Writer and journalist. British Broadcasting Corporation World Service, regional correspondent, 1991—.
Beyond the Oxus: The Central Asians, John Murray Publishers (London, England), 2002.
Uzbeks Banish BBC after Massacre Reports, BBC Radio, 2005.
In 1991, Monica Whitlock began working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where she continues to serve as a journalist. Whitlock spent time in the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan during the 1990s. There she reported on incidents of violence and mass murder that she attributes to the government in power at that time highlighted in her BBC Radio broadcast titled Uzbeks Banish BBC after Massacre Reports. As part of a team of BBC journalists, Whitlock established an office upon arrival in the city of Andijan, where the team proceeded to chronicle these events of great impact to the local Uzbekistani community. According to Whitlock, the BBC was "the only international broadcaster to set up there in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed and Uzbekistan became a country." In describing the impact of their media coverage and the government's subsequent denials of involvement, Whitlock states in her report, "Word spread, from street to street. And anger grew. Anger, first about the killings, then anger about the scale of what many saw as a huge, official lie." These BBC reports were published into several languages, including Russian, Persian, and English. After being accused of "complicity with terrorists," Whitlock explains, she and the other BBC journalists were forced to leave the country.
In addition to her BBC coverage of Central Asian news, Whitlock published Beyond the Oxus: The Central Asians and Land beyond the River: The Untold Story of Central Asia. The first title provides insight into the region of Central Asia, where, as Kambiz Arman noted in a review for EurasiaNet, "Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan converge." Arman pointed out that the narrative initially follows the lives of two protagonists, "Muhammadjan Rustamov of Uzbekistan and Muhammadjan Shakuri (Shukurov) of Tajikistan," illustrating the degree to which their countries share an interconnectedness that affects the people, culture, and development of the region. "By presenting these different families in detail," continued Arman, "Whitlock evokes the variety of political and social views among the region's intelligentsia during the late Tsarist and Soviet eras." In expanding her historical lens, Whitlock continues to incorporate additional accounts by detailing the causes of immigration, war service, and political involvements. Although Arman found that "by interspersing large vistas with intimate chronicles, Whitlock's narrative in a few places becomes complicated," he acknowledged that she transports "readers comfortably across the Oxus, the Greek term for what is more commonly known as the Amu Darya River." Furthermore, by providing a condensed representation of these continually developing countries, Whitlock provides a foundation for historical inquiry.
Land beyond the River also takes the region of Central Asia as its subject; however, a contributor to Publishers Weekly remarked that this text provides "first-hand refugee interviews and excerpts from the unpublished diaries of dissidents" in addition to asides regarding the landscape and climate. In an article for Booklist, Brendan Driscoll mentioned that the text is "less a travelogue than a guided history" and that "Whitlock's narrative spans three generations, from 1909 to the present." Addressing issues such as national identity and racial divides and how those issues came to be of import, this "thorough overview of the many lands west of China, east of Iran, and south of Russia is full of luminous facts and interpretations that help explain them," declared a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Calling the book "one of the most vivid pictures available of the complex relationship between religion and society in Central Asia," Martha Olcott stated in the Middle East Quarterly that Land beyond the River offers a "keyhole through which to view hitherto virtually unknown lives."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2003, Brendan Driscoll, review of Land beyond the River: The Untold Story of Central Asia, p. 204.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2003, review of Land beyond the River, p. 1117.
Library Journal, October 1, 2003, Harold M. Otness, review of Land beyond the River, p. 106.
Middle East Quarterly, March 22, 2006, Martha Olcott, review of Land beyond the River, p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, October 6, 2003, review of Land beyond the River, p. 72.
Birds' Books Web blog,http://birdsbooks.wordpress.com/ (June 20, 2007), review of Beyond the Oxus: The Central Asians.
EurasiaNet Web site,http://www.eurasianet.org/ (May 30, 2003), Kambiz Arman, "Explaining Central Asia's Historical and Cultural Complexities."