Misstep: Dance teacher sacked for 'skipping' Tajik autocrat's speech

Dushanbe (Tajikistan) (AFP) - A dance teacher in Tajikistan says she was sacked after failing to watch the end-of-year speech of long-reigning autocrat President Emomali Rakhmon.

Misstep: Dance teacher sacked for 'skipping' Tajik autocrat's speech

Misstep: Dance teacher sacked for 'skipping' Tajik autocrat's speech

Rakhmon, who has led the ex-Soviet country for more than a quarter of a century, tolerates little opposition and has presided over a leadership cult that has noticeably strengthened in recent years.

Saida Rustamova, 45, told AFP Thursday that she lost her job after not attending a viewing of the president's speech in December at the state-run music school where she worked in the capital Dushanbe.

"When I went into the hall to attend, there were no empty seats in the room. Some chairs had two or three children sitting on them," Rustamova said, arguing there was "no space" to join other staff and pupils.

A letter from the music school's director, shown to AFP by Rustamova, indicates her dismissal was due to a "categorical refusal" to watch the state broadcast of Rakhmon addressing the country's parliament.

"I am a musician. I don't get involved in politics," she said, while denying that she deliberately skipped the speech.

Tajikistan's culture ministry said a "legal ruling" on Rustamova's case is expected "soon" after she lodged an appeal against her dismissal.

Earlier this month Rakhmon, 65, signed off on an order to mint a golden medal named after himself that will be awarded to citizens in recognition of outstanding services to the majority-Muslim republic.

Rakhmon, whose portrait features on the medal, received "Leader of the Nation" status granting him and members of his family lifelong immunity from prosecution in 2015.

Many analysts expect the strongman to rule Tajikistan for as long as he lives after a virtually uncontested constitutional referendum in 2016 paved the way for him to run for office an unlimited number of times.

But another amendment passed in the same plebiscite lowered the age limit for presidential candidates from 35 to 30, which could indicate that Rakhmon's oldest son Rustam is being prepared to succeed him ahead of schedule.

Rustam Emomali is currently serving as the capital's mayor following lower key stints as head of the state customs and anti-corruption services.

The Central Asian country was placed 151st on anti-graft watchdog Transparency International's most recent corruption perceptions index.

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