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By Rukhshona Ibragimova
CHEVALAI, Tajikistan – Alisher Umarali’s home is not as crowded now as it was in the first days after his death.
“It felt like people came to us from all across the country. People came and came. Each of them wanted to express his (or her) condolences,” said Umarali’s father, Umar Mirzoyev.
Umarali, 19, was one of 23 servicemen and officers who died in an attack on a Defence Ministry convoy in Kamarob Gorge, Rasht District, September 19. Seventeen others were wounded, three of whom died later.
He left his home village of Chevalai, just south of Dushanbe, to begin military service April 4.
Umarali’s body was brought home one day after his death. “It was horrible to look at him," Mirzoyev said. "When I washed his body, I counted seven bullet wounds. His entire right side was charred and riddled with shrapnel. I do not even know if he died immediately or suffered."
"We’d been making plans," Umarali’s mother, Musharifa Mirzoyeva, said in tears. "I thought he would come back and we would marry him off. My son would start working, and I would finally stop washing floors in other people’s homes.”
Mirzoyeva has been working as a housekeeper for 15 years. “I clean for five rich families. ... I didn’t see how (my son) grew up. I went to work early in the morning, when my kids were sleeping, and I came back after midnight,” she said.
Mourning lasts more than a week
Mirzoyeva said her mother-in-law raised the children. “His grandmother’s eyes have not been dry in seven days,” Mirzoyeva said.
A week after the ambush, Umarali’s 80-year-old grandmother, Hadicha Olimova, still mourned, clutching to her chest a photograph taken of him just before he began his service.
Umarali joined the army voluntarily, his father said. “They came from the enlistment office several times. I sent my son to my sister’s so that they would not take him into the army. One day, Alisher came to me and said, ‘Enough, father. I will go and serve. I will do my duty for the motherland, and then I will help you and work."
Umarali’s parents are poor. Mirzoyeva will reproach herself until her last days for having failed to give her son the opportunity to obtain more of an education, she said. “Had he gotten into a university, they would not have taken him into the army,” Mirzoyeva said, crying.
Umarali is survived by three sisters and a six-year-old brother.
Not all the troops' parents have to mourn a dead son, but many are devastated just the same.
Shamsinisso Namozova’s son, Khabibullo, remains in intensive care at Dushanbe’s Regional Clinical Hospital No. 3.
Namozova said her son is receiving good care “but I just do not know if my son will fully recover.”
“They’ve already done two operations on him, but there is still a fragment next to his heart and the doctors are hesitating to remove it,” Namozova said. “Another fragment hit him in the spine, and my son cannot feel his legs.”
Namozova said Khabibullo, 21, began mandatory service last spring. “He always wanted to be a military man. He said, ‘I’m going to go and serve and then I will get into a military college. I want to be like my father,’” she said.
Namozov’s father worked in law enforcement. His death was unexpected. “On September 21, I was supposed to (mourn the anniversary of) his death, but on September 20 ... I came here. ...They let me in to see my son for only a couple of minutes at a time. Thank God, Khabibullo came to,” said the mother.
Tajik government to help families financially
The government has reached out to the families of the fallen.
The Defence Ministry directorate will provide 2,000 TJS (US $457) to the families of each soldier who died in the attack, ministry spokesman Fariddun Mahmadaliyev said.
Defence Minister Sherali Hairulloyev and President Emomali Rakhmon also visited the wounded soldiers, said Mahmadaliyev. Seventeen soldiers, three of whom later died, were injured in the assault.
The Dushanbe mayor's office is helping the families of Nematullo Rakhmonov and Bahrom Abdulloyev, two deceased soldiers from the capital, Shavkat Saidov, spokesman for the mayor's office, said.
“The capital’s mayor also instructed the city’s health and education departments to provide support to the families and children of the soldiers killed in the line of duty,” Saidov said.
The Defence Ministry offered condolences and promised to provide financial assistance, Umarali’s family said.
Mirzoyeva questioned why the army sent young boys to Rasht instead of more seasoned troops. “After all, my son had only served for five months, "Mirzoyeva said.
“But six weeks ago, Alisher called home and said that they were going to be sent to Rasht soon," Mirzoyeva said. "That same day he was transferred to Vahdat (which borders Rasht Valley’s districts). I never heard his voice again. And then there was a call saying my son had died in Rasht.”
The family buried Umarali on the hill in front of his home. “Now, when I sit in the gazebo in the yard, I will always be looking at my dear son,” she said.