Gulnara Karimova: “I am not using the word ‘democracy,’ mind you!”
What would happen if the “war” between the Uzbek secret services and the president’s elder daughter ends with Gulnara Karimova’s victory? Head of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights Umida Niyazova maintains that such an outcome would certainly not lead to an alteration of the country’s authority system, which Islam Karimov shaped and consolidated.
The recent crisis in the Karimovs family unveiled the fact that a person under physical and informational isolation is at helms in Uzbekistan.
It has been several months since the attentive reader is able to watch an unfolding confrontation between Gulnara Karimova and the National Security Service (NSS) of Uzbekistan. The Uzbek president’s daughter has been interviewed lately by foreign mass media where she accuses the NSS and prosecutor’s offices of corruption, power struggle, conspiracy and much more.
Ms. Karimova says all [troubles] began after her sister, Lola Tillayeva, was interviewed by the Uzbek service of the BBC, which Gulnara Karimova claims damager their father’s image. She is worried about her father’s image; at the same time, she continues unveiling power-wielding bodies’ and her own relatives’ activities. But why would this cautious interview the younger sister gave be a turning point for the elder sister?
Islam Karimov, the father of the women mention here, has been ruling Uzbekistan for almost a quarter of a century and his image of a dictator has long been established.
According to Gulnara Karimova, her father does not know anything about the events unfolding his own family. He is allegedly unaware of those events, which the entire country has been talking about lately. Well, this claim warrants many questions: Is Islam Karimov the actual ruler in the country? Is this stricken-in-ages person with no access to information and surrounded with three layers of guards really able to adequately comprehend the events unfolding in the country? Who are those people deciding who can talk to the president and who is prohibited from that?
While it is impossible to gauge what is happening behind those curtains of the palace, one outcome is certain: Islam Karimov has become a hostage of the very system, which he built himself.
“Everything began after Lola’s interview…” Ms. Karimova says. On the contrary, everything started much earlier. The political opposition was crushed, a total control over press was established, and repression of dissent—all were established, practiced, and enforced long before the interview in question. Gulnara Karimova claims that she was too busy with her projects and was therefore unable to understand what was happening in the country. Is that really possible? Was it really possible to fail to notice the violent crushing of the Andijan uprising, the total corruption, and the ever-expanding censorship of mass media?
But what thing is clear: Gulnara Karimova has uncovered an abscess, which was about to burst.
However, what exactly is she trying to achieve with this confrontation with power-wielders overreaching themselves? Is she capable of admitting the fact that Uzbekistan turned into a country where no laws reign, no fair trials, and no independent journalists exactly under her authoritarian father? Islam Karimov is fully responsible for the systematic destruction of political opponents and many other crimes. He had all authority in the country concentrated in his hands; he had the option going down the democracy alley, launch democratic reforms, yet he preferred to cling onto power with a stranglehold.
Uzbekistan in a pressing need of effective political reforms because there are democratic institutions established to enable normal development of society. Free press, independent judiciary, real political opposition, and strong civil society—indeed, neither the dictator nor his larcenous entourage needed such mechanisms and institutions.
In her interview featured on The Telegraph’s website, Gulnara Karimova claims that she speaks out for “advanced and educated society” and highlights that she is not using the word “democracy.”
But, there is a need in democratic institutions to protect society from arbitrariness and corruption, and to afford it opportunities to develop and to advance. If free press and independent judiciary existed in Uzbekistan today, these mechanisms could actually help Gulnara Karimova more effectively and efficiently than her Twitter account. Did not TV channels she owned attempt to cover at least minimal truth? No, that was not the case.
Indeed, Gulnara Karimova is finding herself in a very complicated situation. She cannot afford contacting journalists directly, because she is afraid of serious questions about her own commercial activities and financial transactions. Although Gulnara is confronting a structure of evil called the NSS, there are many questions to be posed to herself. For instance, how did the Swedish TeliaSonera Telecommunications Company happen to have transferred 320 mln USD to a Gibraltar-based company, which is registered under the name of a person close to Gulnara Karimova? How can one earn enough money to purchase a villa worth 18 mln USD in Switzerland being engaged in charity and social projects alone? And why the entire country was given the “choice” to drink only Coca Cola when her ex-husband was the major shareholder in the Coca Cola Company?
There are so many questions, and apparently providing answers to them will be very difficult.
Over the last several years, Gulnara Karimova has been subjected to criticism on the part of international human rights activists due to her public activities. But, to give credit where it is due, she did not construct or maintain the half-mafia system, which governs Uzbekistan today. She only enjoyed benefits it yielded, enriched herself and attended to her own ambitions, which could do only thanks to her relation to the head of state. But tables have turned and others are now enjoying the right to loot the country.
Nonetheless, I still wish Gulnara luck. If her confrontation with the power-wielding bodies leads to the dismissal of Rustam Inoyatov, chief of the NSS, then many honest and common citizens would share her joy.
But, then what?
Mr. Inoyatov’s removal from office alone cannot trigger changes in the system; the very system, which props her father.