There’s a sad and disturbing story from Tajik news agency Asia Plus today about the recent beating of a university student by classmates [ru] at the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University (RTSU). The student, who comes from the Penjikent region of northern Tajikistan, was hospitalized, so severe was the beating by three fellow students who come from the capital Dushanbe. His ‘crime’? Apparently he asked too many questions in class. His place of origin may also have had something to do with the beating, although this is an implied connection that is not made explicit in the article.
Although the initiators of the fight have been expelled from university, there can surely never be any justification for this type of base and thuggish behaviour. Comments on the Asia Plus website and Facebook page express similar shock and disgust. Sadly, incidents like this amongst students appear to be on the rise according to anecdotal evidence, although these are rarely documented in the media.
Social media feedback on this story centres on the perceived degradation of quality in Tajik higher education. RTSU [ru], founded after the end of the Soviet Union in 1996, was once considered to be amongst the best universities in the country and its links with former coloniser Russia seen as an indicator of prestige and quality. Less than 20 years later, things have changed. Several commentators say that universities (not just RTSU) have become places to show off your wealth and power, your material goods and your advantages over others, and are no longer locations for learning. Others comment more generally that this incident is yet another reflection of what are widely seen as regressive changes in Tajik society.
It’s hard to find anything positive to say about this incident or about the implications for the future of Tajikistan should the current situation in the country continue.