Great Women in the History of Tajikistan

On the occasion of the day of solidarity of women in the struggle for rights and emancipation, we remember outstanding Tajik women, each of whom has left her own unique mark on the history of the nation.


Malika Sabirova


A Soviet-era ballerina, Malika Sabirova left her indelible mark on the history of the arts as the prima ballerina of the Aini Tajik Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. Her exceptional talent was acknowledged on the world stage after she won a gold medal in the first International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1969, which led to her being awarded the title of People’s Artist of the USSR.

Sabirova not only performed her roles magnificently on stage, but also became a driving force in the development of Tajik ballet. A pupil of the outstanding Galina Ulanova, she inscribed her name in the list of outstanding Soviet ballerinas as the “princess of Tajik ballet,” working tirelessly from the age of ten until her untimely demise just shy of her fortieth birthday.


Zebiniso Rustamova


Representing the Soviet Union, Zebiniso Rustamova won the world and team championship in archery in 1975, setting a new record. She was also an integral part of the team that won the world championship in 1985 and 1987, and European team championship in 1976, 1984 and 1986. In 1976, Rustamova won the bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics. A legendary athlete in her homeland, from 1992-2000 she served as the President of the Tajikistan Olympic Committee.


Malika Kalandarova

Still from the film “Bride and Groom”

Known for her extraordinary talent in the art of folk dance, Malika Kalandarova made a significant impact with her unique blend of grace and strength earning her an international reputation. An Honored People’s Artist of the USSR and the Tajik SSR, Kalandarova’s performances were characterized by her striking plasticity, with her career also involving her work as a stage director and a tutor. In 1993, she emigrated to the U.S., opening the Malika International Dance School. In 2020, she was commemorated with a stamp by the Post of Tajikistan, underscoring her cultural significance.


Sarajan Yusupova

Photo: Creative Commons

Sarajan Yusupova was a Soviet geochemist, Honored Worker of Science and Technology of Tajikistan, an academician at the Academy of Sciences of the Tajik SSR, and a Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences. The first woman academician in geochemistry in the history of Tajikistan, with her research on the celestine deposits from which radioactive strontium is extracted, she earned global recognition in the scientific community. Yusupova also served as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Tajik SSR in two convocations.


Sofia Hakimova


An eminent medical scientist, Sofia Hakimova carved her place in history by becoming the first Tajik woman to attain a Doctorate of Medical Sciences at the age of just 33. Her illustrious career saw her become a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences and earn the title of Honored Scientist of the Tajik SSR.

Beyond her academic accomplishments, Hakimova demonstrated a deep commitment to enhancing obstetric and gynecological services in her homeland. Her tenacity led to significant developments in women’s healthcare across the country, including the establishment and modernization of women’s clinics in various cities and districts. Furthermore, her efforts paved the way for the construction of state-of-the-art maternity hospitals in Dushanbe and other regions.

Hakimova’s scientific research was comprehensive and multifaceted, with a particular emphasis on endocrinological gynecology. She explored the role of estrogens in DNA synthesis and the division of endometrial cells, contributing valuable knowledge to the field. Additionally, she focused on the issues of iron deficiency anemia, hemoglobinopathies, and thalassemia in women and children.

Another area of Hakimova’s research was family planning, underscoring her dedication to improving women’s health and wellbeing. Her pioneering work in this field has had a profound impact globally.


Oinikhol Bobonazarova

Photo: U.S. Department of State

Oynikhol Bobonazarova is a prominent activist who has earned international recognition for her work, which has primarily focused on protecting human rights and investigating violations within her home country. In 1993, she was arrested and accused of plotting a coup, spending a month in prison followed by four years under house arrest. Despite these challenges, she remained steadfast in her commitment to human rights advocacy following her release.

In 1997, Bobonazarova was offered the position of Deputy Prosecutor General, but declined the opportunity. Since 2007, she has led Perspective+, a public organization aimed at monitoring prison conditions, combating torture, and safeguarding women’s and migrant workers’ rights.

In 2013, Bobonazarova was nominated as the presidential candidate from the united opposition coalition, marking a significant milestone in Tajikistan’s political history. A year later, she received the International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. State Department, a prestigious honor which is awarded to ten women worldwide who have shown exceptional courage and leadership. The award was presented to her by Michelle Obama.


Times of Central Asia