Uzbekistan remains a notorious, much-reviled word for human rights advocates, activists, and everyone elsewhere in the globe opposed to dictatorships. From the independence up to these days, the country has had only one strongman, Islam Karimov, in charge of the whole nation. Problems increasingly surround this state, nonetheless: tens of thousands of dissidents have been imprisoned in secret camps, incessantly and brutally tortured, freedom of speech and expressions is nearly completely paralyzed, and issues of succession remain murky for the country’s future, which, anytime, if goes wrong, may likely spark a deadly civil war.
Somehow, it’s not a nation of bloodshed: blame the government for all the misdeeds it has caused towards its populace, and its tumultuous history, but still, deep inside, by nature, and by virtues of nature, it is a, call it ironically, beautiful nation.
Read the full article in Ficus Media, as some photographers travel across the country – forget that political addendum – and reveal the other side of Uzbekistan mainstream media has rarely reported.
It is a land beautiful and brutal in equal measure, a short, dramatic flight from New Delhi. As I look through the window of my plane, the vanilla ice-cream on chocolate cake Himalayas seem close enough to reach out and touch.
Far below, I can see the vast sweep of the Indus plains, dissolving into the deep furrows of the Hindu-Kush. It was here that Genghis Khan wintered his army; here that Timur crossed with his camels and horses and a hundred thousand warriors during his march on the Delhi Sultanate, circa 1398. How, you wonder as you look down on the inhospitable landscape, did he manage that march? And how, on his return, did he get the elephants he had brought back from Delhi across those lofty, frozen mountain passes?
Tashkent, with its wide, empty avenues, its boxy, largely deserted apartment complexes and pervading hush, is the antithesis of Delhi’s endless bustle. Save for a hunched gold-toothed old woman in scarf and heavy coat pushing a threadbare shopping cart past shuttered neon-signed stores on a street lit by pale lamps, there is nary a person to be seen. A lone packed bus plies tired looking commuters presumably back home. It’s all desolate and cold as I make my way to my hotel.
Many-pillared, stodgy buildings domed gold and silver, imprints of the old Soviet Union, dominate the cityscape. Men in uniform walk briskly by or stand about, their presence a testimony to the regime that rules Uzbekistan now. It is a sub-text that is always hinted at, but just beyond sight of, an itinerant visitor.