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The Photographer Who Portrays Uzbeks As 'Barbarians'


One of the offending photos taken by Umida Ahmedova

One of the offending photos taken by Umida Ahmedova

RFE/RL has covered the case of Umida Ahmedova, an Uzbek photographer who is being charged with defamation and damaging the country's image.

Uzbek officials claim that the photos and videos that Ahmedova took in remote Uzbek villages (which were featured in two of her documentaries, "Customs Of Men And Women" and "The Burden Of Virginity") are defamatory and insulting to Uzbekistan.

(Check out a slideshow of her photos here.)

Two days ago, Ahmedova's lawyer received a copy of the conclusions of a panel of "experts" who studied her photos. Apparently, the panel comprised "specialists" in the fields of religion, culture, and psychology.

You don't have to be a specialist in defamation laws or a psychologist to understand how ridiculous some of the conclusions are.

The panel accused Ahmedova of deliberately presenting Uzbekistan's landscape, way of life, and traditions in a negative and pessimistic light. The "specialists" came to the conclusion that after looking through Ahmedova's pictures, any foreigner unfamiliar with Uzbekistan would have the impression that "people in Uzbekistan live in the Middle Ages."

Some more of the commission's findings:

90 percent of the pictures were taken in remote and underdeveloped Uzbek villages… Why does [Ahmedova] not take pictures of beautiful places, modern buildings, or well-off villages?

She depicts pictures of beggars and sleeping vagabonds -- why does the author take pictures of such things?

The author focuses on two traditions: wedding and circumcision. In both she depicts people crying -- women saying farewell to their parents or small boys crying
.... The author obviously wants to portray Uzbek people as barbarians.

Ahmedova has many pictures of women doing work, in particular household chores, which makes it seem that Uzbekistan doesn't have any other profession but cleaning.

Ahmedova tries hard to present Uzbek women as victims. Even a picture of a woman in the park, she is depicted with her hands bound.

After listing all possible malicious intentions Ahmedova might have had while presenting her photographs, the commission arrives at its final verdict: "Ahmedova prepared the photo album with self-interest. It does not fulfill the aesthetic requirements. In other words, the distribution of such an album to the wider public should be prevented."

-- Malika Sharif

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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