Anti-Armenian Riots Erupt in Soviet Republic of Tadzhikistan
Riots broke out in the capital of Tadzhikistan during protests Monday against the resettlement of ethnic Armenian refugees in the Soviet Asian republic, official sources said.
One report said there were several deaths and dozens of injuries.
The official Tass news agency said a state of emergency and a nighttime curfew have been imposed on the city of Dushanbe to quell “mass disorders and pogroms and acts of arson and looting.”
Musafar Madzhidov, correspondent for official radio and television in Dushanbe, said armored vehicles had been brought into the city center and that it was calm late Monday. He said an unknown number of people have been killed and more than 70 injured.
Rioting erupted after two rallies in a 24-hour period over rumors that Armenian refugees from bloody ethnic strife in the Caucasus region were being given preference for new housing, Madzhidov said in a telephone interview.
Members of the crowd shouted “Down with the Armenians!” he said.
Armenians, a predominantly Christian people, have been involved for the last two years in a bloody dispute with primarily Muslim Azerbaijanis over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
More than 200 people have been killed in Armenia and Azerbaijan since Jan. 13, and President Mikhail S. Gorbachev was forced to send thousands of soldiers into the area to impose control.
But until Monday, there had been no reports that the trouble had spread to the predominantly Muslim republics of Soviet Central Asia such as Tadzhikistan.
The Tadzhikistan Communist Party leader, Kakhar Makhkamov, appeared before a crowd that gathered Sunday outside party headquarters in Dushanbe and asked for 24 hours to investigate the rumors, Madzhidov said.
Another crowd gathered on Monday but ignored his report that all but one Armenian refugee already had left Dushanbe, he said.
They pelted the party headquarters with stones, breaking all the windows, and then went on a rampage through shops located nearby, he said.
Police fired in the air to disperse the crowd, but the rioting continued until armored vehicles brought soldiers into the center of the city at about 10 p.m., when the curfew was imposed, Madzhidov said.