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Tajikistan: Mysterious Murder of Rudaki Samadi 18 Years Ago. Analysis of Details.

The murderers of the leader of the Zoroastrian community of Tajikistan, as well as the causes of this crime, are still unknown.


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Those who knew Rudaki Samadi associate his murder with his religious affiliation, since he was a propagandist of Zoroastrian doctrine and a supporter of Aryan culture in Tajikistan. However, others say that the causes of his murder were financial issues. During the journalistic investigation, we tried to find out the causes for the murder of Samadi.

Who Was Rudaki Samadi?

Rudaki Samadi. Personal photo
Rudaki Samadi. Personal photo

Rudaki Samadi was born in 1964 in Dushanbe. He graduated the Tajik Philology Faculty of the Tajik National University. For some time, he was a movie director at the “Tajikfilm” studio. Together with the movie director Vose Muso, he directed the six-part film “Zarathustra”, which was shot in Tajikistan and Iran. In July 2001, unidentified persons murdered Rudaki in the center of Dushanbe.

A criminal case was opened over the fact of the murder; the Zheleznodorozhny district (Shohmansur district now) prosecutor’s office and the Dushanbe city prosecutor’s office conducted the investigation, however, the causes of the murder and the suspects are still unknown.

One of the investigators who worked on this case told CABAR.asia on condition of anonymity that two motives for the murder were initially put forward: religious beliefs or personal enmity. At that time, according to him, personal enmity was the most likely to be true cause. He was not aware about yet another hypothesis – financial, which Rudaki’s friends and family put forward. According to the investigator, they did not discuss it then, however, too much time had passed and many details may already be forgotten.

“At that time, suspects of having committed this crime were not found. We tested the hypotheses and later, due to the absence of suspects and additional information, transferred the case to a higher authority,” said the former investigator.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova. Photo: ozodi.org
Oinikhol Bobonazarova. Photo: ozodi.org

Human rights activist Oinikhol Bobonazarova believes that certain people or organizations who managed to suspend the investigation could be behind this case.

“It is impossible to suspend the case stating that the suspect has not been found, since this is a murder! According to the legal norms of the Constitution of Tajikistan, choosing the confession is the common right, and practicing any religion is not a crime. The experience of law enforcement agencies in our country shows that when a crime highly matters to them, they find the criminals 25 and even 30 years later and broadcast them on television,” says Oinikhol Bobonazarova.

Addressing Rudaki Samadi’s relatives, Bobonazarova advised them to contact law enforcement agencies and even international human rights organizations to resume this case and finish the investigation.

No Murderer and No Cause of the Murder: The Case Returned for Additional Investigation

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, “on July 4, 2001, at 8 AM, near M.Tursunzoda street, 8, 1st pass of the Zheleznodorozhny district (Shohmansur district now), unidentified persons shot several times Makarov handgun to different parts of the body of the citizen Samadov Rudaki Ismatovich, and fled the scene. He died from wounds. During the examination of the scene, four nine-millimeter bullets were found. After examining the body, the Nurnoma book and 600 somoni 32 dirams were found in the pockets”.

It was reported that on the same day the Zheleznodorozhny district prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case under article 104, part 2, paragraphs f, g, i, l of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan (murder).

From the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan:

Article 104. Murder: f) committed with extreme brutality; g) committed in the manner which exposes to danger the lives of other people; i) committed by a group of individuals or group of individuals in a conspiracy, organized group, criminal community (criminal organization); l) with the goal of hiding another crime, or facilitate the commitment of another crime, as well as along with rape or forcible actions of sexual character.

The preliminary investigation was entrusted to the investigator from the district prosecutor’s office. After a series of investigative steps, the investigator checked several motives for the murder, including hypothesis of Rudaki’s religious affiliation, as well as hypotheses of financial debt, domestic conflicts and other. However, despite the law enforcement intelligence-gathering activities, this crime was not solved, and the criminals were not identified.

After a two-month period established by the criminal procedure legislation, due to the absence of the person to be put to justice, the case was closed.

Due to an incomplete preliminary investigation, this decision was reversed by the prosecutor’s office of the city of Dushanbe. The investigator of the Dushanbe city prosecutor’s office subsequently carried out an additional inquiry and investigation into the criminal case. However, after the completion of a number of investigative actions, repeatedly, due to the absence of the person to be prosecuted, the criminal case was suspended.

After the re-examination of the case, due to the necessity of the additional investigation, the General Prosecutor’s Office canceled the decision of the investigator from the Dushanbe city prosecutor’s office to suspend the investigation of the criminal case. This criminal case was returned for additional investigation to the prosecutor’s office in Dushanbe.

Nevertheless, until now, that is, the fall of 2019, the investigating authorities have not identified the murderers and the true causes of Rudaki’s murder.

What Do Rudaki’s Relatives and Witnesses to Murder Know?

One of the witnesses, Romin Hodizoda, told us that the murder of Rudaki Samadi happened near their house and their family called the police.

“Our apartment was on the first floor. I was at home when I heard a loud shot. After a few moments, I heard a man screaming and a second shot. Mom and I carefully looked out the window and saw a young man in a white shirt. We called the police. Police officers came to our house and took my mother’s testimony. Neighbors were saying that Rudaki was killed due to debt. Then we heard other different rumors.”

Journalist Mirzo Salimpur was one of the first to report the news of the murder. He said that no killers were found. It was said then that the cause of the murder was the propaganda of Zoroastrianism. Salimpur said that the murder of Rudaki frightened Zoroastrianism followers in Tajikistan.

Azam Afzali, one of Rudaki’s friends and a member of the Scientific and Cultural Association “Mazdayasna”, said that after the murder of Rudaki, no one took the lead in the organization.

“This is explained by the fact that there were many radicals in Dushanbe at that time, and such organizations as Mazdayasna caused hostility,” said Azam Afzali.

On February 21, 2005, journalist of the “Vecherniy Dushanbe” (“Evening Dushanbe”) newspaper Nargiz Zokirova published an article on iwpr.net that mentioned the murder of Rudaki along with mentions of pressure and threats to followers of other faiths in Tajikistan. Relying on unofficial reports, Nargiz Zokirova wrote about the absence of religious tolerance in Tajikistan’s society.

Isfandiyori Odina. Photo from Facebook page
Isfandiyori Odina. Photo from Facebook page

Isfandiyori Odina, journalist, a former member of the Scientific and Cultural Association “Mazdayasna” and one of Rudaki’s friends, directly connects the murder to his activities. He recalls that in the early 2000s, law enforcement agencies recorded a number of crimes against famous people in the field of culture and science. For example, Saif Rakhimzod Afardi, movie director, chairperson of the State Committee on Television and Radio, was killed. At that time, academicians Yusuf Iskhaki and Muhammad Osimi, Minister of Culture Aburahim Rahimov and a number of other famous persons were killed.

“The murder of Rudaki continued a series of murders, but no one ever said which group was behind all these killings,” said Isfandiyori Odina.

One of Rudaki’s former colleagues, journalist Ahmadshoh Komilzoda believes that Rudaki was the victim of the limited, radical attitude that prevailed in Tajikistan at that time and was gaining momentum. There were no other reasons why he could be killed: he was not rich, he was not involved in politics.

Komilzoda said that he met Rudaki Samadi around 1996-1997 in Tehran. Returning to Tajikistan, Rudaki created an official organization – Scientific and Cultural Association “Mazdayasna” and rented an office.

Propagate Not Religion, but Persian Culture

Ahmadshoh Komilzoda.  Photo from Facebook page
Ahmadshoh Komilzoda.  Photo from Facebook page

Komilzoda said that the organization’s investors transferred a certain amount to purchase several computers and other equipment. Their activities included the adaptation, editing and publication of classical Persian-Tajik texts, and they were not related to religion. Rather, these books contained information about the history and language of ancient Iran.

During a journalistic investigation, various rumors were brought up about Rudaki’s debt, various amounts were indicated. Some, without providing any facts, said that he owed someone a great sum of money, and it was the reason of the murder. We tried to clarify this.

One of the hypotheses stated that Rudaki allegedly received a large sum of money ($250,000) for the construction of the building for the Scientific and Cultural Association “Mazdayasna” from the Zoroastrian community of Sweden, and this was the reason of the murder.

Komron Jamshedi. Photo from Facebook page
Komron Jamshedi. Photo from Facebook page

Komron Jamshedi was the leader of the Zoroastrian community of Sweden at that time and traveled to Tajikistan several times to negotiate with Rudaki. He confirmed Rudaki’s connection with the Society of Zoroastrians of Sweden and said that not only Rudaki, but also several other people from Tajikistan were members of this community.

According to him, the subject of negotiations with Rudaki was the spread of Zoroastrianism in Tajikistan. The result of these negotiations was the establishment of the Mazdayasna organization, which was closed later.

However, he said that he did not know anything about financial relations, for example, about the allocation of a certain amount for the construction of the building in Dushanbe and about any other donations. He also stated that a decision had been made in the Zoroastrian Community of Sweden to create a work office for the Mazdayasna Scientific and Cultural Association in Tajikistan, but when Rudaki was killed, the work on the project was stopped. Several people tried to continue this work, but they failed to do so.

Rudaki’s friend, poet Salimi Zarafshonfar, also knew about the large amount of money that Zoroastrians from Sweden allegedly gave Rudaki. According to him, when Mazdayasna Scientific and Cultural Association successfully organized the celebration of Nowruz, Mehrgon and Sada, the Suet Zoroastrian Center wanted to cooperate with them and even financed some of their activities.

“After returning from Sweden, they transferred them $8,000 for the office repair and purchasing computers and other equipment. It was money for the development of our forum. There even were people who received monthly salaries at this organization,” says Salimi Zarafshonfar.

However, Azam Afzali says that all money they received from the Zoroastrian community of Sweden were donations. They never made any complaints and said they were ready to help in everything related to the spread of Zoroastrianism. According to Afzali, Rudaki’s death has nothing to do with money. Financial issues emerged only after his death. All the money that he received was under the control of the organization, and he always reported on it.

The Project of Forum Building Construction for $250,000

Munim Olamov. Photo from Facebook page
Munim Olamov. Photo from Facebook page

Journalist Munim Olamov, close friend of Rudaki’s family, noted the government’s support for the organization. He said that the organization’s activities had been improving recently, government approval for the construction of the Mazdayasna Association building had been received, and the site for it had already been selected. He believes that it was precisely this religious activity and Rudaki’s religious beliefs that caused the murder.

Speaking about the construction for the Mazdayasna Scientific and Cultural Association, Salim Zarafshonfar also confirmed that Rudaki received permission from the responsible authorities for construction and expected only the large amount of money from foreign investors.

“In order to expand the activities of our Forum, it was planned to organize language and computer courses, a library, begin construction for the Mazdayasna Scientific and Cultural Association behind the building of the Ibn Sino Hospital. The Swedish Zoroastrian Center allocated $250,000 for this. Thus, they wanted to draw people’s attention to the pre-Islamic history and culture of Tajiks,” said Salim Zarafshonfar.

Azam Afzali, a member of this forum who was always close to Rudaki, said that he personally went to the responsible person to officially register the papers for the construction of the building, and invited a designer from Khujand. According to him, representatives of the Swedish Zoroastrian Center gave their consent to the construction. They themselves made a proposal for its construction, the World Center of Zoroastrians was planned to be created in Dushanbe.

Salim Zarafshonfar. Photo: CABAR.asia
Salim Zarafshonfar. Photo: CABAR.asia

According to Salim Zarafshonfar, there is no group or organization behind the murder of Rudaki. Some radicals, who misunderstood his activities, may have attempted his life. Rudaki officially adopted Zoroastrianism, but did not force anyone to follow his example. He used to say, “Everyone will reach God in his/her own way”.

Rudaki’s Wife: “He Became a Victim of the Criminal World…”

Muvakila Olimova, Rudaki Samadi’s wife, believes that her husband was the victim of a criminal world, envy and greed. She stated that the murder of her husband was related to business and money.

“Maybe, someone else wanted to work in the field of Zoroastrianism, but only Rudaki managed this. Rudaki owned the project which many wanted to get. When they saw that he had succeeded in this work, he was eliminated. I still do not know who killed him and why…” says Muvakila Olamova, Rudaki’s wife.

Regarding his last investors, Samadi’s wife said that they were Zoroastrians of Sweden, they sent him $7,000 only once; she personally saw the invoice of the transaction. Since all documents were seized during the investigation, we could not get a copy.

She says that when she asked the investigators who the killer was and why Rudaki was killed, they replied: “The investigation is ongoing”. Muvakila says that she could not afford a lawyer due to difficult living conditions and even if she hired him, he would probably have been “removed” as well. 

Zoroastrianism, the ancient pre-Islamic religion that survives there in isolated areas of Iran. More prosperously, it is represented in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Iranian (Persian) immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees. The Iranian prophet and religious reformer Zarathustra (flourished before the 6th century BCE, more widely known outside Iran as Zoroaster, the Greek form of his name) is traditionally regarded as the founder of the religion. Zoroastrianism contains both monotheistic and dualistic features. It likely influenced the other major Western religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

On the Situation of Zoroastrianism in Tajikistan

A spokesperson for the Committee for Religious Affairs under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, Afshini Mukima, says that officially there is no Zoroastrian religious community in the country, since no one has applied to the Committee for registration. However, experts note that a certain number of Zoroastrian followers remain in the country.


This journalistic investigation was conducted under IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia via Open

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