Authorities Plan to Depose Muslim Saints in Tashkent
Tombs of Muslim saints of the XVII century located in Tashkent’s Ukchi-Olmazor mahalla (quarter) at the address - 2 Penkov Close will be opened and moved "to another place," the custodian of the mazar (cemetery), Nuritdin Akhmedov, said, referring to a statement by Byron Gaybullayev, the head of Shaykhantahur District’s urban planning division.
However, the official did not specify where exactly the relics will be moved. Among them are the remains of Sheikh Ahmad Mahdoom ibn Muhammadali - a descendant of Imam Al-Bukhari.
Mazar in Ukchi-Olmazor mahalla. Photo by Fergana News
Nuritdin Akhmedov told Fergana News that the decision to depose the saints contradicts a decree of the first Uzbek President Islam Karimov signed on April 28, 2014. The law stipulates that the mazars of saints and other historical and cultural monuments are inviolable.
"According to the decree, such mazars can be demolished or deposed to other places only in cases of natural disasters - catastrophes, earthquakes, floods and other," Ahmadov explains. "No official buildings can be erected in their places. Only greening is allowed."
Nuritdin Ahmadov. Photo by Fergana News
Ahmedov, who is a direct descendant of the sheikhs buried in the mazar, intends to protect the graves by all means available to him. He recalled Article 49 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan which states that "citizens are obliged to protect the historical, spiritual and cultural heritage of the people of Uzbekistan. The state protects monuments of culture."
According to interlocutor of Fergana News, the opening, deposition or destruction of cemeteries with the graves of saints, as a rule, brings misfortunes to the families of people involved in such actions. "People really die or become disabled if they encroach on holy graves," Ahmedov said. "When untouched, however, they bring healing. Previously, people did not believe in it, but the facts speak for themselves. So, no need to disturb the graves!"
Former caravanserai in Ukchi-Olmazor mahalla. Photo by Fergana News
Meanwhile, a Shaikhantakhur District official who recently visited the mazar in Ukchi-Olmazor mahalla said that the ancient mazar would remain intact. But all other buildings on the premises, including the house where Ahmedov family lives and a historic building which served as a caravanserai [a resting place for travelers] until the October Revolution of 1917, would be demolished. And now Ahmedov's family does not know who to believe - the urban planning administrator or the administration official.
Mazar in the Ukchi-Olmazor mahalla is one of twenty holy places preserved in Tashkent. Believers from all over the country are making a ziyorat here - a pilgrimage to holy places -almost every day until now. It is believed that visiting the graves of the sheikh helps cure various diseases and infertility.
Ukchi-Olmazor Mahalla is located on the land where the authorities of the capital are planning to build a business complex, called “Tashkent City”. There will be buildings up to 40 floors high, apartment block of up to 12 floors, hotels, exhibition centers and parks. The project will be carried out in two stages over the next four years at a cost of $ 1 billion.
Mazar in the Ukchi-Olmazor mahalla. Photo by Fergana News
There are more than 520 houses with 2,165 families registered in this particular mahalla. The authorities promised to build 21 multi-story houses for 1,155 flats in Tashkent’s Yashnabad District by June 2018.
Earlier, residents of the demolished mahallas complained about the urgency with which they are being pushed to leave their homes under the threat of forced eviction. All further details are available in Fergana’s previous extensive report on the project.