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26 July 2010, JellyBean @ 8:25 am

Dushanbe is not a real city. It isn’t a real capital and Tajikistan is not a real country. The northern neighbour of Afghanistan is a failure with a flag, shiny passports and a gang of savvy criminals that calls itself a government. This buffer between the empires fell apart a long time ago.

The city has leafy boulevards laid out in an almost utopian socialist grid. The streets are quiet but on balmy Asian nights the streets come alive with drug mega-barons racing their SUVs, blaring out rap music and tossing a few coins at the impoverished police officers — teenagers in uniform — if anybody gets in their way. These boulevards are a Soviet mirage, a Potemkin city which was initially named after a dictator — Stalinabad. It became Dushanbe in 1961 as part of Khruschev’s de-Stalinisation.

Dushanbe is a hodge-podge of dirt tracks, sodden sewage holes, tiny whitewashed homes with corrugated-iron roofs. It swarms with under-fives, their veiled mothers, jobless dads, chickens and a nocturnal orchestra of wild dogs. Dushanbe is a slum for more than 650,000 people and the capital of a country where 70 per cent live in abject rural poverty. Tajikistan has soaring birth-rates, rising illiteracy, fraudulent elections, de-urbanisation and a 1,200km border with Afghanistan.

Rakhmatillo Zoirov has vacant pale eyes. His slacks are fraying. He lives in a dilapidated, garbage-strewn row of flats overlooking a desolate motorway. Repairmen have been absent since the fall of communism and children play gangsters in courtyards of broken glass. No one takes schooling here seriously. Zoirov is the only opposition politician publically to criticise the dictatorial leader Emomali Rakhmon.

Read the whole article here: Standpoint Magazine

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