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‘I get shamed for absolutely nothing’ In Tajikistan, social media, patriarchy, and labor migration are fueling a doxxing problem — Meduza

Even in Tajikistan's repressive information environment, social media has become a space where people (particularly young people) can make their voices heard and challenge social norms. That said, the reverse is also true. While some use social networks to tackle taboos, others use the very same platforms to reinforce conservative norms, particularly when it comes to gender and sexuality. Men police and humiliate Tajikistani women by leaking their private photos and personal information online. Social media platforms, patriarchal culture, and labor migration enable this trend.

A violent Central Asia border conflict reveals authoritarianism’s communication paralysis

Fighting on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is not a new phenomenon. Previous clashes mostly involved citizens throwing rocks at their neighbors across the border. Given that half of the 600-mile border between the two countries remains undelimited, it is difficult to manage scarce water sources. While locals have frequently sparred over springs and access to pastureland, political elites on both sides have leveraged nationalist resentment to bolster the legitimacy of their rule. However, September’s spasm of violence marks a steep jump not only in the intensity of violence but the asymmetry in digital information campaigns.

How Western Media Framed Kazakhstan’s Protests

Harrowing images of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have shocked the public—but also raised tough questions about whose lives matter in the West. Critics have focused on the telling contrast in coverage between the welcome given to Ukrainian refugees and the cold shoulder given to those from countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan as well as the lack of assistance provided to African and South Asian students trying to leave Ukraine. Before the Russian invasion, however, another country in Eurasia elicited similar questions.

Central Asians in Russia Pressured to Join Moscow's Fight in Ukraine

Russia’s three-week war in Ukraine has had a shockingly high death toll, although Russian and Ukrainian authorities dispute the number of troops killed on both sides. The fog of war makes it difficult to discern not only how many soldiers have died, but also who those soldiers are and where they came from. Central Asian nationals residing in Russia are being pressured to fight in Ukraine as Moscow's military incurs heavier-than-expected losses, evidence suggests and migrants' rights activists say.

The Struggle to Power Tajikistan

Every fall, Muhibahon, a 30-year-old master’s student who lives in Hisor, a small town 30 minutes outside of Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, is forced to drastically change her daily routine. As October sets in, she wakes up at 6 a.m. every day to iron clothes for all five members of her family, make everyone breakfast, prepare some food for dinner, and charge everyone’s phones before local authorities cut off the electricity in her town at 8 a.m.

When Kazakhstan Turned Off the Internet

This was no ordinary internet blackout. For five days, the ninth largest country in the world was a black box. On the evening of Jan. 5, we set our respective alarms for 5:30 a.m. We wanted to get the earliest possible updates from our colleagues in Kazakhstan, who had been chronicling three days of demonstrations as they spread from the western oil-producing city of Zhanaozen to other urban centers across the Central Asian nation. Early morning on the East Coast was already late afternoon in Kazakhstan, yet when we woke up, nothing seemed to have changed. Our friends’ Instagram stories were 12 hours old; the single checkmarks next to our WhatsApp and Telegram messages to activists and journalists we know signaled that they hadn’t been delivered. A sinking feeling of worry set in.

When Kazakhstan Turned Off the Internet

This was no ordinary internet blackout. For five days, the ninth largest country in the world was a black box. On the evening of January 5, 2022, we set our respective alarms for 5:30 a.m. We wanted to get the earliest possible updates from our colleagues in Kazakhstan, who had been chronicling three days of demonstrations as they spread from the western oil-producing city of Zhanaozen to other urban centers across the Central Asian nation. Early morning on the East Coast was already late afternoon in Kazakhstan, yet when we woke up, nothing seemed to have changed.

Richness and resilience: A history of ballet in Tajikistan

Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, is changing rapidly from a Soviet city once known for its quiet tree-lined avenues into a bustling megapolis with towering glass high-rises. As many of the city’s Soviet-era buildings, like the former headquarters of Tajikistan’s Communist party and the famous Mayakovsky theatre, are being torn down, one grand building still proudly stands at the city’s heart – the marble white Opera and Ballet Theatre named after writer Sadriddin Ayni.

Kazakhstan’s Alternative Media Is Thriving—and in Danger

Today, Kazakhstan has only a handful of independent traditional media outlets left, which lack the ability to cover the country’s vibrant sociopolitical life, something that has thrived despite authoritarianism. The gap, however, is now being filled by alternative media: Scores of bloggers are using YouTube, Telegram, and Instagram to report on events and to contradict the narrative served by pro-government traditional media. Alternative journalism is blooming, raising questions about how far it can go before the Kazakh government pulls the plug.

Young People, Social Media, and Urban Transformation of Dushanbe

Although there are no meaningful mechanisms for Dushanbe’s young people to claim their right to the city, they are finding informal ways to do so, from documenting the changes to challenging and negotiating the narratives surrounding Dushanbe’s post-Soviet transformation on their social media profiles. Urban development has thus become one of many important social issues dissected via digital methods of storytelling.

How digitising Tajikistan’s heritage is connecting a scattered diaspora

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked new efforts to connect Tajiks around the world to their culture. In early 2020, Masud Khalifazoda, the Tajik ambassador to the UK, reached out to movie director and poet Anisa Sabiri, with an idea to open the Tajik Cultural Centre (TCC): a cultural centre in the UK that would help connect English-speaking audiences to Tajik culture. “We planned to hold our first events in London, but the pandemic disrupted our plans. We, however, didn’t give up and decided to move online.”

Transforming Tajikistan: Between a Soviet past and a Tajik future

Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, is changing rapidly. In what was once a Soviet city known for its quiet tree-lined avenues, new highrise towers and grand administrative buildings are emerging. It is an extraordinary transformation taking place as Tajikistan reimagines what it means to be an independent Central Asian republic with its own national identity. But some residents are questioning the price at which it comes: the demolition of the city’s Soviet architecture and with it, the loss of childhood homes and memories to large-scale construction.

Digital vigilantism in Tajikistan: Smartphones, social media, and the culture of shame

The global trends of digital vigilantism have reached Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and taken on a local form. Armed with smartphones, access to the Internet, and a distrust for law enforcement, many of the city’s residents are taking on the state’s dysfunctions. Recordings of incidents of traffic violations, disorderly conduct, and kidnappings of young men into military service are regularly posted on social media to galvanize civil society and force the state to respond – all amidst an environment of tight state control over the freedom of expression and high-priced low-quality Internet.

Tajikistan’s energy sector reforms: Is energy export the only way out of the revenue dilemma?

Tajikistan’s energy sector faces a dilemma today: The country’s state-owned electricity monopoly, Barqi Tojik, is in desperate need of raising its electricity tariffs to collect the revenue necessary to reform the energy sector, but the population cannot afford paying higher tariffs, in many ways because unreliable electricity supply results in economic loss and low incomes. The roots of Barqi Tojik’s revenue problem lie in low electricity tariffs, poor collection rates, and significant transmission losses. The Tajik government is reluctant to act on infrastructural and institutional reforms of the energy sector it has committed itself to on paper. Instead, the government has been heavily investing in turning the country into an energy exporter to raise desperately needed revenue. In the process, the government is over-centralizing electricity generation and is making the country’s energy sector more vulnerable to climate change.

In conservative Tajikistan, Gen Z activists are using Instagram to fight for feminism

When Timur Timerkhanov, a 25-year old journalist from Dushanbe, lost a childhood friend to suicide — taking her life to avoid a forced marriage to a stranger — he felt a call to action. Like many other young Tajikstanis, he reached out to the only platform that felt natural: social media. “I am telling Nazira’s story so that her sacrifice isn’t pointless,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “The subject of forced marriage is just one of many examples of gender and domestic violence. It’s scary to think about the girls who can’t find any other way out.”

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