Tajik authorities block 200 websites for calling for anti-government rally

Public calls for an anti-government rally to be held on October 10, which surfaced in the Tajik social-networking segment, have led to the closure of more than 200 websites, including Facebook, VKontakte, YouTube, several Russian-language news websites and the Russian version of Wikipedia, mobile operators and service providers told Interfax on Monday.

Public calls for an anti-government rally to be held on October 10, which surfaced in the Tajik social-networking segment, have led to the closure of more than 200 websites, including Facebook, VKontakte, YouTube, several Russian-language news websites and the Russian version of Wikipedia, mobile operators and service providers told Interfax on Monday.

"We have received an order from the Communications Service with a list of websites. These include Facebook, vk.com, lenta.ru, youtube.com, mk.ru, amazon.com, ru.wikipedia.org and dozens of web anonymizers that allow bypassing these blockings," a senior manager from the national internet providing company said on condition of anonymity.

The blocking of the Wikipedia and the U.S. online shop Amazon prompted mockery on social-networking sites whose users have long learnt how to bypass blocking of sites.

The head of the governmental Communications Service, Beg Saburi, denied his agency's involvement in the blockings but claimed that certain websites "do not want peace in Tajikistan."

"I did not give instructions to close access to Facebook and other social networks. I will definitely investigate and let you know," Saburi told reporters.

"It is worth noting that certain websites are overly politicized and instead of promoting peace and harmony in our society incite conflicts and post extremist calls and remarks," he added.

Most Dushanbe residents did not respond to the call for a rally at 3 p.m. this Friday, i.e. immediately after a Friday prayer. The rally is titled Tajikistan Demands Change, the offered slogans include "Tajikistan without Rahmon!", "For honest elections!" and "For a worthy life!".

The majority of users of social-networking websites tend to think that the attempt to organize the rally in central Dushanbe is coming from the opposition journalist Dodojon Atovulloev, who currently resides in Germany, and the former businessman and now self-styled politician Umarali Kuvvatov who lives outside Tajikistan, presumably in the United Arab Emirates. Both Atovulloev and Kuvvatov are practically unknown to ordinary Tajikistanis. As for the opposition activists, they claim on the Internet to have set up a Group 24 which, they say, includes many influential Tajik politicians.

However, since its appearance, the Group has failed to move beyond posting calls on the Internet.

Experts have said that blocking certain websites has proved to be a pointless government tactic: Tajik Internet users, having learnt from their previous website-blocking experience, actively share bypassing techniques on the Internet by posting links to proxy servers and gateway software downloads.

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