Close

Donate today to keep Global Voices strong!

Our global community of volunteers work hard every day to bring you the world's underreported stories -- but we can't do it without your help. Support our editors, technology, and advocacy campaigns with a donation to Global Voices!

Donate now

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

“A Woman Can Only Become President When Men Die Out in Tajikistan”

In Tajikistan where even a mention of elections often makes people yawn, the upcoming presidential contest promises to be anything but boring. For the first time in the country's history, a woman is running for its highest political office. Oynihol Bobonazarova, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, entered the presidential race on September 9, 2013, after a coalition of Tajik opposition parties and NGOs nominated her as their candidate.

‘Best thing that could happen’

Oynihol Bobonazarova. Image by ASIA-Plus, used with permission.

Oynihol Bobonazarova. Image by ASIA-Plus, used with permission.

Bobonazarova's presidential bid – and the fact that she is backed by the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan – has galvanized public opinion in society where patriarchal attitudes run deep. While few people believe that she has a chance to win the elections, many bloggers and social media users are enthusiastic about the very fact of her participation in the contest.

Tomiris writes [ru] on her blog:

…[Я] думаю, что выдвижение Ойнихол Бобоназаровой единым кандидатом от оппозиции для участия в президентских выборах  это лучшее из всего, что могло произойти на этих выборах.

Я не настолько наивна, чтобы думать, что у ОБ есть хоть малейший шанс победить на этих выборах или хотя бы набрать четверть голосов. Нет, за неё мало кто проголосует. Но её выдвижение все равно лечшее из всего, что могло произойти.

I think that the fact that the opposition nominated Oynihol Bobonazarova as their single candidate for the presidential elections is the best thing that could happen during these elections.

I am not naive to think that [Bobonazarova] has a slightest chance of winning these elections or getting at least a quarter of the electorate's votes. Few people will vote for her. But her nomination is still the best thing that could happen.

Tomiris then explains [ru] why she is so enthusiastic about a female candidate entering the presidential race:

[Бобоназарова] хотя и проиграет, но покажет своим примером что женщина может претендовать на самые высокие политические должности в стране. Это будет иметь огромные, положительные и долго-срочные последствия для всех девушек и женщин в Таджикистане. У нас появится идеал к которому будут стремиться. А мучжчины возможно поймут, что к девушкам нужно относиться серьёзнее и что место женщины может быть не только на кухне, но и в президентском кресле.

Even by losing, Bobonazarova will set an example, showing that a woman can compete for the highest political offices in the country. This will have a huge, positive and long-lasting impact on all girls and women in Tajikistan. We will have an example to emulate. At the same time, men will possibly realize that girls should be taken more seriously, and that a woman's place is not only in the kitchen, but also in the presidential seat.

‘Only when all men die out’

Although many social media users in the country have voiced their support for Bobonazarova, even a cursory glance at comments left on news forums shows that many more people in Tajikistan are not ready to vote for a female candidate.

Under a news report about Bobonazarova's presidential nomination on ozodi.org, Sham writes [tj, ru]:

Давлатро зан рохбари кунад? Наход дар байни онхо як мард пайдо нашуд, ки занро пешниход карданд? Это уже слишком!!!

A woman to lead the country? Couldn't they [opposition leaders] find at least one man among them and not nominate a woman? This is too much to take now!!!

In a similar vein, Mahmadullo states [tj]:

мардуми мо барои он ки зан сардори давлат шавад таер нест . Мумкин худи он кас таер бошанд аммо фахмиши мо менталитети мо дигар аст барои мо дар айни хол сарвари мард даркор …Хубаст ки занро пешбари мекунанд аммо холо барвакт аст.

Our people are not ready to have a woman as the head of state. Maybe she [Bobonazarova] is ready for this, but our way of thinking and our mentality is different. We need a man as our leader at the moment. It is good that they nominate a woman [for president], but it is early to do so now.

On news.tj, Tokhir Muzhik ['the man'] asks [ru] ironically:

Женщина президент??? Разве уже первое апреля???

A woman president??? Is it April 1 [April Fools' Day] already???

And under Tomiris's blog post, Gafur states [ru]:

Лично я думаю что женщина сможет стать президентом только когда все мужчины вымрут в Таджикистане. Да и тогда навряд ли.

I personally think that a woman can become a president only when all men die out in Tajikistan. And even then, it is hardly possible.

‘The Tajik Margaret Thatcher’

Yet some internet users in Tajikistan believe that Bobonazarova could win the elections and make a good leader.

Responding to a comment suggesting that a man rather than woman should lead the country, Ramziya writes [tj] on ozodi.org:

мо дидем ки мардхо дар давоми хукумронишон ба кучо халку миллатро ватанро бурда расондаанд.

We can see what men have done to our country and our people during the period of their leadership.

Benom ['Anonymous'] adds [tj]:

танҳо зан моро аз ин торики метавонад раҳо кунад.

Only a woman can lead us out of this dark period.

While Rustam announces [tj]:

[Бобоназарова] Бехтарин номзад. Мо уро аз дилу чон табрик мекунем ва ба у овоз хохем дод. У Маргарита Течер ва Ангела Маркели точикон хохад буд.

[Bobonazarova] is the best candidate. I extend my congratulations to her and will vote for her. She will become the Tajik Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel.

Unlikely to win

Patriarchal attitudes are not the only reason why Bobonazarova is unlikely to become a president. In his blog, Mustafo suggests [ru] there are also significant political and international factors which make Bobonazarova's success during the elections highly unrealistic:

Победить на ноябрьских выборах Бобоназаровой конечно не удастся. Этому есть целый ряд причин. Ну, во-первых, вопрос, который я сам себе недавно задавал: кто она вообще такая? Большинство людей, которые будут голосовать, не знают ее и поэтому не имеют ни малейшего представления о том, что она из себя представляет. Во-вторых, она женщина, а за женщину у нас не многие будут голосовать. Такое уж у нас общество, патриархальное. А в третьих, она довольно немолодой человек. Нашей республикой должен управлять кто-то помоложе, у кого будет достаточно сил ломать и перестраивать. У Бобоназаровой особой энергии не наблюдается.

Есть еще и четвертая причина. Бобоназарова долгое время возглавляла Фонд Сороса, то есть американскую неправительственную организацию, и сейчас возглавляет другую неправительственную организацию, которая занимается правами человека. Не думаю, что Россия позволит такому проамериканскому кандидату прийти к власти в Таджикистане. Да и наши чиновники и силовики не захотят видеть во главе государства человека, обеспокоенного правами человека.

Bobonazarova will not win the elections in November. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, there is this question that I have recently found myself asking: who on earth is she anyway? Most voters do not know her and therefore do not have a slightest idea about what she is like. Second, she is a woman, and not many people in our country will vote for a woman. This is the kind of society we are, a patriarchal one. Third, she is not a young person. Someone younger should lead our republic – someone who will have enough energy to break and rebuild everything. Bobonazarova does not seem to have too much energy.

There is also the fourth reason. For a very long time, Bobonazarova served as the head of the Soros Foundation, an American non-governmental organization, and she now leads another non-governmental organization involved in human rights issues. I do not think that Russia would allow such a pro-American candidate coming to power in Tajikistan. Besides, our officials and security services will not want to have as head of state a person concerned about human rights.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site