The daughter of Uzbek president Islam Karimov has her eye on RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service
-- and she does not like what she sees.
In a country known for widespread oppression, human rights violations, and tight control of the media, dictator-daughter Gulnara Karimova gets away with shutting down cities and damaging historical monuments
for the sake of filming music videos – starring her.
But her tune of general disregard changed at an August 17 Tashkent press conference
and gathering for invited journalists, actors, artists, athletes, businesspeople, and politicians, as Karimova played defense.
At the conference, she addressed Radio Ozodlik investigative reports
about her project to pay for the weddings of hundreds of Uzbek couples who otherwise couldn’t afford marriage. In reality, these showy parties were paid for through the “voluntary” backing of local businesses and governments, a number of which were drained of assets by Karimova’s directives. Some pensioners’ monthly allowances were severely delayed and at least one man stopped receiving disability benefits
due to lack of funds.
“I have to confess that I never intended to sponsor all of those weddings out of my own pocket, but wished to rely on local businessmen,” Karimova admitted to the crowd as her comments were quoted in independent Uzbek websites such as Uzmetronom
, and Olam.uz
Karimova cited another RFE/RL report
about her visit to a camp for young journalists where she gave a sports demonstration on stage. She said the report was good, but chided Radio Ozodlik for incorrectly identifying her sport. (She insisted it was yoga and Wushu – not karate, as Ozodlik reported.)
As Karimova highlighted the finer points of her misconstrued athleticism, she neglected to address charges of money laundering in Switzerland
and other allegations of misconduct aired by Radio Ozodlik.
Still, the public reaction is unprecedented for the Uzbek first family.
“This is the first time Gulnara is responding to Ozodlik’s critical reporting in front of such a crowd, which also demonstrates her awareness of Ozodlik’s reporting and its impact on her controversial activity,” said Alisher Sidikov, Director of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service. “It was time for her to publicly respond to criticism.”
We can state with confidence that Gulnara Karimova will be monitoring RFE/RL’s reports on her future endeavors. Criticism of her has grown to the extent that she cannot ignore it any longer.
Says Sidikov, “She is reading. She is following.”
-- JoEllen Koester