Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where stupidity is in charge

Photo by Umida Akhmedova, All rights reserved

Does the picture above look to you like an "insult to the Uzbek people" ? The Uzbek government apparently thinks so. Prosecutors there used it to convict Uzbek photographer Umida Akhmedova of slander against the nation, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 3 years in prison. Luckily, fellow photographers in central Asia (but not in Uzbekistan) protested, and the cause was picked up by the Russian media. The government backed off, and a judge granted amnesty to Akhmedova "in honor of the 18th anniversary of Uzbek independence."

Here's what the government's experts wrote about the series in which the picture appears.

“With one glance at these pictures one can see that repair work is being done in these rooms, and that the children entered them purely through the childish curiosity that is inherent to them,” the complaint reads. “But to foreigners, these photographs may give the impression that these children live in these homes.”

Yeah? And?

umida akhmedova
Umida Akhmedova

In a way the most frightening part of the NY Times story (in its entirety here) is the photographer's evident bewilderment. Even in Uzbekistan, whose leaders' aggressive stupidity must be hard to mistake, Akhmedova clearly thought she was just making pictures.

"I still don’t understand how my creative work could have brought me to this courtroom,” she said.


Chris Bonney said...

I was amazed by this story, too. But it's not as surprising as it should be. When you think of the culture and mood that makes Fox News so successful, not to mention all the silliness going on down in Texas with regard to the educational curriculum, you start realizing we're not all that far from such a climate here.

Tim Connor said...

Chris, That was my thought reading it too -- exactly! It's why I blogged about it, but then I guess I ran out of gas. I was thinking of Bush & co, the rise of that lethal combo of will-to-power & simple-minded zealotry, & I just didn't have the energy to go into it. I thought, well, at least they're no longer ascendant & I'd really have to do some work to not sound paranoid or at least overexcitable. But you're right, they're still there. One terrorist attack plus the usual morally corrupt pols raising hell & we're back to fear & hatred full-time to the chant of "USA, USA, USA!"