The Tajik parliament is currently mulling a bill that would prohibit all names of “Islamic origin.” The bill has not yet been passed but is seen as the latest in a series of steps taken by the government in an attempt to counter extremism in the country. The Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has explicitly instructed the parliament to consider the bill, making it likely that the bill will pass, as the parliament rarely acts independently of the country’s president. The controversial bill is the latest in a series of steps taken by the government in an attempt to curb the outflow of its citizens to conflict zones such as Syria. The government previously announced an amnesty for any of its citizens fighting in Syria if they returned to Tajikistan, and rhetoric critical of Islamic dress has more frequently been pronounced by the president and other Tajik government officials.
The crackdown on Islam coincides with increased security concerns near the Tajik border with Afghanistan. The Tajik government recently announced the creation of a “second wall” of security near its border with Afghanistan, and has jailed a number of its own citizens for suspected involvement with the Islamic State. The impact of the measures is unclear, though the possibility of greater public dissent as a result of the measures is possible.
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- Five members of the Ukrainian military were killed in the country’s east amidst renewed violence between military forces and separatists operating in the region. The most recent incidence took place on May 6 with exchanges of fire taking place over a period of 24 hours. The Ukrainian government has reported on continued rebel-led attacks on Mariupol, the largest Ukrainian-held city in the conflict zone. The Minsk ceasefire, while still in place, appears tenuous and near a complete breakdown. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated recently that the European Union does not want the truce to last, and is indeed hoping that it breaks down.
- Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan have agreed “to fast track” the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) initiative agreed upon by the three countries in conjunction with the Asian Development Bank. CAREC is intended as an infrastructure development project that includes proposed improvements to transport, energy and trade mechanisms throughout Central Asia. The Asian Development Bank has allocated approximately $275 million to the project.
- The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation has been awarded a new contract to undertake oilfield development operations in Iran. The new agreement was signed earlier this week and will grant the CNPC access to the North Azadegan oil field. The expected daily production is touted at greater than 25,000 bpd.
- Russian energy major Gazprom has announced a suit against Ukraine’s primary energy company Naftogaz. The suit, which will seek to recoup approximately $24 billion of what it alleges are outstanding payments on gas delivered to Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has already disputed these claims, stating that Gazprom actually owes Naftogaz $16 billion following arbitration undertaken in Sweden.