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Tajikistan Begins Spring Draft, Says Conditions Have Improved

DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan has begun its spring draft, with authorities seeking to reassure young men and their families that oft-criticized conditions for conscripts have improved, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The two-month-long effort -- repeated each fall -- seeks to enlist thousands of young men aged 18-27 for the two-year compulsory military service.

Authorities say some 600,000 youths are eligible for military service. Of those, some 150,000 are eligible for an exemption or postponement.

Young Tajiks can avoid or postpone military service if they are ill, studying at university, an only son, or if they have two children.

Some 100,000 Tajik youths are estimated to be working as labor migrants in Russia.

Every spring and fall, when the draft begins, some Tajik parents send their children to Russia to avoid their being enlisted.

One 28-year-old man named Abdurauf told RFE/RL he returned home from Russia because he is now too old to be drafted.

Abdurauf said he loves his country but questioned who would feed his family if he spent two years in military service.

Some parents say hazing in the military, conscripts' poor diet, and an attack on a military convoy that left dozens of Tajik soldiers dead last fall have prompted them to find alternatives for their sons.

Mother-of-two Nazarbegim said she sent one son to work in Russia and a second to university.

However, Defense Ministry spokesperson Faridun Mahmadaliev said on April 1 that conditions have improved in recent years and that parents should not be worried about the fate of their children.

Read in Tajik here