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Uzbekistan's first daughter hits out at Western critics

23 august 2012, 12:15
0
The eldest daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, already a pop star in her own country, has taken aim at her critics after she released her first English-language album in the West, AFP reports.

In unusually frank comments to local media, Gulnara Karimova, also known as a fashion designer and diplomat, slammed critical coverage of her album in the West as "hysterical howls."

"I have never said that I am a professional singer... but as a creative person I would like to present my work to my audience, be it in music, poetry or art," she told journalists at a news conference.

Harvard-educated Karimova, 40, has become the public face of the ex-Soviet country, serving as its permanent representative in the United Nations in Geneva and as its ambassador in Spain until last year.

She has also launched jewellery, cosmetics and clothing lines internationally under her Guli label, while heading a number of charity projects at home.

But it is as a pop star called GooGoosha that she has attracted the most attention.

In June she released her first English-language album of songs she wrote herself, titled simply "GooGoosha," in the United States, Europe and Asia. Revealing that she closely follows her image in the West, Karimova read out extracts from one critical article, surprising journalists in a country where such reports would never be discussed openly.

"Dad's accused of boiling people alive -- but Googoosha just wants to be a star," Karimova read out the headline of a recent article in the British daily The Independent.

But she insisted she saw a silver lining.

"When such articles appear it means that many people really have listened to the album... Not only those who passionately support me, but those who are just using me for target practice," she said to applause.

She read out claims in the article that she did not mention her father in publicity materials and appears with "layers of make-up and lips suggestively parted."

"Would you also put pictures of your mum and dad in your music album or poetry book?" Karimova argued back.

"If a male singer puts on make-up for a photo session... as a woman maybe I also have a right to do this and make my lips a little bit glossy?"

Cutting a striking figure, she wore her hair loose, with a cream sleeveless blouse and black-and-white trousers in a traditional Ikat design.

"I am grateful that God has given me my face, my features. I am glad that those who deal me low blows cannot rob me of my features drawn by God," she said.

Karimova also insisted that a show by her Guli label at New York Fashion Week last year was a success even though Western media reported it was cancelled after protests from rights groups.

"In fact this was a well thought-out and well-paid serious PR campaign against our show", Karimova said.

The show was moved to another venue for security reasons only, she said, complaining that media failed to cover "a picket by dozens of American students who supported the show."

Speaking for more than two hours, Karimova appeared to be open to questions, as she sipped an American brand of canned green tea with ginseng and honey, but journalists remained cautious amid a growing culture of self-censorship.

Karimova has written on her Twitter account @GulnaraKarimova that she wants to meet her critics face-to-face.

"It is a pity that 'the free press' never shows up for open communication at news conferences!!!" she wrote.

The author of The Independent article she quoted wrote that she blocked his Twitter messages, however.

Karimova has distanced herself from politics lately, although she is said to have some political and economic sway in Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country bordering Afghanistan.

Karimova, who has a PhD in political sciences, hinted that her true talents lay in diplomacy.

"However, it is difficult to say how they could be applied at the moment," she said enigmatically.

Her 74-year-old father has ruled Uzbekistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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