Ms. Abdulloeva obtained her B.A. in Jurisprudence from Tashkent State Institute of Law (TSIL) in Uzbekistan, where she volunteered for three years at the TSIL Human Rights Clinic. She also studied at Nagoya University School of Law, Japan, through a one-year exchange program in 2009. She is a founder and president of a non-profit organization, which promotes the rule of law in Uzbekistan by raising the legal literacy of its citizens. As an expert on Uzbek legislation, she regularly appears in Uzbek media outlets. She recently attended the Law and Leadership Program at Karamah Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
“I think once people start believing in what rights they are entitled to, what rule of law is, and how government accountability contributes positively to their lives, they will resort to taking practical actions in order to create a better living environment around themselves.”
How did you first become interested in human rights law?
When I was a second-year student at the Law School in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, I joined the Human Rights Clinic at my university. Even though the clinic’s name was all about human rights, by the time I joined it in 2006, the spirit of human rights was lost because the American Bar Association, which was the partner and sponsor of the Clinic, was forced to leave Uzbekistan.
The next year I was invited to join a newly created Advocacy Skills School by the Bar Association of Uzbekistan. At that school, for the first time, I read a case against Uzbekistan, studied torture cases, and learned a lot about international human rights standards which did not quite match the reality in my country.
The school changed me a lot because until then I was only taught and trained to see things from the government’s perspective. When I was in my senior year, there was a professor with an interrogator's background, who used to laugh at how defense counsels were fools. So I think it was the Advocacy Skills School that first inspired me to become a human rights lawyer.
From what or whom have you drawn inspiration in your work as a human rights lawyer?
I got my first inspiration from my father, who had passed away when I was 15. He used to encourage us to be lawyers and bring justice to society. At that time I did not understand what my father meant by bringing justice to society. When it came to choosing a college, I did not have any other particular interest, so I decided to join the most prestigious law school in the country.
I loved learning law, but it was not until I started practicing human rights that I understood what wisdom my father’s words held. Now every time I do something in the human rights field, every time I accomplish something important, I say to myself that if my father had been alive, he would have approved of what I am doing, and would be proud of me.
What issues do you feel most determined to address as a human rights lawyer?
My particular interest in the field of human rights is to contribute to establishing the rule of law in my own country. Rule of law is fundamental for any legal system to work properly, and once it is not functioning, the whole system will be considered broken. No matter how hard you try to improve it, it will never work fully until the rule of law is established. Because laws are not fully enforced, issues such as corruption, including forced child labor, are widespread in the society where I come from. Because laws never reflect reality, we have inequality towards women and domestic violence in families. Because no one dares to question authorities, there is a massive violation of freedom of expression.
In the future, I want to address these issues within my capacity whatever I choose to do or wherever I work.
What obstacles do you perceive as the most challenging in your work?
The most challenging obstacle is to restore hope in people’s minds for rule of law. People have become hopeless because demanding their rights never brings a positive result; instead, they choose to be silent and ignore the wrongdoings happening around them. I think once people start believing in what rights they are entitled to, what rule of law is, and how government accountability contributes positively to their lives, they will resort to taking practical actions in order to create a better living environment around themselves.
Why did you decide to study human rights at Notre Dame? How has the experience been?
I always had a passion for human rights law, but did not have necessary tools to go after it. So I decided to go to the best school in international human rights law to get myself equipped with the best tools. A friend of mine, who is himself a human rights lawyer and an alumnus of the CCHR, recommended that the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the University of Notre Dame was what I was looking for.
I feel more than lucky in being accepted into the program and learning from the excellent professors who are well accomplished in their fields. One of the most fascinating features of the Center is that the administration is very flexible in meeting every student’s needs and eager to help us in any way they can. Diversity, which reflects on my classmates who are from all over the world, is another notable and fun part of being an LL.M. student at Notre Dame. As diversity is a spice of life, my classmates’ experiences and their unique background related to their respective countries enriches my understanding of international human rights law and the application of foundational rights.
How will an LL.M. education from Notre Dame allow you to be a more effective human rights lawyer?
The LL.M. program at Notre Dame is very specialized and geared towards producing the best human rights lawyers in specific areas of the field. I believe after I graduate from this program, I will not only do what every other human rights lawyer does, but also think deeply beyond positive law by questioning foundations of human rights while appreciating the values of human rights.