Packing up to go to Osh, a noisy, chaotic, disorganised and messy but free town which opens its doors open to everyone – researchers, journalists, Islamic scholars, democrats, victims, criminals and spies – you see and feel that you have nowhere and no-one to go to. With Alisher, Osh lost its power and face.
The world created by Alisher Saipov in Osh was reminiscent of the world shown in film Casablanca and it became an island of freedom at a stone’s throw from the dictatorial Uzbekistan.
Journalists from all over the world went to see him when they came to report from southern Kyrgyzstan because no-one knew the region better than Alisher knew. His skills to work with various sources made him the most informed journalist in the region.
Any refugee from Uzbekistan knew where to seek help in Osh – Alisher Saipov, who received everyone regardless of their reasons for fleeing their country. Refugees from Andijan, Muslim followers escaping persecution for their faith, democrats from opposition movement, journalists or human rights activists exiled from the country – everyone could rely on Alisher’s help.
This was possible because Alisher, an ethnic Uzbek born in southern Kyrgyzstan, was concerned about the future of Uzbekistan and he believed that he had right to meet anyone whom he deemed necessary and right to help anyone whom he wanted to.
Understanding his civil rights and ability to exercise them despite consequences were a distinctive quality of Alisher. He was a free man.
In its report on the death of Alisher Saipov the International Crisis Group openly said what was whispered by many Kyrgyz officials: only Uzbek security services could be behind the murder of the journalist. Only Tashkent could kill him for his links to the opposition Erk party, ICG said.
After his death, an investigation by Kyrgyz police showed that Alisher’s office in Osh was a logistics centre of resources for preparing protest actions in Uzbekistan in the run up to the December 2007 presidential election.
Print material, leaflets and posters calling on the Uzbek people to rebel against the dictatorship of Islam Karimov were found in Alisher’s office. Questions whether it was wise to ask Alisher to help with this should be answered by the party leaders.
The only clear thing is that Alisher must have decided to help the Erk party only because he believed that he had right to do so and that it was lawful to disagree with governments openly. Alisher wholeheartedly believed in this right.
Before his death, Alisher doubted the success of the Erk party. He said that Uzbekistan’s democratic movement suffered from the lack of new ideas, approaches and professionalism and that it had no real leaders capable of leading people. He also believed that widespread protests in the country ruled by Karimov would lead only to new Andijan tragedies.
Alisher criticised Erk leader Muhammad Salih for his authoritarian methods when he banned everyone, even people from outside, from disagreeing, arguing and objecting to him.
However, the paranoid regime of Islam Karimov failed to see in Alisher a new personality who was above the Erk party and that he never was a member of this party which was too small for him because he loved absolute freedom and hated any restrictions.
How is the life in Osh now without Alisher? What are those who need him doing without him? They must have scattered in all directions or got lost without their Osh lighthouse – Alisher Saipov.
Galima Bukharbayeva, editor-in-chief of Uznews.net, friend and colleague of Alisher