|Striking view that meets the traveller landing in Almaty, Kazakhstan |
(taken in late spring 2015). Behind the city lies the beautiful
Tien Shan mountain range. Photo by Mia Tarp Hansen.
Doing research on human rights in repressive states is no dance on roses, as we say in Denmark. Unless you step on the thorns. But it does involve a lot of fun, too.
I remember my very first interview.
I had invited a famous, young, female human rights activist in Kazakhstan for dinner to interview her. She decided on the venue and, at 8pm on a rainy Friday evening in early April, I rocked up to the restaurant that she chose in upper Almaty.
The place was called “Kishlyak” and was serving Uzbek. It was one of those typical post-Soviet restaurants with wooden benches, kitschy interior, live music, and drunken parties full of beer bellies and stiletto heels at every table. There was a distinct smell of beer, cheap perfume, vodka, plov (the Uzbek national rice dish), and a bit of pee stench, too, it must be said. The music and noise was so loud that it was almost impossible to have a conversation.
Having a proper interview would be impossible in this setting.