Another of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s children has reportedly acquired an important position. According to documents obtained by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Zarina Rahmon, 23, was appointed deputy head Orienbank, the country’s largest commercial bank, in January 2017.
There is little information available about Zarina. She first appeared in international press in 2010, when, at the age of 16, she landed a newsreader spot for the summer on national television. Zarina reportedly studied in the UK.
Zarina’s uncle, Hasan Asadullozoda, is head of Orienbank. Asadullozoda is the younger brother of Emomali Rahmon’s wife and has certainly benefited from that connection, with wide ranging business interests.
Indeed, a leaked 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in Dushanbe noted that Asadullozoda was often called the “third most powerful” person in the country, after Rahmon and the then-longtime mayor of Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaydulloyev. The cable recounted Asadullozoda history and business empire, highlighting how far he’d come from humble beginnings, all on the coattails of Rahmon:
Born in the Kolhozabad district of Khatlon region in 1968, Asadullozoda was a gas station attendant in Kurgonteppa in 1991. Benefiting from his brother-in-law’s rise to power in 1992, he was named Deputy Director of the oil depot in Kolhozabad in 1995.
Primarily through a pair of holding companies, Asadullozoda has interests in most sectors of the Tajik economy, from cotton to TALCO.
On the subject of Asadullozoda ’s relations with Rahmon, the cable dives into the murky work of rumor and here it gets interesting in light of the recent news of Asadullozoda’s new hire.
In May 2008, a rumor circulated that Rustum, Rahmon’s son, had shot his uncle in a business dispute. An earlier cable noted that there had been no official comment on the matter, Asadullozoda was obviously still alive, but that Rustam disappeared from public view.
The June 2008 cable commented that “Asadullozoda fits very well into one of President Rahmon’s important governing principles — maintain as much personal control of the country’s assets as possible.” But noted that in his business dealings, Asadullozoda “has not adhered to the type of Kulyobi nepotism that characterizes the government.” Nonetheless, Asadullozoda’s “fortunes are tied closely to those of the President…Asadullozoda’s demise, whenever it comes, will be either the result of rivalry with the President’s offspring, or because Rahmon himself has lost power.”
Zarina’s reported new job at her uncle’s bank demonstrates a shift, perhaps, in Asadullozoda’s logic for how to operate successfully in Tajikistan. A lot has happened since the 2008 cable was written. In particular, the last few years have been characterized by further consolidation of power in the person and family of Emomali Rahmon. Rahmon acquired the title “Leader of the Nation” in December 2015 via legislative act and, with it, life-long immunity for himself and his family. The law also exempted property owned by Rahmon and his family from legal proceedings.
In this case also, the fate of Ubaydulloyev may also be illustrative for Asadullozoda. After being mayor of Dushanbe since the late 1990s, he was dismissed and replaced earlier this year with none other than Rustam Emomali, who, ironically, had previously been head of the country’s anti-corruption agency.
Better to hire a Rahmon, than anger one. In addition to Rustam, now mayor of Dushanbe, many of Rahmon’s other children have been given important jobs. Rahmon’s daughter, Ozoda, was appointed his chief of staff in early 2016, after serving as first deputy foreign minister since May 2014. And last November, Rukhshona, was reportedly appointed a deputy head of the foreign ministry’s international organizations department.
Rahmon has nine children in total, seven daughters and two sons. The extended family, uncles and husbands, further expands the Rahmons’ reach into every sector, government or private, in the country. It’s a big family to run such a small country, but Rahmon doesn’t seem to have trouble finding jobs for his offspring.