Berlin, February 24, 2010
From: Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights
CC: Amnesty International London, Art for Amnesty
Cooperation with the Government Officials of Uzbekistan means Support of the Authoritarian Regime in this Country
As a human rights activist and a former Uzbek prisoner of conscience, I greatly respect your art and your commitment to human rights. Your contribution to the campaigns of Amnesty International and your dedication to the values of human dignity are very important. I believe that artists like you live up to the importance of human rights values and are an inspiration to others. In this respect, I very much regret that you have agreed to and have given a concert in Tashkent as a response to the invitation of the Uzbek President’s daughter (Gulnara Karimova).
Gulnara Karimova’s business empire is founded on unfair and unequal competition, as well as on the use of government power structures, including the national security service, in order to further her financial interests.
The money Gulnara Karimova offered you embodies the pain of millions of Uzbek people. Around 2 million children between the ages of 10 and 15 are forced by the Uzbek government to work on the cotton fields under grave conditions in order to guarantee about 60% of the state’s hard currency export. Most of this money does not reach people in Uzbekistan, but instead the Uzbek elite, in particular, the president´s family. Hundreds of thousands of Uzbek people have to work abroad in unbearable conditions, living in incomplete and shabby constructions and garbage dumps, constantly subjected to violence and racial discrimination in order to earn some money so they can support their families back home. Women are left without their husbands and children without their fathers for years at a time.
Undoubtedly, it could be an incredible opportunity for the Uzbek people to see you live in concert. However, the ticket prices for the announced concert in Tashkent exceeded about 45 times the monthly income of most Uzbek people. This means that the concert did not contribute to the favorable circumstance of opening Uzbekistan to the world and allowing cultural progress to develop, but on the contrary, it has furthered the creation of an even larger gap in Uzbek society by discriminating the majority of Uzbek people for whom your concert has underlined their already miserable position.
We believe that it might have even been against your own values to accept the offer of the Uzbek President’s family. Islam Karimov is a man who deliberately employs forced labour, thus enslaving a large number of people in Uzbekistan. Furthermore, he strongly suppresses freedom of expression, a right which you as an artist should value, and orders and supports imprisonment of journalists and human rights defenders, and the use of systematic torture to oppress Uzbek people.
One of the latest victims of the repression campaign is Umida Akhmedova, a prominent Uzbek photographer and filmmaker, who was charged of slander and of “insulting the Uzbek people” due to a book of photographs she published in 2007, and a documentary film she produced in 2008.
I strongly believe that any kind of cooperation with the family of President Karimov, is an indication of support of the brutal regime and is against the values of freedom and human rights.
I hope that you will not accept the money for the concert, which symbolizes much of the suffering of Uzbek people. Moreover, as a gesture of reconciliation and solidarity with the people of Uzbekistan, we invite you to join the campaigns against political repression in Uzbekistan, in addition to the campaigns against forced child labor. In case you are interested in supporting civil society in Uzbekistan, your representatives can contact us per E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for considering our request; we are looking forward to your reply.
Director of Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights
Former Prisoner of Conscience, Human Rights Watch Award, 2008