidate from the opposition and his word carried weight in Tajik society... Unfortunately, Nuri did not leave a successor. Now that he is out of the picture, President Rakhmonov does not have any serious political rivals to worry about.

The Tajik Islamic Revival Party Nuri has headed for 13 years is the only legitimate Islamic party in Central Asia. As a matter of fact, Nuri has preached Islamic fundamentalism ever since the Soviet era (the fact that earned him several arrests by state security, the notorious KGB). It was Nuri who came up with the idea of an Islamic state on the territory of Tajikistan. The idea was later transformed into the concept of a caliphate on the territory of the Ferghana Valley. It permitted analysts to call Nuri the spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan whose gunmen made several raids into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the late 1990's.

Nuri achieved prominence in 1997 when he signed on behalf of the United Tajik Opposition a peace treaty with Rakhmonov's People's Front. The treaty signed in Moscow put an end to a five-year civil war in Tajikistan. Enraged by Nuri's sharp criticism, official Dushanbe put the Islamic Revival Party under considerable pressure several years ago. Nuri announced that Rakhmonov had violated the terms of the peace treaty with the campaign he launched against former gunmen of the United Tajik Opposition. Nuri's right-hand man Shamsuddin Shamsuddinov was arrested and sentenced to years behind the bars three years ago. Shamsuddinov became the first senior representative of the opposition tried and sentenced for the crimes committed in the civil war years ago.

Local experts believe that the sentence Shamsuddinov drew (16 years imprisonment) became a precedent and a message to all former members of the United Tajik Opposition. The impression is that Rakhmonov is using the war on terrorism as a pretext needed to strip the Islamic Revival Party of the former influence and outlaw it again. In fact, precisely this hypothesis was suggested as an explanation as soon as Shamsuddinov's trial was over.

With Shamsuddinov's trial under way, official Dushanbe filed suits against other prominent functionaries of the opposition - but not against Nuri himself. Probably because he was already known as a sick man. The regime decided that Nuri could not come up with anything against Rakhmonov's idea of a referendum to amend the Constitution. Fifty-six amendments to the Constitution were suggested, mostly harmless and neutral concerning the spheres of health care, culture, and suchlike. And yet, new terms of presidency were among other amendments the Tajiks voted for. Under the previous Constitution, the president was to be elected for only one 7-year tenure. The amended Constitution permits two 7-year tenures. The November election will be arranged in accordance with the new provision already. It means that Rakhmonov may remain in the driver's seat until 2020.

Predictably enough, the Islamic Revival Party spoke against the referendum itself and questioned integrity of the bulletin-count afterwards. Nuri, however, was fairly serene. "No need to quarrel over a referendum," he said. "One 7-year term of office or two is immaterial as long as it does not interfere with peace and unity of the nation." This serenity put the Islamic Revival Party on the verge of a split. The hawks demanded a more resolute resistance to Rakhmonov's initiatives and even suggested renewal of the armed confrontation but it was the doves who got the upper hand. Even the crushing defeat in the parliamentary election when the Islamic Revival Party got only two seats on the parliament did not deteriorate into a serious political confrontation in Tajikistan even though the party did condemn the outcome of the election as deliberately tampered with.

Tajikistan has never been known for abundance of politicians matching Rakhmonov in clout and influence. The recent series of arrests and deaths make the outcome of the forthcoming presidential election practically a foregone conclusion. Moreover, disintegration of the Islamic Revival Party continues even now. Two factions have all but been formed already: pro-Western under Muhiddin Kabiri and pro-Iranian (the so called Islamic group) under Nuri's son Muhammad. The disintegration is only playing into the hands of official Dushanbe: now that Nuri is dead, his followers quit the party out of disagreement with political projects of the new leaders.

Ekspert, August 21, 2006

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