The Tajikistan Free Market Centre (TFMC) was founded in 2010 based on the ideas of free markets, tolerance, and individual responsibility; and it promotes these ideas through research, education, and social events. TFMC provides an alternative voice for social and economic policy to the status quo in the country. One of its main initiatives is its monthly “Living Library” series, which is a non-economic project based on the principles of tolerance, pluralism, and non-violent conflict resolution through open dialogue.
Each Living Library event is set up in a face-to-face format and seeks to overcome prejudice and negative attitudes toward marginalized groups of society. Referring to participants as “living books” with stories to tell, each Living Library features a wide diversity of individuals, and each “book” takes 15-20 minutes to tell his/her story. The fourth Living Library in the city of Dushanbe took place on February 17 and featured a Roman-Catholic priest, a victim of xenophobia, a female scientist, and a deported labor migrant, among more.
“Being an alumnus of the 2016 ‘Promoting Tolerance’ program hosted by AJC and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, I was inspired to start the ‘Combating intoleration, stigma and hate speech through the living library in Tajikistan’s project,” said Aziz Timuroff, executive director of TFMC. “The project demonstrated great success, and now the TFMC is known as organizers of Living Libraries events rather than just our Free Market Clubs.”
Timuroff and TFMC believe that stereotypes can be overcome by face-to-face communication in its Living Libraries. Instead of reading a book the way one would in a traditional library, “reading” in the Living Library consists of asking each “living book” any questions one may have. TFMC’s press release for the fourth Living Library captures its purpose succinctly: “Do not judge a book by its cover – read it.”
“Our main focus is education and [promotion] of free market and free society ideas,” Timuroff continued. “There are two main vectors: economic and non-economic ones. In the first way of activity we organize traditional ‘Free Market Clubs’ and discussing the current issues and challenges in Tajikistan’s social and economic policy. The topics of the Club is quite diverse, ranging from currency regulation, [the] banking crisis, and tax policy to education policy and the role of religion to economic development in the country.” The Living Library series helps constitute TFMC’s non-economic vector of activity.