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Role of Iran in Tajik World

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 17:55

After the disintegration of the USSR the development of friendly relations with Tajikistan acquired special importance for Iran. The Tajiks is the only Persian-language people in Central Asia that shares similar historic and cultural roots with Iran. After gaining independence the Islamic Republic of Iran intended to establish close social, economic, cultural and political relations with Tajikistan. In 1991 the parties entered into diplomatic relations on the embassy level and worked out a corresponding declaration. At that time 10 countries were already involved in the diplomatic relations with Tajikistan, but Iran was the first to open its embassy in Dushanbe and Ali Modjtahid Shabistari was appointed the first Iranian Ambassador in that country. Unfortunately, after acquiring independence Tajikistan was enticed into civil war.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) had survived a sanguineous and destructive war against Iraq and and attentively watching the development of the events in the region was interested in the establishment of stability understanding that conflicts in Central Asia and in the Caucasus might threaten the security of the Iranian borders.
From the very beginning of the war in Tajikistan the Iranian administration was convinced that peace could be achieved only through consensus between the military groups and through negotiations. Therefore, Iran took all the possible efforts in this direction. Regardless of what forces had initiated the war, Tehran did its best to terminate the conflict and secure the agreement between the political groups. Western mass media accused Iran of supporting the Islamic forces in the Tajik war, but those accusations were always devoid of substance and were never proven.
Diplomatic relations between sovereign countries are always dominated by the official position of the countries’ administrative bodies on certain events in the world. The position of non-official persons and political forces that are not responsible for the management of the country is not dominant and can only deteriorate the relations and develop tension in the development of international relations.
On the basis of such unofficial information Western countries accused Iran of intruding into the internal affairs of Tajikistan. The situation was aggravated on May 10, 1992, when the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan Shodmon Yusuf standing in front of Russian tanks on the central square of the capital declared that he would call for assistance of his friends in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan in case the tanks were not immediately removed.
On the basis of such irresponsible and unofficial declarations Western political experts and analysts believed that Iran supported the oppositional forces of Tajikistan. However, other specialists doubted this statement and wrote that the connections between Iran and Tajik Islamists were not obvious during the civil war. According to these authors, a number of Islamic countries sent volunteers (militants) to Tajikistan and rendered financial assistance to the Tajik opposition; however, it was not done officially. According to certain sources, these facts were “proven” when several militants from Islamic countries (including Iran) allegedly were captured by the governmental forces. E. Rakhmon assertedly did not announce this fact as he did not want to spoil the relations with these countries.
Due to its strategic interests in the region, the IRI always stood against the war in Tajikistan, as well as in any other place in Central Asia, as tension reduction coupled with facilitation of economic growth met the interests of all the countries and of the peace and security in Asia, especially in Central Asia and in the Caucasus.
Cultural unity, single language and long-standing economic relations between Iran and Tajikistan was also presented as one of the argument why Tehran should support the Tajik opposition, as together with Islamic groups it comprised parties and movements whose target was the revival of the national values and the former mightiness of the Tajiks.
It should be underlined that unlike Iranians, Tajiks profess Caliphate Islam. Thus, even if we assume that the Tajik Islamists come to power, it is highly doubtful that their policy may be coordinated with Iran. Their policy could be closer to that of other Asian countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which profess Sunni Islam.
Thus, Iran only seemed to be a natural ally for the Tajiks, as it did not border on Tajikistan. In fact, Iran did not have enough financial opportunities and, moreover, the Iranian people professed Shi'ite Islam and would hardly support the Sunni opposition.
Therefore, the IRI was neutral to the destructive civil war in Tajikistan and took all the possible measures to set peace in that country, in which way its achievements were remarkable. Without Iranian activity in this respect the war could easily spread to the neighboring countries and the conflict could reach the north-eastern borders of Iran, which was contrary to its national interests.
As it was mentioned above, the conflict in Tajikistan was not beneficial for Iran. The beginning of the civil war made Iran take a complex of measures to normalize the situation.
Iranian participation in the solution of the Tajik conflict started right after the problem emerged. Iran rendered assistance during the inter Tajik negotiations, and in 1997 became one of the Guaranteeing Power for the fulfillment of the conditions of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan.
In 1992 after a military confrontation Kulob region of Tajikistan was isolated and its population was under a threat of starvation; the then-ambassador of Iran in Tajikistan A. M. Shabistari communicated with the governor of the region E. Rakhmon and solved the issues of transporting humanitarian assistance to the people. Kulob was the main base of the opponents of the national accord government. Therefore, the Iranian embassy officials were denied any assistance in Dushanbe airport in delivering the humanitarian aid to Kulob. This was the reason why a decision was taken to establish air transportation flights directly from Iran to Kulob.
This proves that from the very beginning of the conflict Iran took the neutral position and its assistance to the parties was purely humanitarian.
In Autumn 1992 Iran initiated consultation work with the Russian side on the solution of the conflict in Tajikistan. In August 1992 Mahmoud Vaezi arrived in Moscow to meet with the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrey Kozyrev. During the meeting Iran declared readiness to act as an intermediary in the solution of the conflict in Tajikistan. Iran was one of the most active participants of the reconciliation process from the first rounds of the negotiations till the conclusion of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan which was signed in Moscow by President E. Rakhmon and the UTO (United Tajik Opposition) leader Said Abdullo Nuri on June 27, 1997. The government of Tajikistan, the UTO, UNO and the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) underlined the importance of Iranian contribution in the process.
On the whole we can conclude that Iran initially was one of the countries directly interested in the soonest possible political solution of the inter Tajik conflict and in the total normalization of the situation in the country. The IRI administration sincerely supported the UNO efforts targeted at the achievement of peace in Tajikistan and played a determinative role in the acceptance of the key documents during the inter Tajik negotiations beginning from Temporary Cease-fire and the Cessation of Other Hostile Acts on the Tajik-Afghan Border and within the Country for the Duration of the Talks (September 17, 1994) and up to the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan (Moscow, June 27, 1997). It is remarkable that a number of analysts called the latter agreement an agreement between Tehran and Moscow.
In the 90 s Iranian diplomacy defending its national interests achieved significant success in the establishment of peace in the region. Iranian tireless efforts targeted at the solution of the military conflict in Tajikistan gain Iran international acclaim and gratitude of the Tajik people.
President of the Republic of Tajikistan E. Rakhmon (whose role in the peaceful solution of the conflict is well-known) in one of his interviews to the English-language newspaper the Tehran Times called Iran a friend and Iranians — brothers of Tajiks. E. Rakhmon thanked the Iranian administration for the generous assistance to Tajikistan during hard times and mentioned that the Tajik people would never forget the kindness and would return all the good that had been done to it.
On June 27, 1997 in Moscow at the ceremony of the General Agreement signing E. Rakhmon also specially underlined the role of Iran in the reconciliation process and expressed sincere gratitude to the governments and peoples of Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Iran for their invaluable assistance in the process of inter Tajik negotiations. E. Rakhmon also expressed his attitude to Iran in his unique work The Tajiks in the Mirror of History. He wrote: “In the Islamic Republic of Iran we see a brother country and in its noble nation we see a brother nation. Islamic Iran was one of the first countries which officially acknowledged the Republic of Tajikistan and were the first to open their embassy in Dushanbe. From the very beginning of the conflict in Tajikistan and till its very end Iran together with Russia, Uzbekistan and some other countries made continuous attempts to help us solve disputes in peaceful ways without use of arms. In the cities of Tehran and Mashhad the Iranian side organized a number of meetings and negotiation rounds with the representatives of the former opposition. In Moscow the Iranian plenipotentiary representative together with the representatives of other peace guaranteeing countries signed the agreement on the national accord between the former opposition and the Government and contributed greatly to the soonest possible establishment of peace in the republic.”
The former president of Russia B. N. Yeltsin, making a speech at that ceremony and touching upon the role of Iran and other countries in the process of inter Tajik negotiations, said: “The establishment of peace in Tajikistan was impossible without active assistance of the UNO representatives of the country observers — Iran, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, international organizations…” It should be noted that during the hard times for Tajikistan the first ambassador of the IRI in Tajikistan A. M. Shabistari made all the possible efforts to facilitate the establishment of peace in the republic and restore the unity of the Tajik people. The Tajik people, especially the intellectuals, remember the ambassador’s activity in this direction with gratitude. M. Shukurzoda was one of the compilers of the book Ambassador extraordinary about Aliashraf Modjtahid Shabistari. She wrote: ”Shabistari made tremendous efforts towards the establishment of peace and unity between the Tajiks. The Holy Spirit of Hajj from Shiraz (Hafiz Shirazi — H. A.) helped the ambassador. Yesterday’s enemies reconciled, became sincere friends and found a brother in the person of the ambassador and his great country.” Indeed, Shabistari became a diplomat who managed to enrich the glory of Iran.

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