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Saida Rustamova

DUSHANBE -- A dance teacher in Dushanbe who was fired for not watching President Emomali Rahmon's address to the nation on television has been rehired after reports about her ordeal.

The Federation of Unions of Tajikistan told RFE/RL on February 16 that Saida Rustamova had been reinstated at its request by the choreography school that had fired her a few days earlier.

On February 14, Rustamova told RFE/RL that she was fired and official documents stated that she lost her job because she was not present in the school auditorium where students and teachers were gathered to watch Rahmon's annual address.

Rustamova said she had left the auditorium because there were no available seats left.

The school's principal, Kenja Ibrohimov, said that Rustamova was dismissed because of what he said was poor professional performance and her failure to follow her supervisors’ recommendations.

In August, authorities in the southwestern Huroson district fired Ziyoda Salomova, the head of the district's Department for Women and Family, after a group of women played Tajik folk music on out-of-tune traditional instruments during a visit by Rahmon.

Rahmon reinstated Salomova days later after her story was picked up by the media.

Much of the media in tightly controlled Tajikistan frequently showers Soviet-style praise on Rahmon, portraying him as a savior who brought peace to Tajikistan following a five-year civil war in the 1990s.

Rahmon, 65, holds titles including Founder of Peace and National Unity of Tajikistan and Leader of the Nation and enjoys lifelong immunity from prosecution, according to a law he endorsed in December 2015.

Rahmon, a former collective farm chief, has been in power in Tajikistan since 1992 -- a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Critics accuse his government of systematic rights abuses.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

The Kremlin-backed head of Russia's Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov, says he hopes President Vladimir Putin will remain in power for life.

The remark, not unusual for a regional leader who has frequently praised the president and called himself Putin's "foot soldier," comes weeks ahead of a March 18 presidential election that seems certain to hand Putin a new six-year term.

"I wish our president and supreme commander in chief a long life and hope that he will run our country for life," Kadyrov said in a post on Telegram on February 15.

Kadyrov also called Putin a "superhero," accusing unnamed opponents of making too much of a cold that the Kremlin has said Putin came down with a few days ago, prompting him to scale down his schedule this week.

"Some are trying to make a political intrigue out of a common cold, forgetting that the president of Russia is not superhuman -- though he is a superhero," Kadyrov wrote.

Rights activists say that Kadyrov, who was appointed to head Chechnya by Putin in 2007, rules through repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the province in the North Caucasus. They claim that he bears responsibility for abuses including kidnappings, disappearances, torture, and killings of political opponents.

Kremlin critics say Putin turns a blind eye to alleged abuses and violations of the Russian Constitution by Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel to control separatist sentiments and violence in Chechnya, the site of two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, Putin -- who is 65 and has been president or prime minister since 1999 -- is virtually assured of victory in the election. A constitutional limit of two consecutive terms means that he would be barred from seeking reelection in 2024.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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