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Did a Facebook Post Speed up the Rescue of Tajik Citizens from Yemen?

Tajik citizens alongside with Russians are preparing to board a Russian plane to evacuate from Yemen. Picture from:

Bilqis, 17 months-old daughter of Shahnoza Gadoeva, waiting to board a Russian plane to evacuate from Yemen. Widely shared.

Shahnoza Gadoeva was one of over a hundred Tajik doctors working and living with their families in Yemen when a bombing campaign spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and its allies began last month. As she published an SOS post in a Facebook group asking for a help to be evacuated, she had no idea her plea would go viral.

И кто нас спасет? Мы живем в Йемене ,работаем медиками , нас здесь больше 300 ,400 человек счетая с детьми . Со вчерашней ночи Йеменскую столицу бомбят Саудовские самалеты. Наш МИД молчит … Мы в страхе . Россия пока не соберется отправить самалеты МЧС .

And who will rescue us? We live in Yemen, work as doctors, there are more than 300 of us, 400 if to count children too. Yemen is being bombed by Saudi planes since yesterday night. Our MFA is silent. We are horrified. Russia is not going to send the [Ministry of Emergency Situations] planes yet.

Tens of Facebook users reached out to comfort her psychologically, some linked her to the International Red Cross and the Tajik authorities, others advised her to demand help from the Russian recruitment agencies that found work for the Tajik medics there, while some simply prayed for her and for other Tajiks stuck in Yemen.

Tajik woman headin to the plane evacuating the CIS citizens from Yemen. Photo was provided to the Global Voices by Shahnoza Gadoeva

Tajik woman headin to the plane evacuating the CIS citizens from Yemen. Photo was provided to Global Voices by Shahnoza Gadoeva.

Shahnoza’s post became the day’s top newsmaker in Tajikistan, with journalists citing her in RussianTajik and English while the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) was bombarded with media demands for a response.

Luckily for Shahnoza and other Tajiks trapped in Yemen, Facebook — frequently shut down by the Central Asian country's over-zealous communications service — was not blocked that day.

By evening the MFA had publicized President Emomali Rahmon’s order for Tajik missions in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, and Russia (Tajikistan has no diplomatic representation in Yemen) to mobilise for the evacuation effort.

Russian planes have already evacuated Tajikistan's citizens and other citizens of the CIS republics’ citizens from Yemen in 2010 and arrived this time, too. The first group of evacuated Tajiks arrived in Dushanbe on April 3. To date, about 100 Tajiks have been evacuated from Yemen on at least three separate flights.

Shahnoza was subsequently interviewed by Russian TV. She did not forget to thank all her group-mates on Facebook.

Дорогие земляки огромное спасибо за поддержку. Я счастлива что смогла выбраться оттуда с детьми живой здоровой, в этом заслуга каждого из вас кто звонил, переживал, поддерживал морально, помогал решить нашу проблему. Низкий поклон всем вам .

Dear compatriots, thank you a lot for the support. I am happy I was able to leave there with children healthy and alive. All of you have contributed to this, everyone who called, worried for me, supported morally, helped to solve our problem. Thank you to all of you.

While Shahnoza estimated the number of Tajiks in Yemen at 400 including children, other estimates place the population closer to 800 since many go there without the help of recruitment agencies that are the only reliable source of information on the Tajik total given the state of war-torn Yemen's government.

These medical specialists are considered skilled and experienced with valued diplomas from Soviet universities. The high rate of unemployment and low salaries in Tajikistan force them to go to Yemen and work for average wages of $600-800 for nurses and $1,200-2,000 for doctors, several times more than they could earn in Tajikistan.

While the MFA issued a warning to citizens not to work in Yemen after a Tajik nurse was kidnapped by rogue tribesmen, some Tajik medics, especially those in safer areas of Yemen, preferred to stay and keep their job rather than return to face unemployment.

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