Should I really be heading towards a country which has seen violent clashes between government and rebel forces, in which hundreds are feared dead? The AFC recently awarded the AFC President's Cup final stage to Tajikistan
and my club Phnom Penh Crown will be heading there in late September. The final group matches will be held in the capital Dushanbe though the recent fighting has been in a border region that abuts onto Afghanistan. It's the worst outburst since a government campaign to wipe out Islamist militants in
another region two years ago in the former Soviet republic. Presumably the AFC will have received guarantees from the Tajik authorities that the safety of the six teams, their players, officials and fans can be assured. If not, why the heck are we going into such a volatile situation. Tajikistan has already experienced a devastating five-year civil war that ravaged the country in the 1990s. I checked the British Foreign Commonwealth Office website for their travel advice and they indicate that terrorism and kidnapping pose threats in Tajikistan. Oh great. That cuts out sitting at a city center street cafe or talking to strangers on a dimly lit street late at night. Two of my favoured past-times when I'm abroad. Seriously, I am going to a Muslim-dominated country that is, as some commentators put it, 'a struggling society which could be on the brink of a violent realignment.' There is frequent detention and harassment of men with beards (I'll make sure I take a razor with me), or women in hijab
headscarves. This month, the government announced new plans to censor
the Internet (so match reports and Facebook updates could be a problem). I really don't want to be walking headlong into a revolt against an unpopular regime, with Afghan insurgents in prime position to fill a potential power vacuum, as the international press have suggested. I think the AFC should re-consider their decision and switch the finals to Phnom Penh. Where it's as safe as houses, as my mum used to say.
Labels: AFC President's Cup 2012, Phnom Penh Crown, Tajikistan