Gulnora Amirshoeva, a freshly-elected member of the city council in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe and a prominent Russian-speaking journalist, recently profaned the state language, Tajik, by using it to tell Tajik-speaking Facebook users “motherf**ers, eat my s***.”
In a nation that was part of both the Russian empire and the Soviet Union, but where most people speak a variety of Farsi called Tajik as their first language, Amirshoeva's comment has gone off like a bomb.
Amirshoeva, Editor-in-Chief of the Vecherniy Dushanbe newspaper, became a member of the city council in elections on March 1. Campaigning for the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT), she won the seat with 79.6 percent of the vote.
Given the number of Tajik-speaking opposition candidates that had failed the mandatory test in the country's state language while competing for the national parliament, many questioned how Amirshoeva, known for preferring Russian, the country's ‘language of inter-ethnic communication’, had not had to sit one to become a city representative.
As a response to this criticism, Gulnora Amirshoeva commented on Facebook (mostly in Russian with expletives in Tajik):
Это ладно, мою персону уже неделю обсуждает весь таджикоязычный фейсбук, что я не знаю , мол, язык и не должна быть депутатом , так и хочется послать их на этом самом таджикском и сказать к…и оча, гуи маро то ба кай хойда мешинед! ))))))
So, the whole of Tajik-speaking Facebook has been discussing my personality for the last week, saying I should not be a deputy because I do not know the language. I would like to tell them to shove it in that very same language by saying: eat my s***, motherf**ers!
Amirshoeva's provocative call to eat her excrement led to a spike in activity among Tajik-speaking Facebook users.
Unsurprisingly most comments were condemnatory. Zavqibek Saidamini, a Tajik journalist, posted on Facebook that Amirshoeva had insulted the language:
Дар ин пост 100% ЗАБОНИ ТОЧИКИ ПАСТ ЗАДА ШУДА АСТ! Гуё ки ин “бону” дар кадом як кишвари Русия зиндагони дораду бо дустонаш точикону точикзабононро барраси доранд!!!! Мехохам ба онхое, ки аз ин вакил имтихони забони точики гирифтанд бипурсам, ки ин “намояндаи халк” чи гуна имтихон супорид ё вакилони шахри имтихон намесупоранд?!
Баъдан ин “намояндаи халк” бо ин забону бо ин гуфтораш чи ХИДМАТЕ ба интихобкунандагонаш, ки шояд хама ба таъбири худи у “таджикоязычный”-янд КАРДА МЕТАВОНАД????
She has totally insulted the Tajik language in her comment! As if this ‘lady’ were living in a Russian city and discussing Tajiks and Tajik-speaking people! I want to ask those who accepted the Tajik language test from this representative: How did she pass the test, or do municipal representatives not take the test?After that, I would like to ask what this ‘representative of the people’ with this manner of speaking, can do for her voters, who might all be, as she says, ‘Tajik-speaking'?
Nosirjon Ma'murzoda wrote:
Аслан, банда мухолифи ҳама гуна “бигӯмагӯ”-ҳо бо ҳампешаҳо ҳастам ва ҳамеша ба ҳамраъйӣ бо журналистон моилам. Аммо акнун бо вакили мардум интихоб шудани Амиршоева, вай нафари оммавӣ шудааст. Ба ҳар ҳол, агар ман аз он ҳавза интихобкунанда мебудам, ҳатман ба ин вакил эрод мегирифтам. Маданияти баланди муошират ва донистани меъёрҳои забони давлатӣ бисёр муҳим аст. Дар ин матни шарҳи вакил беэҳтиромӣ нисбат ба забон эҳсос мешавад.
I am always in solidarity with another journalist. However, getting elected as a representative of people, Amirshoeva becomes a public person. If I was participating in that vote, I would definitely complain about this representative. A high culture of communication and knowledge of state language are very important norms. Her comment shows her contempt for the language.
A group of Tajik-speaking Facebookers wrote a complaint to the ImruzNews local newspaper asking Amirshoeva to apologise in front of the Tajik nation.
However, Amirshoeva did not stop there. She responded:
за мной весь неадекватный тадж фб следить и то мне пофиг, а ты говоришь)))) скоро не так моргну, начнут ещё два месяца это обсуждать, говоря, что можно депутату, а что нет.)))) так что расслабься )))))
All of the inadequates on Tajik Facebook are following me, and I don't give a hell)))) If I blink the wrong way, they will discuss it for two more months, saying what is allowed for a councillor and what is not. ))) So relax.
Gulnora Amirshoeva is a controversial figure in the mostly-Muslim nation. She is also known for condemning the participation of state officials in the Jum'a Prayers (a compulsory prayer for Sunni Muslims every Friday afternoon), which also earned her the wrath of Facebook users and may have contributed to the scrutiny she received after winning her election to the Dushanbe council.
It is not the first time a Tajik journalist has used a word for human waste to devastating effect. Olga Tutubalina, a journalist from Asia-Plus news agency, famously called Tajikistan's pro-government intelligentsia govno, or ‘shit’ last year and was promptly and successfully sued by the same intelligentsia for insulting their ‘honour’.
Tutubalina was paraphrasing bolshevik Vladimir Lenin, who wrote in a letter to writer Maxim Gorky: “The intelligentsia — is not the brain of the nation, it is her s***.”
Every Facebook comment has two sides
Shortly after this article was published, a Tajik Facebook user, who knows Amirshoeva and wished to remain anonymous contacted Global Voices to say:
Fantastic article about Amirshoeva! I think the author needs to make one slight correction though. The article suggests that Amirshoeva passed the Tajik language exam while some other candidates didn't. In reality, she did not have to sit the exam at all. The exam is a must only for those who seek to get elected to the parliament.
This was part of the whole debate. Many nationalists started it on Facebook,without understanding the difference. She tried to explain, but people began to insult her, with many also discussing her personal life, party membership, and posting insulting comments on her 9-year-old son's Facebook page. If you dig deep enough, you would see some comments telling more explicitly what I think actually irked many people: the fact she has “shoeva” in her last name (usually this ending suggests the person is of Pamiri origin). This is what angered Amirshoeva. However, she did not think she was going public with that comment – she posted it as a comment in response to a thread started by her friend, not as a separate status update.
Also, I think the summary is a bit unfair to Amirshoeva. She does speak Tajik, at a very good street level. She might not be able to write an article in Tajik, but she can freely express herself in the language.
Information about the state language exam and the summary to the article which originally read ‘if the only words you know in another language are expletives, better to say nothing at all’, have since been amended.