As of today, May 16, 2020, the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan has announced the number of victims of COVID-19 as 36 and the number of infected people as 1322. Has only 36 people actually died from the virus in Tajikistan so far? If not, why does the government hide the actual number of victims?
In non-democratic countries, such as Tajikistan, where the civil society is weak and access to alternative information is almost non-existent, the governments manipulate statistics.
In response to the plague, the Tajik government has completely ignored warnings from the civil society about the dire consequences of delaying in declaring the first corona-virus case and delaying in the implementation of preventive measures and has officially declared the first corona-virus case very late in 30 April 2020.
From One Mistake to More Mistakes
Sometimes a person commits a mistake and makes more, even worse, mistakes to cover it up. The Tajik authorities have made a mistake in declaring the first corona-virus case by delaying it, and are forced to make a number of other mistakes to cover up this mistake.
One of the reasons, more precisely, the motive for hiding the actual number of corona-virus victims is their mistake in delaying the official confirmation of the first corona-virus cases. Tajik officials fear that people will say, if the authorities had declared the first corona-virus cases sooner, the situation would not have been so dire and the death toll would not have been so high. People have a right to say that, and it makes sense.
Supposedly, if the country’s leadership had put aside its selfishness and political interests and confirmed the existence of the virus from the very beginning, people would have considered it a natural move, because all countries, except a few dictator-ruled countries, have officially declared the existence of the virus cases and many superpower countries failed to effectively combat it. At that time, the situation in our country, like that of our neighbors, would be many times better than what is going on today.
But that didn’t happen, now the mistake of delaying in officially acknowledging the virus’s existence is leading the authorities to make other mistakes.
Fear of illusion of the ideas of having a “prosperous country” and idea of “thanking the Leader”
One of the main reasons the government underestimates the number of the corona-virus victims is the fear of the collapse of imaginary and deceptive ideas such as having “a beautiful and prosperous country” and the idea of ”thanking the Leader”.
The Tajik propaganda machine, like the Soviet era, has tried its best to convince people that they are the happiest people on earth, that they have a “prosperous” country, and that they should always be grateful. That is why the TV and radio stations of Tajikistan do not talk about any problem and difficulties the citizens face, but there are always the dances and songs. Even today, when citizens are mourning the outbreak of the plague, government TV channels continue to broadcast dances and songs.
That is why in our country the government always manipulates statistics and declares the statistics according to its political interests.
Although remittances from Tajik migrants account for more than half of the country’s budget, the actual number of migrant workers is still officially hidden. Is the level of unemployment in Tajikistan, which is announced by the Statistics Agency under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan and shows that Tajikistan is more advanced than some European countries in this regard, reliable?
Challenges Showed by the Tajik Civil Society
Despite the government’s mistakes and manipulations in statistics, one positive thing is that the Tajik nation is no longer the pre-2015 nation. Despite the government’s inefficiencies, lies and deception, the Tajik civil society has not remained silent and has been able to challenge official narrative and data.
The government, under pressure from Tajik dissidents living abroad, independent media, and the civil society within the country, has successfully been forced to declare the presence of the corona-virus cases in the country. Tajik civil society, whether opposition figures, journalists or intellectuals now living abroad, can discuss the issue more openly and critically. Work that seemed less pre-2015 era. This does not mean to ignore the contribution of those intellectuals and users of social networks living inside the country.
Hundreds of photos and videos from inside the country, which show the deterioration of the situation in the country, including the terrible state of hospitals and the incompetence of the country’s authorities, are increasing day by day on social networks. The website www.kvtj.info publishes an alternative list of COVID-19 victims in Tajikistan. Ordinary people are raising their voices. The “Covid-19: Tajikistan group” on Facebook founded by Esfandiar Adineh, a journalist in the BBC Persian, has grown its members to more than 16,000 persons in a short period of time.
An Unprecedented Process on the Way
All these works and activities speak about the solidarity of different segments of the Tajik nation in the fight against COVID-19.
Today we can see an amazing trend in Tajikistan, which we may not be able to see it for the last 28 years. It is also the ineffectiveness of the government’s means of putting pressure on civil society. In dealing with civil society in the case of the COVID-19, the government’s repressive actions, such as warnings about cracking down on “scoundrels and liars” and punishing them, beating journalist Abdullah Ghurbati, blocking the website www.kvtj.info inside the country, etc. have not been effective and besides the civil society is still active in the fight against the virus.
In short, the government has made a mistake in delaying confirmation of the existence of first corona-virus cases, and the nation is now paying a high price for this mistake.
The government of Tajikistan intends to reduce public outrage by showing a less number of the virus victims by several times. Will these policies of the government reduce the anger of the people or vice versa?
(Photo from Akhbor.com)