Posted by: Christian | November 18, 2009


I was in a shared taxi in southern Tajikistan when I saw a billboard with an unfamiliar face on it. I squinted at the modified Cyrillic and caught the name. The name was very familiar.

I wanted to get out and take a picture. But…there are some people who don’t appreciate him. Some see him as a monster. As a war criminal. However, there are  those who see him as a savior, a hero.

The last thing I wanted to do was ask the taxi driver to stop in front of a mural of a man who may have killed his relatives. Of course, alternately the taxi driver might be quite fond of the man on the billboard.

So…the man defended his home turf and the fighters from down the road never made it into his area of control. But where did he get the bad side of his reputation from? Not from being a strong defender.

I haven’t done my field interviews with the relevant people yet and I’m in the process of translating some sources. So the best I can do right now is piece it together from secondary sources (no, not TIME mag). My adviser wrote:

In mid-June 1992 he was in charge of a 10-strong self defence unit of a sovkhoz near Qurghonteppa. His 65-year old father was arrested by the opposition at the city bazaar. Saidov immediately took 40 Gharmi peasants hostage and entered negotiations concerning his father’s release, which he was ultimately promised. Having set the hostages free, he discovered his father’s burnt and savagely mutilated corpse two days later. Saidov gathered his male family members, classmates and co-workers, and went to Kulob, where the now 200-strong formation was provided with arms.

What is clear is that for the next year or so the man cut a wide swath not only through his enemy, but through the population that he saw as supporting them.

But one day, the top commander of the front this man was aligned with came to pay him a visit. They disagreed on something and, like the tough guys they were, dispatched each other, taking a few of their bodyguards with them.

And that’s that.

However, if you are looking for some people with official hero status then you are in luck. Because down the road in KT is this helpful billboard:

At the top it reads “Qahramononi Tojikiston” or “Qahramanan-i Tajikistan” [Heroes of Tajikistan]. It says the same thing under the 2 guys on the left and the 3 on the right: “by declaration of the President these guys are heroes and whatnot, etc…” Under the distinguished looking gentleman left over…well, that’s the President. He gave in to the insistence of the legislature that they be allowed to declare him as a hero of Tajikistan.


  1. To be honest I don’t see that much difference between him and most heroes.


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