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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Uzbekistan’

President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, Reported Dead at 78

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan has passed away at the age of 78, according to an official televised announcement Friday by Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

The announcement had not yet been confirmed by the Uzbek government, by noon Friday EDT, and it is not clear what the next steps will be in the Euro-Asian nation, in terms of how the population will determine who the next leader will be.

Karimov was rushed to the hospital a week ago after suffering a cerebral hemmorhage, but no further information was released. Military, police and security forces had surrounded the hospital in a circle that was several kilometers wide.

The president has led the nation since Uzbekistan declared its independence from the former Soviet Union 25 years ago. The country’s 25th anniversary of that event was celebrated Thursday, led for the first time by Uzbekistan’s prime minister rather than by Karimov, who was present each year at the celebrations.

Hana Levi Julian

Islam Karimov, Long-time Ruler of Uzbekistan, Hospitalized

Monday, August 29th, 2016

President Islam Karimov, the long-time ruler of of the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan was hospitalized Saturday, according to a cryptic statement issued by the Central Asian government.

“In the opinion of the specialists, a full medical examination and subsequent treatment will require a certain amount of time,” the statement read, according to the Regnum news agency, reporting from the capital, Tashkent.

The 78-year-old leader has led Uzbekistan for more than 25 years. A security ring several kilometers (two miles) deep was formed around the government hospital where he was admitted for treatment.

Uzbekistan is a relatively isolated nation of some 32 million people, located on the border of Afghanistan. The nation has been led by Karimov since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The popular leader was re-elected to a five-year term just last year in a landslide victory with more than 90 percent of the vote. Karimov’s eldest daughter Gulnara was allegedly placed under house arrest in 2014, according to the BBC. His second daughter, Lola Karimova Tillyaeva, is the nation’s ambassador to UNESCO.

Uzbekistan holds a special place among Muslim nations with whom Israel enjoys friendly relations, in part due to the historical ties binding Ashkenazi Jews together with those of Bukharan origins. These bonds were further recognized and deepened last year when Karimov spoke at the opening ceremony of a special ethnic music festival in Samarkand, sometimes referred to as the ‘Eurovision of the East.’ He noted the event contributes to consolidating the “ties of friendship among nations, developing the cultural dialogue and preserving the traditions of classical music.” By the time the ninth festival was held, musicians from 53 nations were participating. Israel sent a delegation to the event as well.

Next Thursday, Sept. 1, the country marks its 25th Independence Day, and Karimov was expected to be in attendance as he has been every year. But according to unconfirmed reports quoted by the Ferganan news website and cited by the BBC, the president may have suffered a stroke.

Tashkent has taken a hard line against radical Islamist terror: many of those who belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the 1990s were “encouraged” to leave the country and have since joined the Taliban in Afghanistan. Some have since pledged allegiance to Da’esh (ISIS.) In 2005 they were accused of generating mass protests in the city of Andizhan, where Reuters reported 187 people were killed by police and security force gunfire.

Hana Levi Julian

Fourth Brooklyn Man Charged in ISIS Recruiting Plot

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

A fourth Brooklyn man was named in a revised indictment submitted Monday on charges of providing material support and conspiracy to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Daesh, or ISIS) terror organization.

Dilkhayot Kasimov, 26, is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court on charges of collecting $1,600 from multiple individuals to help send one of two Brooklyn men to Syria to join the group.

Both were arrested earlier this year, along with a third who worked together with Kasimov. All four are Uzbekistani nationals. Kasimov’s protege, Akhror Saidakhmetov, was caught in February at JFK International Airport just before boarding a flight to Turkey, where he expected to cross the border into Syria.

Kasimov allegedly encouraged others to participate in violent jihad through the use of electronic messages, according to prosecutors. He worked together with Abror Habibov, who owned cell phone kiosks, and who allegedly also helped in facilitating the travel of foreign fighters to Syria.

Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev had allegedly also planned to travel to Syria to fight with ISIS.

The three defendants picked up in February have already pleaded not guilty in March at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court to charges of conspiracy.

All four are being held at a detention center in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authority.

Hana Levi Julian

Bullet-Filled Doll Halts Traffic at Ben Gurion Airport

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Ben Gurion Airport officials foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs and bullets on a plane to Uzbekistan around noon Monday.

Flights were delayed until officials were certain there was no more contraband on the flight that was scheduled to take off at 14:00.

Inspectors discovered a cartridge of bullets in a toy in a suitcase carried by a 36-year-old man from central Israel. Surprised at the evidence, he ran away and shortly after was apprehended. He told investigators that a woman asked him to take the paclage because he already had several pieces of luggage.

The man later identified the woman, a citizen of Uzbekistan, and a further examination of her luggage revealed toy dolls stuffed with bullets and drugs.

Official checked out the entire plane to make sure there were no other drugs and ammunition on boards.

Jewish Press Staff

Report: Muslim Countries ‘Worst Violators of Religious Freedom’

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Ten out of the 15 countries with the worst religious freedom abuses are Muslim, according to the recently released U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2013 Annual Report identifying the status of religious freedom throughout the world, and citing countries that are the least tolerant of religious freedom.

IRFA requires the President of the United States, who has delegated this authority to the Secretary of State, to designate as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, those governments that have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

IRFA defines “particularly severe” violations as ones that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious,” including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or “other flagrant denial[s] of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”

After a country is designated a CPC, the President is required by law to take action to remedy the situation, or to invoke a waiver if circumstances warrant (As the late JFK put it: He may be an SOB, but he’s our SOB).

For the 2013 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF also finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

USCIRF also places countries on its Tier 2 list, where the country is on the threshold of a CPC status, meaning that the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are particularly severe and that at least one, but not all three, of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard is met.

The Tier 2 designation provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby giving policymakers an opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations. USCIRF has concluded that the following eight countries meet the Tier 2 standard in this reporting period: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, and Russia.

But not to worry – the State Department has issued indefinite waivers on taking any action against Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. As a result of these waivers, the United States has not implemented any policy response tied to the CPC designation for either country.

Gives a whole new meaning to the slogan “Freedom must be earned.”

In Egypt, the government has failed to protect Coptic Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people. The Copts have been tortured and killed and individuals continue to be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for “contempt” or “defamation” of religion (Islam).

Somebody should start boycotting Egyptian products…

In Iran, religious freedom for minorities has deteriorated over the last year, a bad year for the Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims. The Report details that, “physical attacks, harassment, detention, arrests, and imprisonment” intensified.

Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and Zoroastrians have faced harassment, intimidation, discrimination, arrests, and imprisonment. Anyone who has dissented against the government, a theocratic republic, including Majority Shi’i and minority Sunni Muslims, have been intimidated, harassed, and detained. Several dissidents and human rights defenders have been sentenced to death and executed for “waging war against God.”

Human sacrifice, that must be their god’s favorite pastime.

Yori Yanover

Taking The Diaspora’s Portrait

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora
Photographs by Chrystie Sherman
Through January 9, 2009
The Austrian Embassy
3524 International Court, NW,
Washington, D.C.


Walking through Chrystie Sherman’s solo show at the Austrian Embassy in Washington will almost inevitably make viewers rethink their notions not only of what it means to be a Jew, but also what Jews look like. Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora is the product of six years of traveling, wherein Sherman photographed Jews in communities that are disappearing. Included are images of Jews from Krasnaya Sloboda, Batumi, Privolnoye, Oguz, and Tbilisi in Azerbaijan and Georgia; Santiago de Cuba and Old Havana in Cuba; Teplik and Vinnytsa in the Former Soviet Union, Berdichev, Kiev, Odessa, Shargarod; Aghbalou Village, Arazane Village, and Tunisia in North Africa; and Tashkent, Bombay, Kochin, Parur District, Kottareddipalem, and Alibag in Uzbekistan.

Many of the images are difficult to look at. “I cried a lot on these trips,” Sherman said at the exhibit opening. “No one is smiling on these trips, because it is counterintuitive.” Sherman also found mixed responses from her would-be subjects, ranging from “terror to pleasure to hostility.” Yet, Sherman said, she became friends with many of them and sent them the photographs she had taken after they were developed.



Chrystie Sherman. “Rabbi,” 2002. Tashkent, Uzbekistan.


However sad, she compares her photographic project with Oscar Wilde’s famous 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which tells the coming-of-age story of Dorian, a very attractive young man who posed for the artist Basil Hallward. As Dorian discovers more about himself, he realizes to his horror that his own depravity and sins are visited not upon him but upon Basil’s painting. Despite his reprehensible life, Dorian remains forever young and beautiful, as his representation becomes more and more terrifying. Sherman sees her work as akin to Basil’s portrait of “past, present, and future” − but added that, “Lost Futures” is “ultimately a question of the future” − the future of the far-flung Jewish communities.

One of the most gripping portraits in the show is a white-bearded rabbi who sits on a bench with a Holy Book in his hand. He wears a dark coat over a white robe and has a large knit kippa on his head, which tilts to the right as he looks at the camera. His face is deeply wrinkled, and he appears to have been disturbed from his studies or prayer by the photographer’s sudden appearance. Behind him is a structure of some sort that seems liable to collapse at any minute – a dramatic touch deepened by the dark shadows of the black-and-white image. According to Sherman’s caption, the rabbi is the oldest member of the Orthodox synagogue in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and he sits in front of the construction of a new synagogue, which will probably never be finished.



Chrystie Sherman. “Shabbat,” 2002. Bukhara, Uzbekistan.


“Shabbat,” which shows a housewife in a doorway to her house in Bukhara, carries a very different tone. The woman, who wears a dress that both evokes a lizard’s scales and camouflages with the doorway, is preparing Friday night dinner, according to the caption. Sherman’s compositional move of capturing the anonymous woman in the doorway provides a second frame, wherein the woman is in a doorframe, which sits within a larger frame. The viewer is offered no glimpse of what is inside the home, and a bright white light shines from behind the figure, almost offering her a halo. Like the rabbi, this woman’s expression is tough to read, and she could easily be mistaken for a movie star posing for a glamorous photo rather than a Jewish woman preparing for the Sabbath.




Chrystie Sherman. “Holocaust Survivor,” 2000. Teplik, Former Soviet Union.


The woman who posed in Teplik in the Former Soviet Union for “Holocaust Survivor” cannot be mistaken for a movie star. Most of the woman’s family perished in the war, and she lives by herself in a small wooden house. Sherman shows the woman, who wears a flower-patterned shirt and a shawl over her head, standing in a field full of weeds. The woman carries a walking stick in her right hand, and it seems that her laundry is hanging behind her. This photograph could be a companion piece to the Tashkent rabbi in a diptych, as the survivor tilts her head in the opposite direction. Like the rabbi, she looks directly at the viewer.




Chrystie Sherman. “Challah,” 2001-2002. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.


In “Challah,” a young boy carries a loaf of challah that his father baked to the synagogue. The boy wears a striped polo shirt and a large kippa, and he stands in front of a street and an alleyway where two Cuban children sit. Viewers can compare and contrast the boy with the two children and arrive at a lot of differences. They are black and wear no shoes. He is white, holds a Jewish ritual food, and is dressed nicely. In fact, many viewers might be comforted by the fact that, a loaf of challah is a loaf of challah is a loaf of challah − and they make it the same way in Cuba. But that does not seem to be the point. Sherman’s work is about gathering together − perhaps an antidote to the Diaspora that she represents − and about finding common bonds between Jews around the world, even as they are very different.

I think this is a touchy point for Jewish art. If Diaspora and losing the Temple is supposed to be our punishment for sin, and if we are spread out around the world just as the builders who created the Tower of Babel were, because we were deficient in our faith, then ought Jewish art celebrate those differences?

Is documenting Diaspora an appropriate project for a Jewish artist? I think there is a great risk in becoming enamored of Diaspora, since a multicultural world where people look different and act differently and have different customs sounds far more exciting than one where everyone is the same. Sherman agreed that the aim is to leave the Diaspora and return to Israel, but she was not particularly worried about the notion of memorializing Diaspora.

“As a photographer, to go around and see these really ancient communities that are really steeped in community and history that are drying up is very sad,” she said. “Maybe I just have a problem with things that end.”
MENACHEM WECKER welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, and resides in Washington, D.C.

Menachem Wecker

Ozeri’s Bukharan Conversation

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Bukharan Odyssey: Photographs By Zion Ozeri

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Nartel Family Foundation and the Moti Hasson Gallery.


Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

18 First Place, Battery Park City, N.Y.,

(212) 509-6130

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday – 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.; Wednesday – 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday – 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov.- March.

Admission: $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 students, children 12 and under free.

Until March 12, 2006.


Look someone in the eye, and you immediately begin a narrative. Photograph them while they are looking at the camera, and a cascade of narratives are launched. That is the nature of our visual selves, one of the strongest desires of the human being, the passion to connect. Zion Ozeri’s photography is responsible for a flood of narration arriving from the four corners of the Jewish universe. His camera and his vision reach out to our brethren, isolated and impoverished in more ways than one and begins a conversation. One wonders if we, his audience, will be able to respond.

Each conversation must have at least two participants, and their mutual interaction begins to create a narrative, a story of that encounter. In these photographs only one side of the conversation is seen, therefore part of that narrative is stillborn. Nonetheless, the visual presence of his subjects evokes a deep historical narrative, pushing back into the viscera of their lives. Zion Ozeri opens up the narrative of the Bukharan Jewish experience in Bukharan Odyssey, currently on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Each person’s story seems to rest on an ancient history.

The “Family Fergana” resides in Uzbekistan and their rural existence appears hard; the pitchfork on the left has such weight that it visually balances father, wife and daughter. They look directly at us, three aspects of their familial life. The father’s firm grasp of the tool-handle anchors the women in his family. His tradition is affirmed by the large woven kippah, even as his wife’s modern silk print proclaims a woman of the contemporary world. Their daughter links her parents; her modest and yet open features look to a future she can hardly imagine. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this photograph is the light that leaks through the slats above the doorway. On the right, the head of a lamb behind a wire enclosure finally convinces us that their portrait has been taken in the family barn.

Bukharan Jews have an ancient narrative, claiming that they arrived in Central Asia just after the Babylonian exile. The Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 31b) mentions the existence of a town called Margwan, now know as Margiana, located in a fertile delta region in Turkmenistan, only 200 miles southwest of Bukhara. Muslim sources in the 8th century refer to Jews in this region perhaps because the Jews were the only people of this area that did not accept conversion to Islam. While a Jewish presence has been specifically documented in Bukhara in the 13th century, only in the 16th century did it become a center of Jewish life in Central Asia. Soon a Jewish quarter was imposed, forbidding Jews to live elsewhere.

Due to regional geopolitical strife, the Bukharan Jews were cut off from the rest of world Jewry in the 18th Century and soon after, Islamic efforts of forced conversion deeply disrupted the Jewish community. The conquest of the area by the Russian Empire in the mid-19th century briefly improved living conditions but continued oppression and discrimination hastened a further decline. The Russian Revolution in 1917 heralded more restrictions, this time based on Jewish participation in former “exploitations” of the working class. As part of the Soviet suppression of all religion, most synagogues were shut down in the 1930’s and while many Jews steadfastly maintained traditional observances of circumcision, marriage and burial, other aspects of Jewish life such as Shabbos and kashruth were deeply eroded. The 20th century narrative of Bukharan Jews has been fractured, difficult and finally dominated by emigration away from their homeland to the United States and Israel. Ozeri documents those who remain.

Marriage in all Jewish communities is an ecstatic occasion, marking the beginning of Jewish lives that we hope will flourish and create even more life, guaranteeing a future from the union of two Jewish neshamas. “Young Bride, Karmana, Uzbekistan” reveals another aspect of marriage. The pure practicality of this scene is overwhelming. This young woman peers out at us from her material universe of pots, pans and utensils. She leans on the family stove clad in a delicate floral robe and woolen socks. An open milk urn is the center of her collection of vessels as she smiles at us, finally happy to be a vessel of Jewish life. Ozeri could have photographed her anywhere; in a bedroom, a living room or outside. His choice of the kitchen and placement of her in the composition begins telling the narrative of her life to us.

While many of Ozeri’s images in this exhibition are simply documents of Bukharan Jewish life, the poetry we find in some of his photographs is linked to a concentration on one or two individuals, almost always confronting the photographer. It is here that Ozeri moves from document to narrative, from skill to poetry. “The Musician” is at first a straightforward enough image of an older man in knit kippah, proudly holding a traditional stringed instrument, the tanbur. His serious expression reflects the gesture of presentation, as if by showing us the instrument we will somehow hear it. But Ozeri pushes further by capturing an abstract pattern on a wall behind his subject. It takes up half the image and the horizontal and vertical lines, thick and thin seem… well… musical. Reminiscent of the rigging of a ship or a very modern musical notation, this design of shadows echoes the old man’s music.

Quite another kind of music is summoned in the photograph, “In the Yard, Margelan.” It is an image of a woman standing in a cow barn with a thick cattle prod. Her son clasps her side, shyly averting the photographer’s stare. She too seems preoccupied, glancing down. She is an absolute stanchion of stability, providing sustenance for the family. And yet is this really the ultimate source of a Bukharan Jew’s livelihood? No, indeed traditionally Bukharan Jews thrived in the fabric industry, especially in the dying of cloths. Earlier in the 20th century they were limited to hairdressing, shoe repairing and petty trades. More recently they entered the professions as doctors, teachers and engineers. But farmers… no this image represents a stunning reversal of cultural status, a defeat well worth serious contemplation. This is no song, but a dirge.

Yet this exhibition is no dirge. It is filled with hope and an appreciation of the life of the Bukharan Jews, exemplified by a portrait of a “Nursing Mother.” She sits alongside her child’s crib, rather surprised by the photographer’s intrusion. She stares at us, centered in the bottom half of the image, determined to provide sustenance to her child. Most tellingly in the dim background, we see the walls of her room covered with pictures, indistinct and yet definitely images. She is feeding the future of the Jewish presence in Central Asia and has as a support, literally a background, a pictorial inheritance to pass on.

Indeed, each one of these Ozeri images narrates a history past and present. It starts us on a conversation with fellow Jews struggling to maintain themselves as Jews in a frighteningly alien land that is still their traditional home since the Second Temple. What are we to make of this determination, this fierce faith? Can we learn from it? It depends upon whether we take up the conversation Ozeri has begun.

(Historical background: Encyclopedia Judaica)

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com 

Richard McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/ozeris-bukharan-conversation/2006/01/11/

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