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Bozor Sobir, Tajik Poet And Former Opposition Figure, Dies

Bozor Sobir spoke to RFE/RL on April 7.
Bozor Sobir spoke to RFE/RL on April 7.

Bozor Sobir, a prominent Tajik emigre poet who was once a leading member of an opposition party in the Central Asian country, has died in the United States at the age of 79.

Sobir's widow, Gulchehra Sobir, told RFE/RL by phone that her husband died on May 1 at a hospital in Seattle.

He had been hospitalized in early April with lung problems, she said.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ordered diplomats to arrange the repatriation of Sobir's body for burial in Dushanbe.

Sobir gained prominence and popularity in the 1970s and '80s for his poetry in Tajikistan, then a Soviet republic.

He joined the Democratic Party of Tajikistan in the wake of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's late-1980s reforms, which introduced political plurality and relaxed state controls over some aspects of life.

Sobir's poems were translated into English, German, Spanish, and Russian, as well as several other languages of the former Soviet republics. Books of his poetry were also issued in Afghanistan and Iran.

In 1993, during the 1992-97 civil war in Tajikistan, Sobir was arrested and charged with public calls to overthrow the government, hostage-taking, and inciting social discord.

Sobir denied the charges, calling them politically motivated. He spent nine months in pretrial detention but was released with the help of international human rights organizations and later emigrated to the United States.

On the eve of the 2013 presidential election, Sobir visited Tajikistan and met with Rahmon, the authoritarian president who has been in power since 1992.

He called on Tajik intellectuals to support Rahmon in the election, which the incumbent easily won in the tightly controlled country.