Daily Archives: August 16, 2006


‘Princess of Uzbeks’ cavorts in a cartoon wonderland

From The Guardian

Martial arts black belt, Harvard graduate, jewellery designer, businesswoman. Her father may be a brutal dictator, but the official list of Gulnara Karimova’s achievements is as long as your arm.

Now the glamorous daughter of the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has added a new talent to the list with the release of her first music video. Unutma Meni (Don’t Forget Me) features the 33-year-old brunette under the stage name GooGoosha – apparently her father’s name for her – cavorting in a cartoon wonderland where she travels to a secluded castle and a tropical island in a limousine that floats through the air.

Commentators say the video – showing repeatedly on Uzbekistan’s domestic equivalent of MTV – is part of a campaign to promote Ms Karimova as a potential successor to her father, whose term of office finishes at the end of next year.

Despite the stumbling block of promoting a woman as leader in a traditional Muslim society, Ms Karimova is thought to be the only person who can protect the assets of her father’s family and cronies.

However, critics suggest the new song will do little to raise her appeal. “This is exactly comparable to the emperor Nero playing his harp and everyone having to cheer,” said Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was sacked after exposing the Karimov regime’s torture of political opponents. “It’ll make her feel very good but she won’t gain any popularity.”

Ms Karimova first came to international attention after a high-profile divorce from her husband, Mansur Maqsudi. In 2003 a US court ruled that Mr Maqsudi should be given sole custody of the couple’s two children, Islam and Iman, then 10 and six. However, she refused an order to return them from Uzbekistan.

Ms Karimova kept $4.5m (‘2.4m) worth of jewellery, plus business interests worth approximately $60m, as part of her divorce settlement. The assets included nightclubs in Tashkent, investment holdings and a recording studio.

Uzbek media, which are tightly state-controlled, have praised Ms Karimova for charity works, dubbing her the Princess of Uzbeks. “It is characteristic of Gulnara to do everything with excellence,” said Tatyana Petrenko, a music critic.

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Germany’s Favorite Despot

By Christian Neef in Spiegel Online

See also Germany’s dialogue with the Uzbek regime: a disgrace for German democracy

While many Westerners have been forced out of Uzbekistan, the German army continues to operate a base in the border city of Termez. Oppenents of President Karimov’s despotic regime are now accusing the Germans of looking the other way.

In the Surchon discotheque, a dark basement club on the main street of Termez, the dance floor glitters in the disco lights, but it’s almost empty. Business isn’t good. A few bronze-skinned Uzbek women sit at two of the tables. Seven young men, their pale skin an obvious indication that they aren’t locals, sit at a third table. The boys are German soldiers from faraway Europe. They’re waiting for their next round of beers and hoping for more attention from the local beauties.

It’s almost 9 p.m. on a Sunday night in Termez, but the city still seems encased in the day’s heat, even down by the Amu Darya River, which forms the border with Afghanistan and its endless yellow steppes. The sun has been baking this city since Buddhists settled here more than 2,000 years ago. They were followed by the Arabs, the Mongols and their limping leader, Tamerlane, and then the colonizing forces of the Russian czar. The Soviets sent 100,000 troops to the city during their war in Afghanistan, and now it’s the German army’s turn.

The Germans have had a squadron stationed in Termez since February 2002. The base, which has 300 military staff, six transport aircraft and seven helicopters, serves as a hub for supplying Germany’s contingent to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Each soldier who takes off from the Cologne/Bonn military airport for a tour in Afghanistan has to change planes in Termez — from an olive-green Airbus to a C-160 Transall cargo aircraft. The German military has already shuttled 125,000 troops and more than 10,000 tones of freight through its base in this Uzbek oasis.

The city’s 140,000 inhabitants may have grown accustomed to the Germans, but the rest of the country is officially unaware of their presence and the Uzbek media are barred from reporting on the Germans. Indeed, judging by the current policies of the regime in Tashkent, they shouldn’t even be there anymore.

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