Title Image: Gulnara Karimova
Because of ongoing events in Kazakhstan in January 2022, I am reposting blogs I wrote when I visited the country in 2017:
My blog scooped the New York Times by 9 months! See their story on Gulnara Karimova on April 4, 2018
Linguistic note: the name Gulnara comes from the Persian golnar = gol ‘flower, rose’ + anâr ‘pomegranate’
While walking around the streets of Almaty, Kazakhstan I heard a story. It’s about Uzbekistan, not Kazakhstan. But, after all, Uzbekistan is next door. And the story is a good one. It’s also recent enough to recount here.
Gulnara Karimova: She’s Everywhere
Gulnara Karimova is the daughter of Islam Karimov. He was the leader of Uzbekistan from 1989 to his death in 2016.
Here’s an incomplete list of Gulnara’s accomplishments:
1988 – graduates from the Youth Academy in Tashkent
1992 – completes a course in jewelry design at New York’s FIT
1994 – receives a BA in International Economics from Tashkent State U
2000 – 2003 – serves as counselor at the Uzbek Mission to the UN in New York
2003 – 2005 – serves as advisor to the Uzbek minister of foreign affairs in Moscow
2006 – releases the music video Unutma Meni ‘Don’t Forget Me’
2008 – becomes a Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the UN
2009 – begins work on founding 5 NGOs in Uzbekistan
2009 – brings Sting to Uzbekistan, not uncontroversially:
2009 – presents jewelry collection GULI for Chopard
2010 – organizes a charitable marathon “In the Name of Life”
2010 – sings Bésame mucho ‘Kiss Me A Lot’ with Julio Iglesias:
2010 – presents fashion line GULI for New York Fashion Week
2012 – launches fragrances Victorious for men and Mysterieuse for women.
She married in 1991 and had two children, a son (1992) and a daughter (1998). The marriage began to break down in 2001.
Okay, end of the accomplishments.
Gulnara Karimova: She’s Nowhere
Once upon a time she was in line to succeed her father. With her release of pop songs and jewelry collections, she had the cred of a glamorous Central Asian princess.
And now she hasn’t been seen or heard from in the past few years.
Her last tweet was in November 2013. And she has not been online since February 2014.
Gulnara Karimova: The Legal Problems
In 2012 the Swiss began a probe of her associates’ money-laundering activities. By 2014 it had extended to include Karimova. During the same time she also came to the notice of Swedish authorities. They implicated her in the biggest case of corruption in Swedish history.
In 2014 Karimova was placed under house arrest in Uzbekistan along with her daughter. It is said she fell afoul of her strongman father when she started to criticize his top security man. Her businesses and TV stations closed. And her associates arrested.
In 2016 the US Department of Justice seized $850m funneled through corrupt deals by Karimova. Her Wikipedia page says that the money was seized through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. The KAR launched in 2010 to confiscate assets of government officials around the world who abuse their influence for personal enrichment.
President Islam Karimov died on September 2, 2016. In early December 2016 Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected President.
A Central Asian news agency reported that Karimova was poisoned and died in November 2016. But those reports have not been corroborated. These days, rumor has it that she is alive and incarcerated in a mental hospital. Her daughter is also rumored to be in need of medical help for a heart condition.
Her son lives in London and cannot now travel to Uzbekistan without risk to his safety. In December 2016 he made a public call to make his mother’s whereabouts known.
The Story of Gulnara Karimova: The Takeaways
1) This story screams, “Screenplay!”
2) There’s a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative? Who knew!
3) Being a close relative of a strong ruler in this part of the world is sometimes a very tough gig.
When I was in Uzbekistan my guide told me the story of Ulugh Beg (1394-1449). He was a Great Sultan in Uzbekistan’s illustrious history. Long story short, his oldest son had him beheaded.
See Also: All My Asia Blogs
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen