Wednesday, September 03, 2014


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
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: asdf
January 17, 2010 10:08
To a westerner these scenes seem idyllic.

by: toosinbeymen from: connecticut
January 17, 2010 22:36
Whoever accuses Ahmedova's photos as defamatory needs to lighten up. Her photos are very interesting and beautiful. They seem to show real people at ease in their world. What's defamatory about that?

by: Noo Yawka from: New York USA
January 18, 2010 01:04
I have never seen the urban architecture of Uzbekistan but if it's anything like most Soviet urban architecture it's awful. As a Westerner I'd much rather see scenes of people as they actually live their lives than pictures of bland Soviet apartment blocs.

by: Katya from: Uzbekistan
January 18, 2010 10:07
OMG! my country is not just old people! anybody who thinks it is like tht - come n whatch it urself! If you walk around NYC at night - you can take damn much pics of homeless people sleeping on the streets! but NYC has more than just those hemeless people! dont jugde Uzbekistan by Ahmedova's pictures!

by: umuts from:
January 18, 2010 10:36

by: anna from: canada
January 18, 2010 19:53
good photo, nothing offensive

by: Zebo from: Tashkent
January 19, 2010 06:14
I am proud of my country and culture because of the traditions. Such kinds of pistures of poor people you can take everywhere in different countries. It is better to take measures in everything combining beautiful, unique features of culture and nation rather than taking only gloomy moments.

by: p williamson from: dundee scotland
January 19, 2010 10:04
i would love to see the photos as im intrested in the culture of your country surley as most uzbeks modernise there will be those left behind and with out showing these diffrences how can the worl see look at india /china they have same problems but have no problem in show such images the photographer should be praised in show the diversity of your country

by: Gaspadin Kartoshka from: Belgium
January 19, 2010 10:51
Of course these pictures are just a part of Uzbekistan and there are much more things there, like huge modern towns full of young and fashion people, not only countryside. But these pictures (at least the ones that are in the slideshow) are great and just make me want to go again to Uzbekistan (a country where I'm used to spend 2 months a year since 4 years). They exactly show why Uzbekistan is attractive for me, and for a lot of Western people I think, not only because of his landscapes and historical towns, but because of its people, and because real human relationships are still possible there, much more than in "civilized" western towns. Reaction of the Uzbek authorities is counterproductive, they do not realize what is the richness of their country. They should be proud of their countryside people.

by: Brian from: California
January 21, 2010 01:52
To all people who dislike her pictures: Would you have her arrested for them? The question is not if the pictures are good or not, the question is should the government put people in jail who take pictures that they don't like?

Katya, yes, you certainly can take lots of pictures of poor old people in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago. Please do!
Comments page of 2

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