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Tajikistan: Influential Islamic Politician Remembered

Dushanbe residents mourn Nuri on August 9 (RFE/RL) The leader of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), Said Abdullo Nuri, was buried today in the capital, Dushanbe. Nuri died on August 9 after a long bout with cancer. Nuri led the United Tajik Opposition during the 1992-97 Tajik Civil War and then headed the National Reconciliation Commission that helped guide the country to peace.

PRAGUE, August 10, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Several thousand people attended Nuri's funeral in Dushanbe. Nuri was among the best-known figures in Tajikistan, and his burial attracted leading figures from the former opposition and the government.

IRP Deputy Chairman Muhiddin Kabiri told RFE/RL's Tajik Service today that Nuri's death creates a void that will not easily be filled.

"I must say that Nuri is an irreplaceable personality," Kabiri said. "He led his own school [of thought] in Tajikistan and in the region, which consisted of creating peace, unity, and forgiveness and forgetting [grievances]. The community of Tajikistan did not have this before -- the country had not experienced this sort of thing before. But it showed that Islam is a peace-loving and forgiving religion, and I hope that this is his legacy in Tajikistan."

Major Figure In Tajikistan's History

Nuri was prominent in the decade that followed independence, when he initially emerged to lead the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) -- a coalition of groups opposed to rule by post-Soviet apparatchiks. He fled the country during the civil war but continued to run the UTO from exile in Afghanistan and Iran.

Dodajon Ataullo, the editor-in-chief of the Tajik opposition newspaper "Charoghi Ruz" (Light of Day), continued to publish the newspaper during the civil war -- when it was banned -- printing it in Russia and smuggling into Tajikistan.

"His death is very heavy on me, very painful for me," Ataullo told RFE/RL's Tajik Service from his Russian exile. "During his illness, I was always with him [in spirit]. I remember his face, his features, his soulful eyes. I recognize him not only as one of the biggest politicians, but [also] as one of the major personalities and most beloved figures in Tajikistan's history in the 20th century. That is how I view him."

Nuri signed the Tajik National Peace Accord on behalf of the UTO in 1997, ending a bloody civil war that cost as many as 100,000 people their lives.

Charismatic Leader

The chairman of the Tajik parliament spoke today at Nuri's funeral on behalf of the government and President Imomali Rakhmonov, who is currently in India. Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloyev praised Nuri as a "remarkable person" who helped bring peace to Tajikistan.

"His personal qualities and political charisma raised his authority among the citizens of Tajikistan and the members of the Islamic Renaissance Party," Ubaidulloyev said. "The president of the republic highly values [Nuri's] role, his activities, and appreciates and calls attention to his deeds. Today we say goodbye to a famous politician, and we respect his role in establishing peace and unity in Tajikistan. We remember his great and historic part and his spiritual deeds."

Soviet authorities jailed Nuri in 1973 for distributing Islamic literature. One year later, he helped organize an Islamic youth group called Islamic Revival (Nahzati Islomi) that never met with official favor. In the run-up to the civil war, Nuri was the editor-in-chief of a newspaper called "Minbari Islom."

"Abdullo Nuri founded Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party. After the outbreak of the civil war, regrettably, he was forced into exile," prominent Uzbek Islamic scholar Muhammad Sodiq told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "But during his activities, he understood that war and armed confrontation were not good and that everything must be resolved through peaceful means. He held talks with the government about establishing peace in Tajikistan. He returned home and turned to peaceful activity. That made everyone happy."

Nuri's Islamic Renaissance Party remains Central Asia's only officially registered Islamic political party.

(RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Uzbek Service, and Prague-based correspondent Gulnoza Saidazimova contributed to this report.)

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