Besides being the poorest country in Central Asia, Tajikistan might also be the region's leader in treating young military conscripts, most horribly.
Unheated barracks, lack of food, and routine violence are quite common for those who choose to (or are forced to) serve their motherland. The recent death of a young conscript, fatally beaten [ru] by his lance sergeant, has brought the issues of national conscription, forced abduction into the army and military hazing into sharper public focus.
According to an investigation that concluded last week, after a communal dinner on April 17, LSgt Farrukh Davlatov requested three young army recruits to go to a room where he promptly began beating them. After getting hit in the stomach, one of them, Akmal Davlatov (no relation), choked [ru] on a piece of bread he had not fully digested and died on his way to a hospital.
Systematic violence in relation to young military conscripts is not unusual in post-Soviet militaries. There is even a special term for it – dedovshina – wherein ded refers to older draftees close to finishing their term in the army. Young recruits go through a number of “trials” at the hands of the ded that usually involve some form of humiliation. Soon those oppressed find themselves in the positions of oppressors, creating what some believe is a vicious circle, and others believe is a school of manhood.
The following video entitled “Dedovshina in the Tajik Army” shows draftees standing against the wall and being violently beaten by a ded.
Naturally the comments underneath the video are mostly condemnatory.
Kayumars Sayfullo writes [taj]:
Эй вой дод. Ба. Холи. Шумо. Мусалмонон. Барои хар як шатаи задагиат. Дар. Пеши. Худованд. Чавобгаред
Shame on such Muslims like you. For every time you strike a blow, you will be judged by God.
Dedovshina fuels reluctance to enter the army. Many would-be conscripts emigrate to Russia in search of work, while those with the means bribe their way out of military service. Because of this, some recruitment officers resort to the practice of oblava, or kindapping young men of military age.
The following video shows an oblava victim begging [taj] to be released:
Although most responses to the video focussed on the wrongdoing of the government, some commenters under the video felt the young draftee overreacted:
Forsi persi wrote [ru]:
Бародарони точик ба хизмат равед ва хизмати модар ватанро адо кунед…ин шармандаги барои ин чавон писареки ин хел гиря мекунад марг бар ту номард ….
Tajik bretheren, go to the army and serve your motherland. It is a shame for a young man to cry like that. Shame on you, coward.
Despite the kidnappings being illegal, a Tajik human rights defender told the BBC that about 40% of the republic's military conscripts arrive [ru] in the army as a result of kidnappings. Oblava sometimes goes international. In an article entitled “Oblava Without Borders” RFER/L's Tajik service reported that 31 Tajik students studying in a university in Batken, Kyrgyzstan were abducted [ru] into the Tajik army during their academic semester. Legally students should get an exemption from serving, but that did not stop recruitment officers, who refused to return the students despite requests from the university and the draftees’ parents.
Being over the age of military conscription also does not guarantee safety from the kidnaps. Djaloliddin Ahmad, who is 42, was kidnapped [ru] on his way to a mosque in broad daylight. When he tried to talk to the officers about his rights he was insulted and mocked. More tragically, in March 2014, another young private fell [ru] victim to dedovshina. Shahbol Mirzoyev ended up in a hospital with a broken neck and a number of other injuries when he went to an army medical station complaining of tooth pain. The executors of the beating he received were paramedics at the medical station.
Here Mirzoyev describes [taj] his experience:
Given the increasing prominence of incidences of manslaughter and suicides [ru] in the Tajik army, the fact many young Tajik men take a “whatever does not kill you only makes you stronger” approach to their national service verges on dark comedy. Nevertheless, that was the essence of Pozhiratel Kurutoba's recent tweet [ru] on the topic:
Выить [sic] в нашей армии и не сломаться – это вообще задача не из лёгких. Зато если ты выживешь в армии, ничего в жизни тебя не сломает.
Surviving in our army is no easy task. But if you do survive the army, nothing in life can break you.
Conservative blogger Rustam Gulov, who is organizing an online fundraiser for Mirzoyev, has also written [ru] on the practices of oblava and dedovshina in a blog post on blogiston.tj titled “Have You Served?”