Human rights defender Elena Urlaeva checked hospitals, mosques, marketplaces, and a school, in search of a student claimed to have committed suicide, but found no trace.
Human rights activists looking for more information about the case of an Uzbek student said to have committed suicide after allegedly being detained and tortured in Andijan region have been forced to conclude that the case was likely fabricated.
Yet they remain perplexed about the motivation for such a social-media concoction, and wonder whether it was Uzbek intelligence, the opposition, or simply Internet pranksters who made up the compelling story of Gulsumoy Abdujalilova, an Uzbek woman studying abroad in Germany who became a Facebook friend of the Popular Movement of Uzbekistan, then supposedly met a tragic end.
Elena Urlaeva, the Tashkent-based leader of the Human Rights Alliance, traveled again to the town of Kurgantepa in Andijan region on Monday, in order to investigate further leads on the story after a fruitless trip to gain information from police on Saturday.
In an account circulated Tuesday on email, Urlaeva writes that she took up the investigation of the story of Gulsumoy Abdujalilova because she had been approached by people claiming to be her relatives who had asked her to help.
Using an address mentioned on an opposition website said to be Abdujalilova's home, Urlaeva traveled to Hamsa Street, but discovered that no family by that name existed at no. 49. She found a taxi driver who said he had lived on the street for 40 years, and together they walked around the nearby streets making inquiries, and also went to find the chairman of the mahalla (neighborhood). He told them that the police had also come looking for Gulsumoy, but said that he knew of no such family, and nor of any such deaths in the mahalla.
Next, they visited School No. 5, which Gulsumoy was said to have attended. There, they found the director, Nasiba Ziyatova, and a Russian-language teacher, Hasan Zununov, who happened to live at Hamsa, no. 46. Together, they spent two hours looking through back files and did not find any student by that name. They also called in a pupil who was the same age as Gulsumoy, but she said she knew of no such person.
After that, Urlaeva made the rounds of all the hospitals and clinics, asking about Gulsumoy as well as her stricken mother, ostensibly admitted after her daughter's suicide. She made inquiries at emergency rooms and at morgues, but no doctor was able to find any patient admitted by that name, or any recent suicide that matched the description of the young woman who had supposedly overdosed on tablets.
Chief physicians Yuldashvoy Muaev and Ikboljon Yusupov spent two hours asking doctors at the hospitals about the possible suicide case and the distressed mother, but found no such cases. The chief physicians then said to Urlaeva, "Most likely those who wish you ill, knowing of your nature and empathy, have exploited you, but we've done all we can here to help."
Urlaeva followed up on another tip and went to look for men who were said to be Gulsumoy's brothers, checking mosques and marketplaces, as well as tea-houses and cafes but no one knew of any such people, and had not heard of any such suicide.
In the end, Urlaeva asked whether the whole wild goose chase had been conceived simply to waste her time and distract her from other matters, such as taking part in an action planned by the banned Birdamlik party on Constitution Day.
A woman giving only her first name as Hurshid contacted Urlaeva and said that she was leaving Uzbekistan and had a copy of the suicide note which she would supply. Later there was a report that she had surfaced in Turkey but her claims could not be confirmed. A query made at the German university where Gulsumoy was alleged to have studied also turned up no evidence that such a student had ever existed.
Urlaeva concedes that she may have been fooled, but concludes, "I have always believed people who need help, and while sometimes I don't have time and opportunity to respond to a call immediately, I always try to help people honestly and sincerely to the best of my ability, something that is very much needed in Uzbekistan."