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Word as Witness: Writing and Human Rights in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Sat, November 14, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Virtual Convention Platform, Room 15

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Brief Description

Bobomurod Abdullaev, Akram Aylisli, Khadija Ismayilova, Afgan Mukhtarli, Nurullo Otakhanov, and Muhammad Solih are among the many writers and journalists who have recently been persecuted for their writing in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. What is expected of writers and journalists in today’s Caucasus and Central Asia? What role do writers play in supporting or dismantling competing narratives of national identity in the post-Soviet world? To what degree do writers in these countries either consciously or unconsciously stand in witness to injustice, corruption, political repression, and other social and political inequities? What do works of witness mean in the context of these cultures? Aside from ongoing concerns about human rights and free speech, what cultural and institutional barriers do writers face in Central Asia and the Caucasus? How should international human rights organizations respond when writers are persecuted? A human rights activist, working journalist, and two experienced literary translators discuss how governments in Central Asia and the Caucasus respond to writing that makes them uncomfortable and explore the social, political, and legal framework used to turn writers into criminals.

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