Uzbekistan: self-exiled activists urge British sculptor not to create Karimov statue

Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov

TASHKENT (TCA) — A group of self-exiled Uzbek activists has urged British sculptor Paul Day not to erect a statue in Moscow honoring Uzbekistan’s former authoritarian leader, the late President Islam Karimov – saying that if he does, “the blood of Karimov’s victims will taint the artist’s work forever,” RFE/RL reported.

Uzbekistan’s government and the Islam Karimov Foundation, headed by the late president’s youngest daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, commissioned Day to create the sculpture that is to be placed outside of Uzbekistan’s embassy in Moscow.

But the Paris-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia on February 5 published an open letter calling on Day to “reconsider and to pull out” of his arrangement with the foundation.

The letter accuses Karimov of ordering “the massacre of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Andijon in 2005” and says that those who have tried to discover the true number of Andijon victims and reveal it to the world have been silenced.

“You must know that before he died in 2016, Karimov subjected millions of people, including young children, to slavery in the cotton fields,” the letter said.

“He imprisoned thousands of real or imagined opponents,” the group said. “He had them tortured, sometimes to death…He attacked artists who dared venture into politics and imposed strict censorship on the media, social sciences, literature, and arts.

“These are the values you will be celebrating with your homage to his legacy.”

“During Islam Karimov’s reign of terror, we lost loved ones, family members, friends” through “brutal crackdowns by the security forces he controlled,” it said.

The letter also said that Day would be paid for his work with “dirty” money that Karimov and his relatives stole from ordinary Uzbeks over many years.

There was no immediate public reaction to the letter from Day.

But in December, after Human Rights Watch criticized Day for accepting the commission, he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that he is “an artist and not a politician or a journalist.”

“My job is to make objects of lasting quality and beauty, and subjects will vary,” Day told the newspaper.

“Anything I do can have both a positive and negative effect on my career,” Day said. “Life offers opportunity and I go with the flow, as it were.”

Karimov, an authoritarian former Communist Party leader, ruled the Central Asian nation for 27 years, ruthlessly cracking down on dissent. His death was announced on September 2, 2016.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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