Local Hero

Posted by sepoy on May 19, 2005 · 3 mins read

They took back the town of Karasu and the rebel Bakhtiyor Rakhimov quite easily. Karimov's Special Forces did. This dream-land of djinns and paries [Samarkand o Bukhura o Farghana and, in particular, Afrasiab are home grounds in those dastans] is now a repressed dictatorship where civilians can be killed for being "Islamists".

That bounding Freedom, again.

Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, at first glance, seems like a man from one of those dastans - an Umro Ayyar, if you will. Flanked by his "former wrestling champion" friend, he shared his views:

"If the troops return, we will fight them," said Mr Rakhimov, a stocky, tanned farmer with a neatly trimmed beard, who says he was chosen as the town's leader in an impromptu popular vote over the weekend. The defenders' lack of firearms would be offset by divine guidance, he claimed.
"Without guns, we can still use these," he said, touching the hilt of his dagger.
"We will establish here a paradise, a Caliphate, in which Muslim cares for Muslim, taking what he needs and giving away what he can do without, as it says in the Qur'an.
"Allah will provide and lead us forward in our struggle," he said, gesturing to the sky. "Down with slavery!"
The call for an all-embracing Islamic regime will incense the autocratic president, Islam Karimov, who has made it his aim to stamp out what he perceives as Islamic fanaticism, especially in the traditionally devout east of the country.
Mr Rakhimov seemed unconcerned as he entertained guests at his home, where he reclined with friends on an outdoor dais laid with bowls of strawberries, apricots, chunks of raw sugar and round discs of bread.
"A caliphate does not mean the tyranny of men like Karimov, it means the mutual support and love of Islam," he said.
He denied being a member of any group such as the Islamic sect Hizb ut Tahrir, saying he was guided by the "pure principles of the faith".

The sister's account of his arrest puts a sadder face to this upstart hero of the people. Why is he daring to stand-up to a brutal dictatorship with a handful of starched and parched followers? Where does he get these ideas of paradise that he speaks of? I really don't know. Maybe one of the djinns has him in thrall. Maybe he knows something about freedom we don't. Maybe he just wants to be heard. They say he helped build the foot-bridge across the border that was later torn down. The bridge was good for business and he is a business man, this local hero of ours. Like Umro Ayyar.

But, there is no space for such odd heroes in our world now, is there? I hope him and his nephew come out safe and alive. I hope that he can hang out, once again, with his ex-wrestler friend and eat some chunks of raw sugar. I could hope for a lot more. But, I will be thankful just for that.