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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09DUSHANBE724 2009-06-09 11:27:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Dushanbe
Cable title:  

TAJIK AUDIENCE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC AND RECEPTIVE TO OBAMA

Tags:   PREL KPAO KISL KDEM PHUM TI 
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DE RUEHDBU #0724/01 1601127
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R 091127Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0413
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DUSHANBE 000724 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR, SCA AND INR/R/MR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO KISL KDEM PHUM TI
SUBJECT: TAJIK AUDIENCE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC AND RECEPTIVE TO OBAMA
SPEECH

REF: DUSHANBE 688

DUSHANBE 00000724 001.2 OF 003




1. (U) Summary: In Tajikistan, an extremely poor country where
97% of the population is Muslim, few people watched the speech,
either because it was broadcast in English or because it was
available only via satellite and few had receivers. An audience
of 40 came to watch the speech at the embassy and shared their
views with guest reporters. A local TV station re-broadcast the
speech on the primetime news, and a local wire service posted
the Russian version of the speech on June 5. In the initial
wave of reaction, public opinion was guarded. While commending
Obama's "unprecedented" overture to the Muslim world, most
objected to perceived favoritism for Israel in the Middle East
conflict. Academics and civil society leaders asked for copies
of the speech to teach in discussions and college courses. End
summary.



Embassy Event Kicks Off Debate



--------------------------







2. (U) By invitation, an audience of 40 religious leaders, USG
program alumni, advanced placement high school students,
political analysts, and media watched the speech at the embassy
and then offered assessments and pull aside interviews with
media. Almost everyone commented on the President's remarks
concerning relations among Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab
world.



"Israel is Not the Victim"



--------------------------







3. (U) Vohidkhon Qosiddinov, deputy chairman of Tajikistan's
Islamic Renaissance Party, said the conflict between the United
States and Muslim world would be resolved only when the U.S.
seeks improved relations with all Muslim countries, including
Iran, and not just Arab countries. He said that "America is
legalizing terror by Israel" and that "since 1948 all UN
resolutions were ignored by Israel, so let's not portray them as
victims." He "liked the point on women's rights" and noted:
"The hijab itself does not violate the rights of women; denying
access to education violates their rights." Qosiddinov
considered Obama's speech an "unprecedented" gesture by the
United States to the Muslim world and he hoped the speech would
turn a new page in history of relations between the United
States and Muslim countries.





4. (U) Nurali Shoev, editor of an English language newspaper,
attended the embassy viewing and said he only started practicing
his faith while living in the United States for 10 years. "I
lived in the U.S. for 10 years and I saw how attitudes toward
Muslims changed after 9/11. It is unfortunate that this event
impacted relations with Muslims in such a negative way. This
speech was overall very good and if things said are implemented
in practice, there will be results." Shoev said he expected
more about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
since "people around the world judge U.S. attitudes towards
Islam based on the situation in the Middle East."





5. (U) Muhibullo Dodojanov, deputy chairman of the Central
Election Commission, said "Obama tried to unite Muslims and
Christians together through the message that there is only one
God above all of us. This is a very good approach. We will
also try to go back and promote this message from our side."





6. (U) Rashid Ghani Abdullo, a nationally known political
scientist (and disgruntled former embassy employee), said the
United States continues to divide the countries of the Middle
East by favoring countries "near Americans' hearts" at the
expense those who are not. He said the speech provided no proof
that the unequal approach had changed. He believed Obama's
desire to change the situation was not voluntary, but derived
from a pragmatic understanding that the defeat in Afghanistan
and Iraq was bringing "more harm than good to the U.S."

DUSHANBE 00000724 002.2 OF 003





Speech Repeats "Empty Promise" about Middle East Peace



--------------------------



--------------------------







7. (SBU) Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, a former Majilis deputy who
resigned his seat in protest over Tajikistan's controversial Law
on Religion, did not attend the embassy event, but watched the
speech in Arabic on Al Jazeera. He told Emboff he was expecting
more specific proposals regarding peace in the Middle East,
instead of a repeat of a promise that had already been made -but
not fulfilled - by President Bush. Turajonzoda said that peace
was not possible in the Islamic world while the Middle East
remained unstable. He said the speech mentioned Jewish victims,
but not the Muslims who had been killed and tortured in various
parts of the world. He thought Obama had some success in
burnishing America's image, in part by highlighting the
religious freedom of Muslims in America.



Speech "Important Event in Global Policy"



--------------------------







8. (U) In an interview with Asia Plus June 5, political analyst
Rustam Haidarov said he believes that Obama's address to Muslims
is "one of the most important events in global policy" and he
believes that it will "without a doubt be positively evaluated
in many Muslim countries and possibly lead to a diminishing of
the allies of extremism." Regarding the Afghan conflict closer
to home, he expressed hope that "having recognized that the
Afghan problem cannot be solved by military means, the U.S. will
start to cooperate with border countries, including Tajikistan,
which could make a positive investment in establishing peace."





9. (U) In a June 6 Asia Plus interview, political scientist
Abdullo Hakim Rahnamo said, "In his historic speech Obama
recognized that imposing values on another country is simply not
possible. One could sense in Obama's words his shame of U.S.
policy regarding relations with the Muslim world for the past
decade. At the same time, Obama somehow avoided mentioning the
actions of the United States and called on all to forget the
past. It would have been more effective if the president had
summoned the courage to admit all the mistakes committed for the
past eight years by the American leadership, including in
relations with the Muslim world." Rahnamo expressed hope that
Obama's speech would have a positive impact on the Middle East
peace process.





10. (U) RFE/RL's Tajik bureau published the Ambassador's comment
that the speech in Cairo as "the beginning of a new U.S.
strategy towards the Muslim world." She pointed to the increase
of exchange programs for students and professionals as one of
the most immediate outcomes of the new strategy.



Results and Reverberations



--------------------------







11. (U) All media at the embassy event reported excerpts and
commentary, including a national state channel Jahonnamo
(audience share of about 600,000), the independently owned radio
stations Imruz and Asia Plus (combined audience share of
700,000), the independently owned wire service Asia Plus (1
million), and RFE/RL. An independent TV station SMT (50,000
viewers) broadcast the speech in its entirety during prime time
and included comment by the embassy audience. SMT also plans a
debate on the speech the week of June 8 for an analytical
program.





12. (U) The embassy-sponsored viewing brought together

DUSHANBE 00000724 003.2 OF 003


influential opinion makers and media to initiate a debate about
this important foreign policy issue. Several NGO leaders and
academics asked for copies to use in public discussions about
Muslim relations and in university courses. After the embassy
posted the Russian and Persian versions of the speech on the
mission Web site June 6, local wire services linked to the
speech and posted more interviews and comment about it. The
speech was delivered on a Thursday, after the weekly papers had
been issued, but interest is surging. To meet the demand, the
embassy is disseminating DVDs of the speech and print copies in
Russian and Tajik.
JACOBSON