Press Gangs Roam Tajikistan

As the twice-yearly conscription year draws to an end, some are casting doubt on the military’s claims that it was a resounding success.

Press Gangs Roam Tajikistan

As the twice-yearly conscription year draws to an end, some are casting doubt on the military’s claims that it was a resounding success.

Friday, 15 May, 2009
Army recruiters are claiming to have met nearly 100 per cent of their quota. But as reporter Kamari Ahrorzoda discovered in the northern province of Soghd, locals report their sons being dragged off by modern-day press gangs – squads of soldiers roaming the streets, knocking on doors and picking up anyone who seems the right age to do a spell in the military.



There are reports of students and village teachers – who are exempt from the call-up – and even men deemed not fit to do service being rounded up and sent off to fulfil the conscription targets.



The armed forces deny using strong-arm methods.



“Of course it’s illegal to run these raiding parties, but that’s what happens when young people won’t go into the army [voluntarily],” said political analyst Dilbar Samadova. “The fact that the conscription period has been prolonged indicates that young people are avoiding military service.”



Samadova notes some young men avoid conscription by going off to Russia to earn some money for their families – the army pays conscript soldiers a pittance – while others hide at home and do not go out until the conscription drive is over.
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