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.”
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.