Sat, Aug 12, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Uzbekistan dictator's daughter struts stuff

THE GUARDIAN , TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN

Martial arts black belt, Harvard graduate, jewelry 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 Karimova, 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 build Karimova's profile as a potential successor to her father, whose term of office finishes at the end of next year.

Despite the limits of promoting a woman as leader in a traditional Muslim society, 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 Karimova regime's torture of political opponents. "It'll make her feel very good but she won't gain any popularity."

Karimova first came to international attention after a high-profile divorce from her husband, Mansur Maqsudi. In 2003 a US court ruled that Maqsudi should be given sole custody of the couple's two children, Islam and Iman, then 10 and six.

Karimova kept US$4.5 million worth of jewelry, plus business interests worth approximately US$60 million, as part of her divorce settlement.

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