New York welcomes 'most hated woman in Uzbekistan'


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The Independent US

She may be the "most hated person in her own country" but in the world of American fashion it seems Gulnara Karimova still commands respect.

Next week, the daughter and close aide of the Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov will – barring a last minute pull-out – exhibit her designs at New York Fashion Week, for a second year.

Human rights campaigners hit out at the decision, pointing to the former-Soviet state's appalling record on torture, child and forced labour – much of it in the country's cotton industry. President Karimov is once said to have boiled a political opponent alive.

Some of the biggest names in high street fashion, including Gap, H&M and Walmart have stopped buying Uzbek cotton and the International Labor Rights Forum will hold a mock fashion show outside the Lincoln Centre to coincide with the appearance of Karimova's Guli line on the catwalk.

Karimova – who also styles herself as the pop star GooGoosha and whose fortune is estimated at £390m – has exhibited her flowing and colourful Central Asian-influenced designs across Europe, including Milan, where she enrolled Julio Iglesias to duet with her.

The 39-year-old, who now lives in Geneva where she served as her country's permanent representative on the United Nations, also previously enticed Sting to perform at a fashion festival in the Uzbek capital Tashkent – an appearance for which the British rock star was roundly condemned.

Steve Swerdlow, an Uzbekistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "There's nothing fashionable about lending a high-profile platform to the senior official of one of the world's most repressive governments."

A candid appraisal of Karimova by US diplomats in Uzbekistan, published by WikiLeaks, said: "Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way."

A spokesman for IMG, which organises the event, said it had asked Karimova to cancel. "We're horrified by the human-rights abuses. We hope to work hand-in-hand with Human Rights Watch during Fashion Week and beyond to challenge those in power in Uzbekistan to take action."