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'Letters to father' deepen Uzbek first daughter mystery

02 april 2014, 10:45
0
Gulnara Karimova (C), daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov. ©Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov
Gulnara Karimova (C), daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov. ©Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

The appearance of rambling letters said to have been written by Uzbekistan's once all-powerful first daughter Gulnara Karimova has heightened the mystery over her astonishing fall from grace in the ex-Soviet state, AFP reports.

At least four different letters said to be from Karimova have surfaced over the last days and published by Uzbek media in exile as well as the BBC. It is not possible to verify the authenticity of the letters.

Written in Russian and jumping from one topic to another, the letters are replete with violent images of blood and beatings as well as betrayal.

They appear above all to be a plea for mercy from Karimova to her father, President Islam Karimov, 76, who seems to have lost patience with his once high-flying and ambitious eldest daughter after she was named in cases of alleged bribery and money laundering in Sweden and Switzerland.

Karimova, 41, confirms in the letters that she has been under house arrest in Tashkent since February along with her daughter Iman, 15, and that several associates have been arrested including her pop singer boyfriend.

"The screeching that you hear is like glass on metal, when even the strongest metal shatters into invisible particles of pain, the glass leaves drops of blood on the cut and they turn into a stream," she said in a letter received and published by exiled Uzbek news site uznews.net and was typical of the rambling and sometimes incoherent nature of the missives.

'Let me out!'

In a letter received and published by Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek service of US-funded Radio Liberty, Karimova said she was being held "hostage" in her house in the Bodomzor district of Tashkent and urgently needed an operation.

"It is becoming difficult to stop the bleeding. I lost all hope and ask everyone who favours my appeal to deliver this message to president Karimov if possible."

Directly addressing her father, she says: "I ask for your sense and there is hope you will listen to me and let me and my child out."

This week the site uznews.net published what it said was a picture sent by Karimova showing her under house arrest.

It is a bizarre image of the first daughter looking dishevelled and eyes bulging as she sips with a straw from a carton of Nesquik drink.

"The situation is getting worse. Today I sobbed so much as Iman's depression is becoming more severe," read a statement said to be from Karimova that came with the photo.

No public discussion of her fate is tolerated inside Uzbekistan, which has been run and tightly controlled by President Karimov since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Sudden fall from grace 

Her current situation is a stunning contrast to a year ago, when Karimova was essentially the face abroad for her isolated nation, Central Asia's most populous country with 30 million people.

Karimova served in diplomatic posts including ambassador to Spain and the United Nations in Geneva, while her state-supported Fund Forum had become by far the most important group in Uzbekistan for charitable and cultural projects.

She also created her own perfume line, was an obsessive user of Twitter and had managed to carve out a career as a pop star with the stage name Googoosha, even recording a track with French actor Gerard Depardieu.

Karimova was also seen as a potential successor to her father, who has been president since 1990 and has so far defied reports of failing health.

Her downfall become evident late last year when fashion boutiques and music shops she is said to co-own with her business partner and boyfriend, the Uzbek pop singer Rustam Madumarov, were raided and shut down.

The television channels she owns were also closed and Karimova then exposed her own fall in characteristic explicit style on Twitter. That account has now been shut down.

Bitter family feud 

On February 17, security officials raided her home arresting several associates including Madumarov and placing Karimova herself under house arrest, according to reports in Uzbek media.

The tipping point could have been a bribery probe by Swedish prosecutors in which she is implicated and the opening of a money laundering investigation against her in Switzerland.

In the letters she names the security officials close to her father whom she accuses of being directly responsible for her downfall including Rustam Inoyatov, the head of the feared National Security Service (MKhKh).

She also reserves a particular venom for her mother Tatyana Karimova, who she claims turned her father against her. Also not spared in what has all the hallmarks of a bitter family feud is her sister Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Uzbekistan's ambassador to UNESCO.

"The answer to the question about the relations between Karimov and Gulnara lies not in the realm of political analysis but psychology," said Konstantin Kalachov, head of the Russian Experts Group think-tank in Moscow.

But he warned that Uzbekistan faces an uncertain future once Karimov leaves the scene. "Whoever the successor is, the fate of the country is under a huge question. A battle between the elites is beginning," he said.


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