Villagers in southern Tajikistan say they were ordered to donate money to their local authorities to buy carpets, flowers, and street billboards ahead of President Emomali Rahmon’s visit to their region on September 23.
Several residents of the Vakhsh district told RFE/RL that officials have been going door to door in recent days asking people to make financial contributions for the red-carpet welcome.
Jumagul Ashurova, a resident of the Ittifoq village in Vakhsh, said she was told to contribute at least 20 somoni, about $2, an amount many impoverished villagers can’t afford. Tajik village teachers make about $50 to $100 a month.
“I have eight children and we barely make ends meet. Instead of helping us, the authorities are asking us to give them money,” Ashurova said on September 22.
Several other Vakhsh residents confirmed Ashurova’s account. They said that more well-to-do people and local businesses were told to contribute greater amounts.
But Qosim Davlatov, the head of the Vahdat village, rejected claims that authorities have asked money from “ordinary” people.
“We collected some money to buy flowers to plant around the fountain in the main square, but we got that money from businesses, such as gas stations, shops, and farming groups,” Davlatov said. “Where else can we get the money from?” he added.
Rahmon is visiting Vakhsh as part of his annual tour of the Khatlon Province that began on September 22.
During Rahmon's trips to provinces, local governments usually throw extravagant welcome ceremonies, laying carpets along his way, hanging large billboards with the president’s portraits, and organizing parades with children reading poems for him.
Such events have been considerably scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months.