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Social media posts by Tajik president’s grandson unsettle ruling circles as leadership succession looms

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The social networking activity of “influencer” Ismoil Mahmadzoir is causing a stir within the country’s political and security corridors. His grandfather President Emomali Rahmon is planning his succession, which has triggered quiet maneuvering within elite factions, including Mahmadzoir’s relatives. Nobody is clear about how becomes the next president of Tajikistan. The daughters jockeying for the top job besides the grandson.

Video of a bland speech by Tajikistan’s long-time President Emomali Rahmon was posted late last month on Instagram by Buzkashi_1111, a handle created by Ismoil Mahmadzoir, the 25-year-old son of Firuza Emomali, one of the president’s daughters, who is the country’s No. 1 social media influencer with more than 1.3 million combined followers. His visibility on social media, however, has become a political liability.

The younger Rahmon posts often ostentatiously display his wealth, numerous feature videos showing huge piles of bank shrink-wrapped $100 bills, for example, to the exasperation of those in ruling circles. Flaunt it if you got it, seems the theme of the day.

Their fear is that Mahmadzoir’s flaunting of his lifestyle could cause a backlash among less privileged citizens at a time when different factions within Rahmon’s family and advisers are discreetly angling to gain an edge for their side in an unfolding battle to succeed him.

Although Mahmadzoir himself is not a contender to inherit the throne, the favorite is Rustam Emomali, the president’s eldest son, his close relatives are key powerbrokers in the opaque and treacherous succession process.

The U.K. connection

Mahmadzoir’s father, Mahmadzoir Sokhibov, is a construction magnate and top presidential adviser, including on the all-important topic of allocating business concessions to the well-connected. Mahmadzoir’s uncle, is UK-based Shamsullo Sokhibov, head of business conglomerate Faroz and husband of another of Rahmon’s daughters, Rukhshona Emomali.

Both brothers are well-connected to powerful security officials at the ministry of internal affairs and at the State Committee for National Security (SCNS), the national intelligence agency that is known in Russian as the GKNB.

Both Sokhibov brothers are keeping a close eye on the succession process, as is Hasan Asadullozoda, Rahmon’s brother-in-law and owner of one of Tajikistan’s main banks, Orienbank, which oversees major investments in the country. Earlier this year, according to our sources, Asadullozoda began looking for ways to move his capital from Tajikistan, including to the United States.

My Best Friend in Dubai!

To build his brand as a social media influencer, Mahmadzoir posts on Facebook, TikTok and five Instagram accounts. Post by Ismoil8, his handle at the account with the largest following, plays up his standing as a trendy fashionista, his role as president of the national Judo Federation of Tajikistan, and his frolics in Dubai. Managing a company called IM Group, he is frequently seen with his friend Osama Ahmed Abdullah Al Shafar, who holds a seat on the UAE’s 40-member Federal National Council, which helps prepare all proposed legislation in the monarchy.

Al Shafar, a former president of the UAE Cycling Federation, is a member of the management committee at the Swiss-based Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Al Shafar is also active on Instagram, where he mentioned his “dear friend” Igor Makarov, a billionaire Russian-Turkmen energy magnate, president of Areti International Group and energy adviser to former Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (IO, 26/04/22). The United Kingdom has hit Makarov with financial sanctions and travel bans over allegedly providing Moscow with important economic and strategic assistance. As a result, various national cycling federations have called for his expulsion from the UCI, where he is also a management committee member.

Photo: On his various social media accounts, Ismoil Mahmadzoir shows himself with his grandfather, Tajik’s President, but also with $100 bills, in Dubai, and in his role as judo federation president. © ismoil8/Instagram – rayison_tj/Instagram – @ismoilim8/Twitter



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