Thursday, February 28, 2013

Open letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Mr. Laurent Fabius regarding the imprisoned writer Mamadali Makhmudov

Uzbekistan: Re: imprisoned writer Mamadali Makhmudov

27 February 2013

To: Mr Laurent Fabius,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of France

Mr Laurent Fabius,

For 14 years one of the best Uzbek writers Mamadali Makhmudov has been spending in prisons of Uzbekistan. He is a citizen of Uzbekistan. He is 72 years old. All of his literary works are devoted to the history of his home country and cultural and every-day life features of the people of Turkestan – historical region of Central Asia, which Uzbekistan is part of.

In February 1999 the writer was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment upon fabricated charges. During the investigation Makhmudov was subjected to torture, he was also deprived of food and sleep and placed in the punishment cell for numerous times. He managed to inform the outer world about it in an open letter in April 2003. Open letter of the imprisoned writer Mamadali Makhmudov (Evril TURON) to the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov.

14 November 2012 Mamadali Makhmudov’s daughter had a meeting with him in the colony-hospital UYa 64/18 of the Tashkent city. He was brought to the meeting with a convoy. The guards stayed with them in the same room during the meeting. His daughter saw a deep wound on Mamadali Makhmudov’s head, but he did not comment on the cause of the wound. He only said that he had a high blood pressure, 200 over 150 and general weakness. Recently the imprisoned writer sent a letter home and asked for medicines for throat inflammation. The several years he cannot do without nasal drops, he has difficulty breathing without it. His relatives do not know what happened to him and why he had a wound on his head.  A few years ago doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis.  His daughter said that the writer looked weak and emaciated.

16 February 2013 the imprisonment term under the 1999 sentence has finished. However, on 11 February 2013 he was transferred to the Tashkent prison for defendants under investigation and those waiting for transportation to prison after court decision. Relatives have been told that investigation was under way. Mamadali Makhmudov is being denied to see his family.

We are deeply concerned about the fate of the writer Mamadali Makhmudov. Being elderly and ill he is in need of constant medical help and care of his family.

Based on the principle of freedom of expression enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we call upon you to urge the Government of Uzbekistan to free the writer Mamadali Makhmudov.

With respect,

Sergey Ignatyev, “Arts and Human Rights” Project Coordinator – AHRCA  

Jodgor Obid, poet, Austria

Safar Bekjan, writer, Switzerland

Dilorom Iskhakova, poetess, Uzbekistan

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Open letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Mr. Laurent Fabius regarding the support to artist Vyacheslav Akhunov

Uzbekistan: on the restriction of the artist Vyacheslav Akhunov’s right to free expression

27 February 2013
Mr. Laurent Fabius,

The information on your upcoming visit to Uzbekistan was brought to our attention. A prominent artist Vyacheslav Akhunov lives in that country. He is an independent free-thinking art worker expressing critical opinions with regard to political processes in Uzbekistan and the state of the modern arts.
Artist Akhunov took part in 200 exhibitions in different countries. This year he has been invited to the 55th Venetian biennale, which is starting 1 June 2013. However, in January 2013 Uzbek authorities prohibited him to leave the country upon the grounds that his business trips for creative pursuits are not appropriate. Such explanation indicates political grounds of refusal.
Lack of the opportunity to exhibit his works at the international exhibitions, restriction of the right to freedom of movement and expression are becoming serious obstacle for Akhunov.
We call upon you to urge the Government of Uzbekistan to honour rights and freedoms of artist Akhunov, who represents modern independent art of Uzbekistan abroad.

With respect,

Sergey Ignatyev, artist, coordinator, “Art and Human Rights” Project — AHRCA

Ivan Kiriakidi, artist, Greece

Inna Kiriakidi, artist, Russia

Sergey Vasilyev, artist, Russia

Igor Reznikov, artist, Israel

Valera Vanyakin, artist, USA

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Art and Human Rights: interview with the artist Sergey Ignatev

San'at va inson huquqlari: Rassom Sergey Ignatyev bilan suhbat
Behzod Muhammadiy, VOA

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It is not acceptable that in a country like India the state interferes with the freedom of creativity

Poster "Art and human rights"
On 14 September 2012 members of the project “Art and Human Rights” of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia sent a letter in support of the Indian artist Aseem Trivedi to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India.

Artists from Central Asia - the participants of the project suffered for free thinking, free expression, and creativity over the years and some of them were forced to leave their home country. And those who remain in the country continue to operate under the pseudonyms.

Every participant sent the following appeal to the Embassy of India in his country.

Contents of the letter:

Mr. Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna
Minister of Foreign Affairs of India

Your Excellency Mr. Krishna,
I am addressing you, as the coordinator, on behalf of the participants of the project “Art and Human Rights” of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.
We all are concerned about the arrest of Indian political cartoonist and social activist Aseem Trivedi.
According to information available to us, the artist Aseem Trivedi is accused of abusing the Internet security. His cartoons have been perceived as a mockery of the state symbols. Such a reaction to the creative work is a violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as stated in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is not acceptable that in a country like India the state interferes with the freedom of creativity.
We urge you to take a personal interest in the fate of Aseem Trivedi and to respect his right to express his beliefs.

I assure you of our highest respect for you and the people of India.

Sergey Ignatyev                                                                                      


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Artist Depicts Grim Reality of Uzbek Jails

An exhibition of paintings depicting the brutality of Uzbekistan’s prison system goes on tour this autumn, in what artist Sergei Ignatyev says is an attempt to use art in support of human rights.
Ignatyev, originally from Uzbekistan and now living in the United States, is coordinator of an arts project for the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia as well as painting himself.

A selection of 44 of his works based on letters and stories from Uzbek prisoners goes on show at the Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in the Peruvian capital Lima this October, before moving on to Brussels and Paris as part of an exhibition highlighting the plight of political prisoners in the former Soviet Union.
In an interview for NBCentralAsia, Ignatyev described how letters smuggled out of prison inspired his work.

Sergey Ignatyev: When I saw evidence of the extreme brutality to which Uzbek prisoners are subjected, I conceived the idea of doing a series of pieces. The subject-matter came from letters written in prison, from former political prisoners, from photos of the bodies of prisoners who died from brutal treatment, and from reports produced by human rights defenders and journalists.

For example, the painting “Dream” was prompted by the lines, “I was unable to free myself from the illusion that dull obedience to the regime would release me from humiliation. I wanted to survive, but freedom soon became just a secret dream.”
The wife of an inmate at the Jaslik prison in northwestern Uzbekistan suggested the theme of “Wings”. She wrote to me of her husband, “His bruised hands were cold and had no nails. He could not hold a spoon. He was always silent.”
A letter from Andijan prison addressed to an inmate’s mother that described daily life and routine cruelty inspired the paintings “Prison Football” and “The Search”.
These letters are small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, and are in tiny handwriting. Often the authors don’t sign their names… there’s a big danger the letters will be found in their relatives’ possession after a prison visit. If prison staff find the letter, the inmate will lose the right to visits, he will be placed in solitary confinement and receive an additional sentence as a punishment. They use torture to make them beg President Islam Karimov for forgiveness.

NBCentralAsia: How do you come up with the unusual images in your paintings?

Ignatyev: One letter from an inmate describes a superintendent calling prisoners “walking meat”. A former political prisoner described how jail transforms a person into an animal whose only aim is survival.

If you are lucky enough to escape from this hell, you can never go back to the way you were. You can never see life in all its colours; there is only infinite fear.

NBCentralAsia: How compatible do you think art and human rights are? We generally think of protecting human rights as something serious involving reports and protests rather than paintings.

Ignatyev: Hollywood actors have joined in the protests against restrictions on human rights. Caroline Aaron and Reno Wilson played leading roles in “Cries From The Heart: Freedom Needs a Voice” [theatrical performance in support of Human Rights Watch, May 2012], which depicted the brutal repression of rights and freedoms in Uzbekistan. In my opinion, this was one of the finest examples of the solidarity between artists and rights workers.
At a concert in Moscow, Madonna appeared on stage wearing a mask and called for the release of members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot.

NBCentralAsia: What’s the main aim of your project and what audience do you hope to reach?
Ignatyev: We want to reach out to people who are ready to speak out against torture, to speak up for human dignity and for people’s right to express their views.

That aim comes out of the position in which independent artists find themselves in Central Asia. They have to work within limitations, avoid many taboo themes, and work under assumed names. As a result, Central Asian artists rarely engage in political themes, cartoons or street art.

Art that concerns itself with human rights evokes a sense of inner freedom. And the manifestation of freedom always brings down dictatorships.

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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