Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Statement on Alexander Sodiqov


I just returned form a week-long trip to Uzbekistan. I visited Tashkent, Samarqand and Bukhara and I have loads of stories and photos to share. But time is a little crunched now. The most crazy thing is, as of Monday, June 30, I will have one more month left in country! Time flies!!

But I want to take a moment to write something in support of Alexander Sodiqov, a Tajik citizen and PhD student at the University of Toronto who was recently detained my Tajik authorities and accused of treason. On June 16, Sodiqov was taken into custody in Khorog. An article by "The Guardian" has a good summary of events:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/19/fears-grow-for-canadian-researcher-arrested-in-tajikistan

The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS), Association for Slavic, Eastern European, Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and Association for the Studies of Nationalities (ASN) have put together a petition for Sodiqov's release. If you would like, please add your name.

More information on Sodiqov:
[Following text was copied and pasted from a CESS email]:
"On Friday, June 27, an international event entitled "Researchers at Risk in Central Asia: The Detention of Alexander Sodiqov" will be held in many different locations around the globe, including London, Toronto, Washington, Paris, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Australia, Russia, and Kazakhstan. In this global discussion, held on the same day in a growing number of settings, scholars consider not only the latest information about Sodiqov’s detention but also the broader implications for research scholars around the globe. Anyone interested in hosting their own event is encouraged to do so."
As a researcher in Central Asia who knows plenty of other researchers, please trust me when I say that research in this part of the world has its unique challenges. All researchers around the world face issues -- language barriers, communication, bureaucracy, trust, homesickness, cultural shock, racial/gender/ethnic/religious/national prejudices, scams, etc. That is research and life overseas. However, in Central Asia, based on my interaction with other scholars and personal experiences, there is another layer of security risks. I will not go into too much detail here, but Sodiqov's detainment is an extreme example of how researchers are perceived by the state and sometimes treated -- even if such treatment occurs in a more subtle way such as a phone call or document check. There is always a risk.

I don't mean to say all Central Asian people and governments are bad  -- not at all. Rather, researchers are viewed as spies, even though we are not. And Sodiqov's detainment by his own government (he is from Tajikistan, but educated in Canada) is beyond tragic, especially since he has a wife and a child.

This is a part of the world that needs researchers, not just for the collection of academic knowledge, but for the cross-cultural dialogues and interactions researchers create. I have so much respect for Western and local researchers and academic institutions and indigenous cultures and traditions in Central Asia, that it is painful to see people who are really trying to do good and help generate knowledge that can inform good policies, be detained. 

Thanks for your support.

Alright, a more positive post on my Uzbekistan travels will come within the week...Cheers!

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