Civil War Statues Keep Bad Memories Alive

Manuchehr Mirzoev reports from the southwestern Tajik city of Qurghonteppa where residents are deeply divided over monuments to commanders from one side of a bloody civil war.

Civil War Statues Keep Bad Memories Alive

Manuchehr Mirzoev reports from the southwestern Tajik city of Qurghonteppa where residents are deeply divided over monuments to commanders from one side of a bloody civil war.

Saturday, 27 June, 2009
June 27 is National Unity Day in Tajikistan, commemorating the peace deal signed in 1997 which ended five years of civil war.



Early on in the conflict, Qurghonteppa and the surrounding area saw some of the fiercest fighting between the government that is still in charge and the United Tajik Opposition, in which the Islamic Rebirth Party was the driving force.



Depending on which side you were on, monuments in the city celebrating three leaders in the Popular Front, the pro-government militia of the time, evoke pride or resentment, as IWPR’s straw poll on the city streets revealed.



Local man Said Nazriev asserts that about half of Qurghonteppa’s population would like to see the busts of Sangak Safarov, Langari Langariev and Faizali Saidov disappear.



“It was a civil war. There are no heroes in wars like that,” he explained.



Another resident, Haidar Aliev, added, “It’s going to be hard to say anything about these monuments to future generations and not discuss that shameful period in the history of the Tajik people.”



By contrast, Dilorom Hafizova thinks the monuments should stay where they are.



Discussing the three paramilitary commanders, she said, “I don’t know how terrible they were, but they weren’t indifferent – they wanted to build a fair, law based state, in their own way. They also have a lot of supporters.”



Of the three, Safarov and Saidov were killed in 1993, reportedly shooting each other after falling out.



Although the Popular Front was the mainstay of President Imomali Rahmon’s administration at the time, he subsequently saw to it that the often wayward militia was disbanded.



Buhroniddin Rajabov, the official who heads the provincial department for culture, says times have changed and the busts have to go.



“All of us remember the events of 1992 and what happened then. Like it or not, our standpoint on those events is now changing,” he said. “In addition, the busts don’t display a trace of artistic endeavour.”



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