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The Wrong Qayumov: A Tajik Killing And A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Sulaimon Qayumov, the singer
Sulaimon Qayumov, the singer

An amateur singer from southern Tajikistan has gotten his 15 minutes of fame -- but for all the wrong reasons.

In a case of mistaken identity, Sulaimon Qayumov's account on a popular social-networking site has been flooded with death threats and insulting messages, forcing him to change his user name.

The unexpected attention paid to his Odnoklassniki page is apparently because he shares a name with Sulaimon Qayumov, a suspect in the recent slaying of Tajik opposition figure Umarali Quvatov.

Quvatov's March 5 slaying in Istanbul led to an outcry by his supporters, many of whom suggest he was killed because he had angered the Tajik government.

Qayumov, the singer, says that not only had he never heard of his namesake or two other suspects arrested in connection with the assassination, but that he has never left his hometown of Kulob.

"I don't follow politics," Qayumov says. "I had no idea."

Qayumov said he was "so excited at first" when he saw more than 200 messages in his Odnoklassniki inbox and some 500 visits to his Odnoklassniki page on March 6.

The body of Umarali Quvatov, covered with newspapers, on a street in Istanbul after he was shot and killed
The body of Umarali Quvatov, covered with newspapers, on a street in Istanbul after he was shot and killed

The aspiring singer had just posted a new song and was anticipating feedback from friends, not death threats from strangers.

"Whoever you are, you haven't got much time to live," read one message. "You've made a very bad mistake."

"You killed Umarali," read another.

Qayumov says it took him some time to figure out why he was being targeted by social media users.

"I spent hours answering the messages and explaining my side of the story," he says.

He eventually gave up and decided to change his account name to "Studio." Qayumov also removed his songs and most of his photos and posts, leaving mostly religious videos.

He says "it's not the right time at this moment" to try to promote his songs until his name is "cleared."

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Mumin Ahmadi
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    Mumin Ahmadi

    Mumin Ahmadi has been a correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service since 2008. He graduated from Kulob State University and has worked with Anvori Donish, Millat, Khatlon-Press, and the Center for Journalistic Research of Tajikistan. He was also the editor in chief of Pajwok.

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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