Tajikistan’s recent YouTube block highlights a fickle friendship with the Web

May 29, 2013

To friend or to unfriend?  Tajikistan cannot make up its mind about the Internet.  

Since 2012, both Facebook and YouTube have been blocked and unblocked three times, not to mention the 130 other sites that have been blocked and unblocked during this period as well.

The most recent blocking of YouTube lasted from May 18 until May 27 and coincided with the blocking of K+, the independent Central Asian channel, Global Voices reports. Officials in Dushanbe offered no public explanation for the ban, although the reason is obvious to those still able to access YouTube: the new viral sensation was none other than the country’s own president, Emomali Rahmon, showing off his dance moves and *ahem* singing talent. The video was reportedly taken at the wedding of Rahmon’s son in 2007. Why it has taken so long to go viral, nobody knows.

The video sparked online debate throughout Tajikistan over whether the dancing of their president was personable or unprofessional.  RIA Novosti described Rahmon as “apparently inebriated.” Some viewers took offence to the lavish wedding decorations and crowd of guests featured in the video background, for the strict laws in Tajikistan restricting the duration and number of guests at a wedding were clearly broken, according Global Voices.

Dodojon Atavulloev, a Tajik exile, may have been the one to trigger the ban with his “Tajik Disco Dancer” upload of the video that included political commentary along with the dancing.

However, others appreciated the human quality to their president that the video uncovered. Mirzo Bek posted on Platforma, “He [Rahmon] is a normal man, dances during his son’s wedding like all others… Those who have been to a Tajik wedding at least once know, that this is normal, all men dance on a level with women. Well done, Emomali Sharipovich – he has not yet forgotten how to have fun,” reports Global Voices.

Rahmon’s dancing aside, the country’s capricious blocking of sites raised concern from human rights watchdogs.

On July 26, 2012, the government blocked YouTube and several other news sites in the wake of a military operation in the autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan region involving the capture of an opposition warlord. Access to YouTube was restored in October.

About the Author

Molly Jane Zuckerman

Molly Zuckerman is an editorial intern at Transitions Online. She attends Wesleyan University and plans to jointly major in Russian Studies and Comparative Politics.
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