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Tajik Journalists Picket Uzbek Embassy Over Rail Holdup

At an earlier protest, Tajik students also demanded the resumption of rail links.
At an earlier protest, Tajik students also demanded the resumption of rail links.
DUSHANBE -- More than 20 journalists protested today outside the Uzbek Embassy in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to demand an end to what they call Uzbekistan's ongoing economic blockade of Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The protesters chanted "Release Tajik freight cars!" and demanded a meeting with Uzbek Ambassador Shohqosim Shohislomov.

An embassy employee who declined to give his name asked the journalists to leave and come back to meet the ambassador after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit scheduled for later this week.

Abduazimi Abduvahhob, one of the protesters, told RFE/RL that the demonstrators took part in the protest not only as journalists, but also as representatives of a new generation of young Tajiks angry at decades of confrontation between Central Asian leaders.

Another journalist, Abdulazizi Vose, told RFE/RL that Uzbekistan's blocking of rail freight bound for Tajikistan is becoming a national issue, not just a dispute between two national leaders or two governments.

It was the first protest rally by Tajik journalists outside the Uzbek Embassy in Dushanbe. Tajik students abroad earlier staged similar protests outside the Uzbek embassies in Bishkek and Washington.

Tajikistan's state rail company estimates that more than 2,500 freight cars, including some transporting NATO supplies to Afghanistan, are held up in Uzbekistan.

Two weeks ago, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said it "may have to re-route some shipments" that are stranded in Central Asia after Uzbekistan suspended rail traffic to Tajikistan's southern Khatlon district.

Uzbekistan has described the rail delays as technical. But Dushanbe has criticized the Uzbek moves as an "attempt to blockade Tajikistan" in retaliation for the Tajik government's plans, opposed by Tashkent, to build a huge hydropower station in Roghun.