‘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.