With a quiet and gentle voice, Muqim tells his story of living through the civil war in Tajikistan. As he speaks, his eyes reflect a history of hardship and survival mixed with an unexpected grace. His story begins in southern Tajikistan, in a village to which the Soviets had forcibly relocated a variety of different ethnic groups. Years later, after the country declared independence, political and ethnic tensions erupted into a violent civil war. Because the village was so very diverse, the mixture of people in his hometown was viewed as a dangerous threat. “I had been traveling for a few days and on my return, I saw my neighbors and friends fleeing the village. Our homes had been torched and were burning to the ground. People perished in the fires, especially the elderly who were unable to escape. Our entire community was destroyed.” Amid the chaos and carnage, Mukim was able to find his father and other family members. They were all safe, but his family had lost everything in the deadly blaze.
The civil war in Tajikistan raged from 1991 to 1998, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands, the displacement of 600,000 people, and the destruction of 25,000 homes. During the violence, many Tajik citizens fled to neighboring countries; however, the specter of hunger, disease, and recurring conflict threatened and tormented those who remained. The war also exacerbated underlying tensions among ethnic groups which are still evident today in feelings, attitudes, and prejudices. One of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, today Tajikistan faces a state of economic collapse and large-scale unemployment. Behind a nice façade, it is a country with a decaying interior made up of a people economically depressed and struggling to live day-to-day.
SFL believes we could make a positive difference in the region and we look forward to beginning work there again; more information to come. Below, please find information on SFL’s past involvment in Tajikistan.
Towards a Sustainable Society
SFL was called to serve the people of Tajikistan in 1994 and established an office in the capital city of Dushanbe. At that time, the newly independent country was caught up in civil war and thousands had been forced from their homes and were in desperate need of shelter.
In response to this crisis, SFL launched shelter projects and established relationships with Tajik communities, moving the work from reconstruction into community development and education. Although SFL still implements some shelter and infrastructure projects, the primary focus is enabling communities to support themselves. SFL’s goal in Tajikistan is to “work ourselves out of a job” by ensuring that communities are self-sustaining and are able to solve their own problems without depending on outside assistance.
Transitional Shelter Assistance
In response to floods and landslides that have displaced hundreds of Tajik families, SFL was able to help resettle and restore the livelihoods of families through the construction of 199 shelters, 79 latrines, and a “food for work” program. Through this project, more than 1,190 people in Khatlon and Sughd Oblasts areas were provided with an effective basis for sustainable and healthy living. The Office of US Federal Disaster Assistance Office (OFDA) funded the major portion of this project, which was completed in February 2006.
Earthquake-Safe Construction Practices
SFL built a new school that not only will educate, but also will improve safety for children through the use of building techniques that are designed to better withstand earthquakes. Termed “seismic mitigation,” this technology can save lives because it will give the children time to escape to safety. In addition, SFL trained more than 850 community members of the Putkhin area in earthquake-safe construction practices, reducing the risks of future disasters. Project costs were granted by the Japanese Embassy in Tajikistan, with construction on Putkhin School completed in spring 2006.
Tavildara Radio Station
SFL has partnered with InterNews Network to improve information access and promote independent media and open communication for the people of Tajikistan. SFL constructed a one-story, earthquake-resistant building which will house two radio stations and an information center/library in Tavildara. Vast numbers of Tajik listeners in the region will benefit from the radio broadcasts. This project was completed in spring 2006.
Community Development Initiative (Southern Tajikistan)
Encompassing a broad range of activities, this two-year project will impact more than 3,000 people in the Kurgan-Teppa area with opportunities for strengthening their communities. Programs include literacy classes, vocational training, micro-credit loans, water improvement, construction of a telephone station, health education, and drug awareness. This project extended through December 2006.
Community Development Initiative (Northern Tajikistan)
In northern Tajikistan, the Asht region residents are able to benefit from a one-year program offering community restoration in the form of agricultural training, a moth eradication project, computer courses, and sewing skills training. This project was completed in December 2005.
Values Awareness Program
SFL is offering moral values teaching, health education, and business training in this three-year community development project. Striving toward improved economic and moral well-being in the Khatlon region, more than 3,500 residents will benefit from this unique program. The project includes a facet called Chornya Kassa, which translated figuratively means “money for a rainy day.” Chornya Kassa allows individuals to save a sum of money while accruing interest. The program also provides education about the impending HIV/AIDS pandemic. Project funding is provided by Tearfund-UK and Covenant World Relief. Programs continued through March 2007.