French foreign minister urged to help artist Ahunov travel abroad

Uzbek authorities believe Vyacheslav Ahunov possesses some state secrets; photo:
On 1-2 March, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will visit Uzbekistan. Human rights activists have asked for his help in getting travel restrictions on artist Vyacheslav Ahunov lifted.

The appeal to the French foreign minister was written by the president of the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia, Nadezhda Atayeva.

She asked Fabius to raise the issue with Uzbek authorities.

The French minister's attention was drawn to the situation surrounding Uzbek modernist artist Vyacheslav Ahunov.

For the past six months, Uzbek authorities have refused to issue him an exit visa needed to travel abroad.

The police organization that issues two-year exit visas cites a secret blacklist on which the artist's name has appeared as a possessor of state secrets.

Ahunov himself does not know what this means, and is suffering from his inability to participate in cultural events outside of Uzbekistan..

“Ahunov's ban on foreign travel can be explained by the independence of his artistic work,” Atayeva believes.

Ahunov, 62, is a well-known modernist artist in Central Asia who acquired a reputation as a dissident and a rebel in Soviet times.

In independent Uzbekistan, Ahunov cannot display his works in galleries and has had to limit his exhibitions to private homes, nevertheless this does not stop his involvement in the country's political and cultural life.

Ahunov's ban on foreign travel can be explained by the independence of his artistic work

Nadezhda Atayeva

In an installation called "Man-Compass", he walked with several compasses, answering to the surprised questions of bystanders, that he was afraid to get lost given how frequently President Islam Karimov changed his policies.

The association also asked Fabius to speak out in favour of the release of a number of disabled prisoners: Muhammadjon Kurbanov, Rustam Rahmankulov, Shavkat Karimov, Murad Latipov and Sunnat Talasov.