Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sole Tajikistan Synagogue Razed

Reuters reports that Tajikistan's only synagogue has been razed to make room for a new palace for President Imomali Rakhmon, who has ruled since 1992. There are talks in the works to build a new synagogue, but it sounds like nothing concrete has been agreed upon. This community of 350 Jews in Dushanbe is part of the 2,000 year old Persian-speaking Bukharan Jewish community, which is centered in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

I don't have much analysis to add to this except to add that it is no small tragedy. Not only was it the spiritual home of Dushanbe's mostly impoverished and elderly Jewish community, but the
the 19th century synagogue was a historical heritage site. According to Radio Free Europe UNESCO petitioned the Tajik government to make it a protected landmark, but their request was ignored. Jews in Central Asia have faced increased discrimination and persecution since the fall of the Soviet Union and many have made their way to Israel. Tajikistan's Jewish community has shrunk from 15,000 at the fall of the USSR, to its current number of 1,000.

While I was in Bukhara my brother and I had the unique opportunity to surreptitiously observe a group of Jews in Bukhara, Uzbekistan at study for moment through a crack in the wooden doors of the synagogue. Watching them study was a brief glance back in time and one of the most memorable moments of the trip.


Icka said...

It smacks a little bit of the incident when the Taliban destroyed those Buddhist statues in Afghanistan.

James said...

I'm not sure if this is motivated by fundamentalist Islam as much as plain old Antisemitism and disregard for the heritage of ethnic minorities.