Who ordered Alisher Saipov's assassination?
This piece was to appear on the Ferghana.Ru web site somewhat earlier, a piece on publications by Uzbek authors under Kyrgyz aliases directed against Alisher Saipov. As things are, however, I'm writing about his physical extermination.
A series of articles on various Uzbek web sites and in newspapers condemning "perfidious activity" of Alisher, Ferghana.Ru news agency, and yours truly called for a response to the absurd accusations. We decided, however, not to stoop to the level of these people who do not have any inkling of what genuine journalism stands for but who faithfully serve their masters instead. There have always been people like that, after all. Actually, Alisher himself spoke up against the idea of response. "This black PR is great from the standpoint of promotion," he smiled. "These publications have made me a celebrity."
It is clear now that this information campaign against Alisher was artillery preparation for the assassination and that biased TV programs in Uzbekistan were expected to prepare general public for the unprecedented atrocity that followed. As a matter of fact, Uzbek media outlets conditioned the population of Uzbekistan itself and that of the southern part of Kyrgyzstan where Uzbek TV channels are available too. The campaign backfired. Alisher's colleagues and whoever merely knew him are convinced that he fell victim of Islam Karimov's regime.
Moreover, local journalists and analysts believe that whoever ordered Alisher's assassination aimed to do away with a man who was a thorn in their hide and, also importantly, to intimidate his colleagues and all of the population of southern Kyrgyzstan. That is why the assassination was brazen and arrogant. Alisher had often worked late hours, calling it a day at 2 or 3 a.m. which made him an easy mark. But no, the assassins were ordered to murder Alisher almost in broad daylight and in a public place, so as to make a point and make other dissenters wary.
Either the Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies are notoriously incompetent since Uzbek secret services have been kidnapping and murdering people in Kyrgyzstan with impunity, or they connive with the Uzbeks. It does not matter. What matters is that neither assumption does them credit.
That President Kurmanbek Bakiyev put the investigation under personal control (no wonder he did, considering the international hue and cry) does not matter either. He had made similar statements in the wake of assassinations of Imam Muhammadrafik Kamalov and businessman Aibek Alimjanov. Granted that Alimjanov was assassinated in a local mob war, the population of Kyrgyzstan is stone-cold confident that Kamalov at least was exterminated by Uzbek secret services.
Also importantly, the reports on how all of Osh was cordoned off and all in- and outbound vehicles were examined turned out to be false. We entered Osh driving a cab with darkened windows. Nobody bothered to examine the vehicle or its passengers. The traffic police was busy collecting its usual tax (10 soms) from drivers. Heartily disliking the Uzbek regime, I wouldn't nevertheless say that its traffic police would have been so callously cynical on a day such as this.
State Secretary of Kyrgyzstan Adahan Madumarov, himself a former journalist, expressed the position of the Kyrgyz authorities in probably the best possible manner. Commenting on Saipov's assassination, he said it was the first time he heard of a journalist by that name. Madumarov said it on the fourth day after the assassination which had been condemned the world over and followed by demands to the Kyrgyz authorities to run an unbiased investigation and prosecute the assassins. "They shoot journalists everywhere from Russia to Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan," ex-journalist and ex-opposition activist Madumarov said, "but Kyrgyzstan alone is making such a fuss over the matter. A journalist was killed. So what? Lawmakers and politicians are assassinated too, but it is journalists alone who hit the roof whenever something like that happens."
Kyrgyz journalists in the meantime made their stand on the matter quite plain. NTM-42 TV channel (Osh) released a special bulletin yesterday where journalists demanded a rapid and unbiased investigation, accused the authorities of being too secretive, and condemned them for absence of access to Ikbola Mirsaidov, the only witness who was by Saipov's side when he was assassinated. "Alisher's death is not going to stop us. We will continue doing what has cost Alisher his life", "This tragedy is an eye-opener", "We pay law enforcement agencies their salaries, we want them to deliver," Kyrgyz journalists said.
Kyrgyz journalists are convinced that Alisher's assassination was engineered by Uzbek secret services. They wouldn't swallow the purely criminal showdown hypothesis suggested by law enforcement agencies. "Alisher did not have any business ventures and therefore contacts with the underworld. He was murdered for the way he was doing his job. They wanted to silence him - permanently," the journalist's colleagues say.
A few words on the mud-slingers. Even a brief glance at their publications proves their Uzbek origins despite the numerous references to "our Kyrgyzstan" and "neighboring Uzbekistan". No Kyrgyz journalist will call Uzbekistan "the ancestral land of Kyrgyz Uzbeks." Unlike the Uzbek authorities and despite the problems existing in ethnic relations, Kyrgyzstan views ethnic Uzbeks as its own citizens.
Elaborations on values of journalism and freedom of expression are not for scribblers. Living in an isolated country where only one "truth" is recognized, they do not even know how distorted their brains and souls are.
As for the $2,000 from across the ocean Alisher was allegedly paid every month... no Kyrgyz journalist including Alisher has ever been paid this sort of money. Journalists are doing their jobs for a pittance of salary and frequently at the risk to their very lives. As for these scribblers, they wouldn't hesitate to sell everything for this money - everything from their very souls to the motherland to the dictator whose regime they extoll. These people hail this regime for essentially a song, just for a patronizing pat on the shoulder from a minor state official. These people hold nothing dear but their dubious status of the men who "belong" in a country whose inhuman regime has driven dozens bona fide journalists abroad as "traitors".
I'd like to see their faces and eyes now. At least some among them must have finally grasped that they have become accomplices in the murder. And whoever hasn't should know that they are cogs in the cowardly machinery that was morbidly afraid of a young man so naive as to believe that he could change the world and make it just a bit better. He failed in this undertaking but his death has brought these changes even closer. There are lots of Alishers in the world and he himself will always remain with us, memory of him calling for a better world where there will be no place for the cowards speaking in the language of weapons only.
Alisher's father, his grandmother, his mother, and even young wife (she is only seventeen) with a newborn daughter have only the God to rely on. He offers the only hope in a country where a man is assassinated for his plainly stated beliefs and where the government does not even have a say on too many things.
Progressive people throughout the world and in Uzbekistan itself know that the regime established in Tashkent cannot last long. Regimes that assassinate young journalists to silence them never do.