This post is part of our campaign #FreeAlexSodiqov: GV Author Detained in Tajikistan. It is a translation of a post originally written in Russian on Google Plus by Mahina Shodizoda.
Alexander Sodiqov has been the focus of many publications recently. He has been written about by journalists, scholars and international organisations, all of whom have highlighted the fact he is a member of the academic community, not a spy. But I would like to concentrate on another facet of his personality: Alexander as a blogger, netizen, patriot of his country and the former editor for Global Voices Central Asia.
Alexander was one of the first Tajik bloggers. He began writing for NewEurasia.net as early as 2005, recounting his trips around Tajikistan and discussing important political developments in the country.
Judging by visitor comments, his own English-language blog, TJ Monitor, was extremely popular both inside and outside Tajikistan. Although his posts were often dedicated to issues covered by other media, they were marked by a more balanced approach, since he always tried to reflect the widest possible spectrum of opinions and views.
Even before becoming personally acquainted with Alexander I knew him as an active Facebook user. Although he was not among my friends in this social network, I often saw Alexander’s comments in various public groups. Even then Alexander came across as a patriot. I remember him sharing links to photo reports by Russian and foreign tourists who visited our country and fell in love with it, and suggesting we make them “public diplomats” of Tajikistan. He was upset by the persistent stereotypes of our country and pointed out that the state could harness the tourists’ experiences to form a positive image of our country on the international scene at minimal financial expense.
He also showed his patriotism when he engaged in Facebook polemic with members of the so-called “opposition” living abroad. These “oppositionists” urged Facebook users to actively confront the authorities. Alexander heatedly argued with them trying to convince other users that, in fact, these “opposition leaders” had nothing to offer except calling for confrontation. He wrote that they should make constructive proposals for improving the lives of Tajik people. Alexander insisted that slogans and appeals alone were not enough to make anyone “a leader”.
Alexander always had a nuanced understanding of a given situation. In December 2013, Ukranian TV travel program “Oryol i Reshka” (“Heads and tails”) came under fire from Tajik Internet users after an unflattering portrayal of Tajikistan in one episode. The Tajik users overwhelmed the programme's Facebook page with insults. Unfortunately, most of these responses only strengthened negative perceptions about Tajikistan among the programme's audience since they contained explicit language, insults, mistakes of all kinds and on the whole showed our citizens as being unable to engage in discussions and defend their viewpoint in a proper and civilised manner.
At that moment I liked Alexander’s stance because he pointed out the mistakes and stereotypes in the program articulately and without anger. Not only did he do this, but he backed up his words with references to works by scholars who had been to Tajikistan and photo reports by Russian and Ukrainian bloggers who had visited our country and formed an opinion that was different from the one held by the “Oryol i Reshka” protagonists.
For two years Alexander worked as the editor of Global Voices Central Asia. During that time there was a large volume of interesting posts about the countries of the region on the website. He involved many blogers in the the project. Although many articles were of a critical nature, he constantly encouraged writers to produce positive posts as well,and find ways to advertize Tajikistan to a wider audience.
Finally, I would like to write about Alexander as father. It was through his photos on Facebook that I realised how much he loves his young daughter. He regularly posted photos with his wife and daughter on this social network. Moreover, he often shared links to articles about child development, demonstrating his broader interest in raising children, and arguing for compulsory vaccination in the interests of all children.
This is Alexander as I know him. I strongly hope that the Tajik authorities will tackle this situation and withdraw all charges against him. There should be more people like him – well-educated, competent and patriotically-minded.