Tajik President Emomali Rahmon was recently touring Europe but few seemed willing to meet with him. That was too bad for European officials, since Rahmon had an interesting comment.
Rahmon's tour took him to France, Austria, Luxembourg, and Hungary. He did not meet with many high-placed government officials (except the Austrian president), but Rahmon did meet with officials from European institutions, though he seems not to have made a much of an impression.
Heidi Hautala, the chairwoman of the European Parliament's subcommittee on human rights, met with Rahmon and later told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that he "was not extremely open" in their conversation.
Hautala pressed him on human rights issues and told Rahmon there needed to be more transparency and openness in Tajikistan in terms of human rights. But Hautala said she came away with the impression that "for the [Tajik] president, it was enough that the main principles of observing human rights were outlined in the constitution."
Such an impression is perhaps not surprising, since Rahmon did not travel to Europe to answer questions about Tajikistan's domestic affairs but to ask Europeans to invest in Tajikistan.
Rahmon was, of course, also seeking support for building the giant Roghun hydropower plant project that neighboring Uzbekistan so vehemently opposes. And as a reward for this potential support Rahmon treated those attending his speeches to marathon oratories that likely left them with little desire to question the Tajik president about anything.
Some Tajiks have pointed out that if European officials had to endure such an hours-long speech for one day, they should consider that Tajiks are treated to these long speeches regularly.
But Rahmon's show-stopper comment came in his meeting with Hautala, when she asked the Tajik president about increasing prohibitions against young people attending mosques or madrasahs.
Rahmon's reply: "You prohibit minors from drinking alcohol, don't you?"
-- Bruce Pannier