Tajik women hunger strike against market demolition, 2009

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Timing
Time Period:  
May 6,
2009
to
May 20,
2009
Location and Goals
Country: 
Tajikistan
Location City/State/Province: 
Dushanbe
Goals: 
To prevent the demolition of the Zarnisor bazaar in Dushanbe and preserve the jobs of the merchants there.
 

Tajikistan is a small country in Asia that borders Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and China with a population of approximately 8 million. Once a republic under the Soviet Union, the country experienced a civil war that lasted from 1992 to 1997, which damaged the country’s already weakening economy. Tajikistan currently has one of the lowest GDPs among the former Soviet republics, but has started to improve due to foreign aid.

In 1995, merchants established the Zarnisor bazaar, a market located in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. In 1996, businessmen privatized the bazaar, and after six years, they received a certificate of permanent land use from the Tajikistan Land Committee. From 2004 to 2009, market owners estimated that they had paid more than 13 million somoni (about $3.25 million) in taxes. However, in April 2009, a Tajik court declared that the Zarnisor market was illegal and should be demolished, without compensating the storeowners and merchants.

In response to the sudden decision to demolish the market, about 30 female merchants gathered on May 6, 2009, to declare the start of a hunger strike in protest against the demolition. The women said that they would not accept any concessions from the authorities and would only desist if officials called off the demolition and allowed the women to keep their jobs in the market. Without the money from their market jobs, the women feared that they would not be able to repay debts to the bank.

The Mayoral Office of the city seemed ready to discuss alternatives, and on May 9, the women suspended their hunger strike. However, on May 10, the city administration ended negotiations with the women, who prepared to resume their hunger strike on May 13 if the city did not meet their demands. Ultimately, the city administration refused to change their plans, and instead offered the merchants help finding jobs in other markets. City officials estimated that at least 150 merchants would be able to find new jobs, despite the several hundred who would lose their jobs in the demolition.

The women resumed their hunger strike on May 13. However, on May 20, the city began the demolition of Zarnisor bazaar and the women ended the hunger strike. The city did not compensate storeowners and left hundreds unemployed. The story of Zarnisor is common in Tajikistan, where the government has often chosen to demolish markets and homes in order to build new housing settlements and trade buildings.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"2009 Human Rights Reports: Tajikistan." U.S. Department of State. 11 Mar. 2010. Web. 05 Mar. 2011. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136094.htm>.

Abdukahhoriv, Akram. "“Zarnisor” Bazaar to Be Demolished in Dushanbe." Stan.TV :: Information Video Portal. 20 May 2009. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <http://engl.stan.tv/news/6872/?REID=e750i6qniciod8op883l9o2ig1>.

"Female Vendors In Dushanbe Suspend Hunger Strike." The Journal of Turkish Weekly. 12 May 2009. Web. 5 Mar. 2011. <http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/76373/-female-vendors-in-dushanbe-suspend-hunger-strike.html>.

"Female Vendors In Dushanbe Suspend Hunger Strike - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2011." Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - Free Media in Unfree Societies. 12 May 2009. Web. 05 Mar. 2011. <http://www.rferl.org/content/Female_Vendors_In_Dushanbe_Suspend_Hunger_Strike/1683890.html>.

"Tajik Market Sellers Go On Hunger Strike - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2011." Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - Free Media in Unfree Societies. 7 May 2009. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <http://www.rferl.org/content/Tajik_Market_Sellers_Go_On_Hunger_Strike/1623290.html>.

"Tajik Market Workers Continue Hunger Strike - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2011." Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - Free Media in Unfree Societies. 10 May 2009. Web. 05 Mar. 2011. <http://www.rferl.org/Content/Tajik_Market_Workers_Continue_Hunger_Strike/1625245.html>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jennifer Trinh, 06/03/2011