Last year was a big one for Gulnara Karimova and Twitter. And if the first three days of January are any indication, 2013 will be an active one as well.
The Uzbek president's daughter, widely seen as a critical cog
in her father's authoritarian regime and traditionally inaccessible to all but the most pliable media, has engaged in a fresh 140-character-or-less spat with a Western journalist, accusing BBC correspondent Natalia Antelava of "being so easy in lies" and using Karimova's name for "self-PR."
The latest altercation was sparked by Antelava's account, published January 3 on the "New Yorker" website, of an astonishing string of Twitter conversations
last month between Karimova, Antelava, and Andrew Stroehlein of the International Crisis Group. Stroehlein, notably, has challenged the first daughter
-- so far fruitlessly -- to uphold her pledge to address Uzbekistan's atrocious rights record.
The piece, entitled "Tweets From Gulnara: The Dictator's Daughter," offers a few tantalizing new glimpses into Karimova's inner workings -- including the fact that she considers the phrase "dictator's daughter" an "idiotic line."
It also details attempts to engage Karimova on the question of why Antelava was forcibly deported from the country during a recent reporting trip
to speak to female victims of forced sterilization, reportedly part of President Islam Karimov's campaign to stem growth among Uzbekistan's rural population.
Within hours of the piece's publication, Karimova and Antelava were engaged in a head-to-head debate on Twitter. In one tweet, Karimova dismissed as "absurd" Antelava's firsthand account of an Uzbek businessman forced to flee to Kazakhstan after his successful restaurant was seized by authorities, allegedly at Gulnara's behest.
In others, she accuses the BBC journalist of seeking to "dip s-one in dirt" and accepting money "stolen" from Uzbekistan to pen black PR against the Karimovs.
For her part, Antelava pressed Karimova
-- whose Fund Forum charity nominally sponsors a number of women's health initiatives -- to address the issue of forced sterilizations, prompting the response: "WOW! How fast we jump from one problem to another! And I'm probably now the Health Minister in our new ever interesting conversation."
Forty-year-old Karimova, a Harvard scholar and career diplomat, concluded the conversation by calling on Antelava to "listen to the hit 'WTF' and relax." (No, we don't know what that means either.)
Antelava, who received dozens of hateful comments from Karimova supporters during the course of their conversation, said she's been consistently surprised at how genuinely sensitive to criticism Uzbekistan's "most hated woman" appears to be.
"She almost sounded disappointed in me and Andrew for picking on her," Antelava said from the Indian city of Delhi, where she is currently based. "She sounded disappointed in what she saw as us being mean."
-- Daisy Sindelar