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After a Fatal Car Crash, Tajik President is Told to “Get His House in Order”

There are not many netizens in Tajikistan that have remained silent about a recent car crash in Dushanbe involving a relative of President Emomali Rahmon. The incident has demonstrated once again that powerful and well-connected individuals are above the law in the country. But it has also shown that simple technological devices and social media can help expose the wrongdoings of the elites.

Blogger Temur Mengliev summarizes [ru] the incident and the role played by social media in preventing the powerful family from covering it up:

Рано утром 9 октября БМВ с номерами “20-20 РТ 01″ на огромной скорости врезалась в другой автомобиль в центре Душанбе. В результате трое человек из второго автомобиля погибли сразу, и еще трое оказались в больнице с тяжелыми переломами. Из ночного клуба по соседству с местом аварии выбежали люди, которые вызвали скорую помошь и сняли произошедшее на мобильные телефоны.

Дальше все развивалось по принципу “такое возможно только в Таджикистане”. На следующее утро представители милиции заявили, что за рулем машины, устроившей аварию, находился племянник Амонулло Хукумова, зятька президента и раиса железной дороги. Эта версия наверно так и осталась бы официальной, если бы молодные люди, ставшие свидетелями аварии и запечатлевшие все на мобильные телефоны, не стали писать в Одноклассниках и на Фейсбуке, что за рулем автомобиля на самом деле был сын Хукумова, Расул Амонулло. Об этом говорили и выжившие участники аварии. Отмазать этого хукбача было невозможно еще и потому, что он сам на своей странице в Интсаграме выкладывал фото с автомобилем БМВ с номерами “20-20 РТ 01″ и хвастался, что разгоняет его до 300 км в час. 

Early in the morning on October 9, a BMW with number plates “20-20 PT 01″ driving way over the speed level crashed into another car in central Dushanbe. As a result, three passengers in the second car died immediately, and another three passengers ended up in a hospital with serious injuries. People soon ran out from a night club near the site of the crash, calling the ambulance and recording [photos and videos] of the incident on their mobile phone [cameras].

Since then things have developed based on the principle “it is only possible in Tajikistan”. The next morning police announced that the car which caused the crash had been driven by a nephew of Amonullo Khukumov, a [relative] of the president and head of the [Tajik] railroad company. This version would have probably remained official if it wasn't for young people who witnessed the crash and recorded it on their mobile phone [cameras]; these people stated on Odnoklassnili [Russian-language social networking service] and Facebook that the car had actually been driven by Khukumov's son, Rasul Amonullo. Individuals that survived the crash said the same thing. Also, they could not help this piglet [Rasul Amonullo] escape punishment because he himself had posted photos on Instagram with the BMW, number plates “20-20 PT 01″, and bragged about driving the car at 300 km per hour [about 186 mile per hour].

Three people died and another three are in hospital after the deadly car crash in Dushanbe. This photo from the scene of the crash has been circulating in social media.

Three people died and another three are in hospital after the deadly car crash in Dushanbe. This photo from the scene of the crash has been circulating in social media.

The photos the blogger mentions and screen captures of Amonullo's comments have since been publicized by many independent media outlets in Tajikistan (see here and here, for example). Some of these photos depict the young man holding a pistol or smoking a hookah with the pistol lying on the table beside him. 

The blogger continues [ru]:

Затем было еще интереснее. Милиции пришлось признать, что виновником аварии действительно был Расул Амонулло, но вот родственники пострадавших почему-то отказались писать заявление против него в милицию… Милиции также пришлось признать то, о чем пользователи Фейсбука уже давно рассказали: что сам Расул немедленно после аварии вылетел за рубеж. Оказалось, что хукбача лечит руку в Германии. Теперь милиция заявляет, что не могли его задержать, так как ему всего 16 лет. А вот в Фейсбуке и в Одноклассниках снова поправляют: не 16, а 18, так что судить его нужно по полной. 

What has come afterwards is even more interesting. Police had to admit that the crash was Rasul Amonullo's fault, but the relatives of the victims have for some reason refused to file complaints against him. Police also had to admit what Facebook users had been telling earlier – that Rasul left the country immediately after the crash. It turned out that the piglet is getting medical treatment for an arm injury in Germany. Now police states that they could not detain him because he is only 16. But Facebook and Odnoklassniki users correct them again: he is 18 rather than 16, so he should face the punishment to the full extent of the law.

Police has admitted that Rasul Amonullo was responsible for the deadly car crash. This photo served as Amonullo's profile image on Instagram.

Police has admitted that the deadly car crash was Rasul Amonullo's fault. This photo served as Amonullo's profile image on Instagram.

“Tajikistan does not have the law…”

The crash has dominated social media discussion in Tajikistan over the past five days. Netizens have criticized the authorities, including the country's president, for letting the wealthy and the well-connected to escape punishment. They have also criticized law-enforcement agencies for turning a blind eye to offences committed by the elites.

Below are just a handful of comments that are typical of hundreds of posts left on social networks and news forums during the past several days. 

Anis Kodirov writes [tj] in the comments section on ASIA-Plus:

Конун надорад точикистон хамаш сумай(пул)мо шохиди бисйор аваряхо хастем одам мурдестай болотаракош бизнес пулчам кадестан…

Tajikistan does not have the law. Money is everything. We have witnessed many car crashes [like this]. Ordinary people die while the powerful continue making money…

Umar adds [ru]:

Еще раз убедился, что в Таджикистане законы принуждают соблюдать только бедному народу, а авторам этих законов, он не писан в том числе сыновьям чиновников и прочим руководителям этой коррупционной страны…

This has reinforced my conviction that only the poor people in Tajikistan are forced to obey the law. Those who write our laws, including the children of senior officials and other leaders of our corrupt country, are above the law…

On Facebook, Parvina Khamidova highlights [ru] the role of social media users in disallowing the authorities to cover up the accident and compares life in Tajikistan to a reality show:

Спасибо социальным сетям за историю с Хукумовским отпрыском – киллером на колосах. Благодаря им мы узнали стопроцентно чья была машина и сколько она стоила. Своими глазами увидели, что делает с человеком, даже совсем молодым, безнаказанность и вседозволенность…Я  так понимаю если родители в суд не пойдут, убийца так и не сядет? Если это так, то каждый выход на улицу для “простых смертных” прошу приравнять к эпизоду шоу на выживание “последний герой”. С той только разницей что игра ведется всерьез. Когда в стране не работает закон. Ну вообще никак. Она превращается в джунгли а жить позволяется только тем, кто пройдет естественныйй отбор.

Thanks to social media for [publicizing] the real story of Khukumov's offspring, the murderer in a car. Thanks to [social media] we have learnt who actually drove the car during the crash and how much the car cost. We have also seen for ourselves what permissiveness and impunity do to people, even the younger ones… Do I understand correctly that if the parents [of the victims] do not take the issue to court, the murderer will not go to prison? If this is so, then each time we leave our homes should be considered equivalent to an episode of survival show “Last Hero” [Russian reality show, based on the American “Survival” show]. The only difference is that our game is real. When a country's law does not work, the country turns into a jungle where only those who survive the natural selection process are allowed to live.

Responding to Temur Mengliev's blog post, “Advokat iz Dushanbe” [Lawyer from Dushanbe] suggests [ru] that the authorities need to get some facts straight:

На мой взгляд, ключевым в этой истории является возраст Расула и именно в этом нужно разобраться. Если Расулу действительно 16 как сейчас утверждают, то он всего лишь ребенок. Да, испорченный, наглый, обнаглевший, но ребенок. В данном случае в отношении него должны применяться более мягкие меры, чем те, которые предусматривает уголовный кодекс. Но если ему 18, то конечно он должен понести наказание как взрослый человек, по всей строгости УК. В любом случае, нужно теперь разобраться в том, почему ему разрешили покинуть страну после совершения преступления.

In my view, the key question in this whole story is Rasul [Amonullo's] age, and this is where we need to get our facts straight. If Rasul is really 16, as they claim now, then he is just a child. Yes, a spoiled, pushy, and impudent child, but still a child. In this case, he should face milder punishment than the one provided for by the Criminal Code. But if he is 18, then certainly he should face the punishment as an adult, to the full extent of the law. In any case, we now need to find out why he was allowed to leave the country after committing an [alleged] crime.

Many netizens argue that Rasul's parents, particularly his influential father Amonullo Khukumov, should be held responsible for their underage child's wrongdoings. Netizens demand action under the Parental Responsibility Law which was initiated by President Emomali Rahmon and adopted in 2011. In a further comment to Mengliev's blog, Fariza writes [ru]:

ну а если ему 16 то наказание должны нести его родители, не так ли? мы ведь приняли закон об ответственности родителей, сам президент столько за него выступал. тогда отвечать должен хукумов. у него нужно спросить: 1) почему его несовершенолетний сын в 2 часа ночи разъезжает на машине? 2) где его несовершенолетний сын взял деньги на бмв? 3) как его несовершенолетнему сыну удалось получить права? 4) где его сын взял пистолет с которым он понтуется на всех фото? 5) почему его несовершенолетний сын курит (все есть на фото)? 

If [Rasul Amonullo] is 16, then his parents should bear responsibility for his actions, shouldn't they? We have adopted the parental responsibility law for which the president advocated personally. In this case, [Amonullo] Khukumov should be held responsible. He should be asked the following questions: 1) Why does his underage son drive a car at 2 a.m.? 2) Where did his underage son get the money to buy a BMW? 3) How did his underage child get a driving license? 4) Where did his son get the gun that he displays on all his photos? 5) Why does his underage child smoke (it is all on the photos)?

President “should get his house in order”

Fariza also recalls that Khukumov's older son, Rustam, had been imprisoned in Russia for 10 years on charges of narcotics trafficking. After his release from Russian prison and return to Tajikistan, Rustam sued a newspaper that speculated about the reasons why he was freed. 

She proposes [ru]:

эти вопросы должен первую очередь задать сам президент, тем более хукумов ему родственник. это уже не первый раз этот мразь позорит нашу нацию. все забыли что его старшего сына посадили в россии за героин? этот случай как тревожный звонок президенту что ему нужно навести порядок в своей семье.

The president himself should be the first to raise the above questions, particularly because Khukumov is his relative. This is not the first time that this scum is dishonoring our nation. Have you all forgotten that his older son was jailed in Russia for heroin [smuggling]? This accident should serve as a warning call to our president that he should get his house in order.

Marat agrees [ru] on ASIA-Plus:

Что скажет наш уважаемый президент по этому поводу ? Самое время прилюдно наказать обнаглевших родственников. От этого зависит его будущая репутация и уважение народа к нему.

What will our respected president say about this? It is time for him to punish publicly his insolent relatives. His reputation and whether people will continue respecting him is at stake here.

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