The Land of Unreported Murders

by Nathan Hamm on 1/27/2005 · 2 comments

Uzbekistan’s media is not reporting a series of murders in Tashkent, saying that doing so is “not in the public interest.”

Since the attacks began in early January, 11-year-old Shirin Abbasova and nine-year-old Kamila Umarova have been raped and strangled, according to Tashkent police. Two other girls of a similar age were also raped, though they survived the attacks. Their names have not been released.

Police believe the assaults are connected, saying although the assailant leaves few clues behind, all the crimes were committed on the roofs of apartment buildings. Shirin’s body was found on a roof, while Kamila was left on a landing leading to one.

Investigators are still unsure whether they’re looking for an individual or more than one person and have posted photographs of four suspects in schools and apartment blocks.

Of course, everyone seems to know that something is going on, so the official silence only fuels wild speculation.

Rustam, who lives in the building in the Yunasabad district where Shirin Abbasova was murdered, said only locals know what happened to the young girl. In other districts, there are rumours she was killed by a boy who was in love with her, or by a vampire.

He is surprised and angered by the silence of the local press, which could have quashed the rumours by providing accurate information, and most importantly warned the general public. “I don’t understand why the press doesn’t report this. Are the journalists on the side of the criminals?” he asked.

Both police and residents of Yunusabad feel that keeping quiet is missing an opportunity to use the press as a tool to help track down more leads and possibly the criminal(s) as well.

A police officer who gave his name as Rinat said news stories on the crimes could help mobilise the public and help police find the killer.

Volodya Ivanov, a resident of Yunusabad, points out in many countries that when a child is killed or a serial killer is on the loose, it is major news.

“Two years ago, when a sniper was killing people in the United States, we got this news every day in Tashkent. The media mobilised people and eventually helped to arrest the criminal. Now we have to live on rumours and gossip, because our journalists are silent,” said Ivanov.

For those who haven’t seen Uzbek news, the storyline woven through every broadcast is “Everything is calm and wonderful in Uzbekistan, and everything is chaos in the rest of the world.” This story seems to confirm that nothing has changed. In many ways, this reminds me of the Bukhara murders that took place when I was in Uzbekistan.

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Tatyana January 27, 2005 at 1:14 pm

Your ‘everything’s calm” line reminded me of a [very old – yeah, that dates me] Soviet children movie, a collection of fairy tales loosely based on 1001 nights and filmed in Uzbekistan, I think in Samarkand or Bukhara, with local beatiful actresses and fantastical gorgious costumes; the name escapes me.
There was a scene where the night guard walks along interior of city wall, ringing small bell and giving occasional cries “Sleep in confidence, oh Baghdad inhabitants, everything is calm in the city!”
That was a backdrop for “The thief of Baghdad” story…

Tatyana January 27, 2005 at 1:17 pm

Aha, found it – and sad to say, my memory is not as it was… Those were Georgian actresses, not Uzbek!

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