Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mourning the extremist

Nigora told me over dinner this evening that tomorrow she will go to the home of the young man killed in Andijan. She said the family is expecting so many people that they are dividing visiting and prayer times into two shifts – men before lunch and women after.

“If this guy was an extremist and he went to Uzbekistan to do bad things, why are so many people going to gather and mourn him tomorrow?” I asked.

“They won’t be mourning him,” she said. “They are going out of respect for his mother. I can’t refuse because she did many good things for us and for others. We went through a hard financial time when we had to marry off all of Shavkat’s brothers. It’s a custom to present to the wife’s parents a large round of bread and she would bake huge lepushkas for us.”

She said that among this woman’s son, the one who died was considered calm and unlikely to engage in such activities. “I can’t understand why he did it,” Nigora said. “Probably for the money. These groups get lots of money from Saudi Arabia and people like Bin Laden.”

I asked if she noticed women covering themselves up more than in the past. Even within the past few months, I feel like I am seeing headscarves, long zip-up robes, and even the rare complete face scarf more often.

“Yes,” she said. “Those people are religious, too religious. And many of them belong to those groups like the Akhramists and Mahibists (may be spelling this wrong). We have five or six people on our street like that, including the family of the man who died.”

She said that all of her and Shavkat’s relatives wear pants and show their hair. “When I go out somewhere, I go like that,” she said. “But when I’m getting together with people on the street, I dress like they do so that they won’t look at me.”

She usually wears a long, shapeless dress and a headscarf that is tied in the back, instead of those clasped under the chin, like I saw on two women stepping off a marshrutka today.

After dinner, she came into my room to get Shavkat’s Muslim cap, called a tubeteka in Russian. It was black with white embroidery. “Shavkat hasn’t worn this in ages,” she said. “Many people wear it often, but Shavkat only wears it for funerals. He’ll have to wear it tomorrow when he goes visiting.”

When I leave Osh, I’m really going to miss my evening conversations with Nigora and the rest of the family. I can’t imagine sitting at a table alone, or in front of a TV.

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