Call on Uzbek authorities to stop their persecution of Umida Akhmedova
Colleagues and partners of Umida Akhmedova have issued a statement and petition in protest at the Uzbek photographer and film-maker’s prosecution.
During the last month the Uzbekistan Media and Information Agency has been investigating the Gender Program of Swiss Embassy in Tashkent. The Uzbekistan Security Service has vigilantly scrutinized books and films created under this program, as well as the authors, working in cooperation with it.
The whole story is an example of obscurantism and a step back from democratic standards. It is well-known that the Swiss Embassy Program is a set of humanitarian, educational and elucidative projects. Umida Akhmedova is one of the authors who have been working with the Program for several
years. She has also participated in other international projects and programs. We are Umida’s colleagues and we know her not only as a talented artist but as a genuine patriot of her country. Millions of people in the whole world have come to know and to love Uzbekistan through her works.
What exactly is Umida charged with? In fact she stands accused of what her country should be proud of, for example, her book of photographs «Women and Men: From Dawn to Dusk», which was published in 2007 and her documentary films. Many of us have this book. It contains 110 photographs and each one reflects the life and traditions of people of Uzbekistan.
Umida Akhmedova is charged with slander (Article 139) and insult (Article 140), with these carrying a potential sentence of corrective work for two to three years or detention for up to six months. The case was initiated on the decision of some experts from the Tashkent Prosecutor’s Office. These experts decided that Ahmedova’s book of photographs is «an insult and slander of the Uzbek people». At the same time these experts did not explain how a documentary photograph can slander anyone. It is also unclear who authorized the Uzbekistan Media and Information Agency to protect the allegedly
abused honour of the Uzbek people.
It should be stressed that the Swiss Embassy Program has been conducted within the framework of the Uzbekistan state policy on gender equality. The book of photographs, which has suddenly been deemed so scandalous, was received positively in the highest echelons of power. The Media and Information Agency waited two years before discovering slander and defamation in it.
Despite the absurdity of the accusations, we understand that they could place huge pressure on Umida and her family. We, Umida’s friends and colleagues, are concerned for her safety.
Umida Akhmedova’s colleagues from different countries, are inviting all those concerned over this miscarriage of justice, as well as those who know Umida or have any connection with the Swiss Embassy’s Gender Program to add their voice to our appeal which will be sent to the relevant addresses in Uzbekistan.
We are asking everyone to stand up for a woman and an artist – those who are always unprotected before the authorities.
We are demanding the triumph of law, not of arbitrary rule.
Please send your signature to Galina Petriashvili, GenderMediaCaucasus Journalists’ Association, President