It was the first time that the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe – which was opened in October 2009 by Tajikistan's President, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, and Mawlana Hazar Imam – hosted a public event of this magnitude. Some 10 000 visitors were welcomed at the Centre over the Imamat Day weekend.
The AKDN Exhibition was inaugurated by Tajikistan's First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullo Yuldashev, who conveyed messages of felicitations on behalf of the Government to Mawlana Hazar Imam on the 53rd anniversary of his accession to the Ismaili Imamat.
AKDN's engagement in Tajikistan began in 1992 with the launch of a humanitarian assistance programme. Today, the Network works actively in all regions of the country and in most sectors, to help improve the quality of life of all the country's peoples. The Exhibition showcased the geographic reach and thematic scope of the Network's activities, which range from investments in education, health, rural development, microfinance, culture, hospitality, tourism, to disaster risk mitigation and, development of the energy sector.
Guests at the Imamat Day reception and the inauguration of the Exhibition included representatives from the Government of Tajikistan, as well as members of the international and local community. Rudolf Schoch, Head of the Swiss Development Corporation in Tajikistan, praised AKDN's approach towards development work: “Many organisations come to Tajikistan with projects lasting for two to three years. In the case of the AKDN, it is a life-long engagement. Such an approach gives the opportunity to go deeper and make meaningful impact in the lives of people.”
Over 600 Ismaili volunteers and Scouts from across Tajikistan participated in the festivities in a variety of ways, from helping to construct display booths, serving refreshments and ushering guests, to participating in the cultural show and, conducting tours of the Exhibition. Fotima Ofizbek and her sister Zuhro, both served on the hospitality team and were delighted to have the opportunity to meet and work with their Ismaili brothers and sisters. Excitement was palpable on the faces of the volunteers – for many, it was the first opportunity to serve the Jamat and the public at the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe.
Among the volunteers at the Exhibition were five students from the Aga Khan Lycée (AKL) in Khorog. Established in 1998, the AKL is the first privately-operated school in the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) of Tajikistan. The students displayed some of the science projects they had prepared at their school.
Navjavonov Nurzod, an eighth grade student, presented a remote-controlled helicopter that he designed. “After I graduate from AKL,” he explained, “I will continue further education and would like to become an engineer.” Another student, Amrnazarzoda Gulnoz, proudly presented some of the techniques of crafting Tajik necklaces learnt at the AKL's extracurricular club, Zebo Soz (Beautiful Making). The school's curriculum seeks to foster critical thinking skills, as well as develop creativity and cultivate an appreciation of Tajikistan's rich culture and heritage in its students.
These celebrations presented an opportunity to reflect on the tireless efforts of the volunteers and staff in advancing the Network's objectives. Reminiscing about the beginnings of the Network in Tajikistan, Yodgor Faizov, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in Tajikistan, remarked: “It was back in the early 1990s when I was asked to join the Pamir Relief and Development Programme – the first programme of the AKF in Tajikistan. When I started, we had a team of only seven people. Today, the Network has greatly expanded, employing over 3 000 people and several hundred volunteers for various agencies.” The ethic of volunteerism is a valued Muslim tradition, and the Tajik Ismaili Jamat has demonstrated its strength and unity through its volunteer service.
The AKDN also hosted a cultural show that featured performances from all districts of Tajikistan, as well as the neighbouring Central and South Asian countries. Performers included the Padida Theatre group, Samo band, the Indian Embassy Ensemble, as well as the Tajik popular band, Shams. The show presented a mix of traditional, as well as popular dance and musical performances that enhanced the festive mood of the occasion.
The celebrations concluded with a showing of the video of Mawlana Hazar Imam's Golden Jubilee visits to France and Central Asia, and a dinner in honour of all volunteers and staff who worked to help organise and manage the events. At the dinner reception, AKDN Resident Representative, Munir M. Merali, expressed his personal gratitude to all volunteers and staff on behalf of the Network's agencies in Tajikistan.