Dad's accused of boiling people alive – but Googoosha (aka Gulnara Karimova) just wants to be a star

Aspiring pop singer revealed as daughter of brutal Uzbek dictator with links to regime

Shaun Walker
Friday 17 August 2012 17:37

She is described as an "exotic Uzbek beauty" in the posters adorned with her face that have sprung up across US cities, and the biography on her website describes the aspiring pop star Googoosha as a "poet and mezzo-soprano". She even placed a cover advert on a leading US music magazine to promote her recent dance single, "Round Run".

But there is one thing that all the publicity for Googoosha, usually pictured with layers of make-up and lips suggestively parted, fails to mention: her real name is Gulnara Karimova, and she is the daughter of one of the world's most brutal dictators, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov.

Mr Karimov, who has run Uzbekistan since the break up of the Soviet Union, has been accused of boiling dissidents to death, and his security forces shot dead hundreds of unarmed protestors in 2005. Child labour is widespread, with schoolchildren forced into several months of cotton picking every year.

Critics of the Uzbek regime, including former British Ambassador Craig Murray, have said repeatedly that Ms Karimova is personally tied up in the family's huge levels of corruption, and for a time was linked to a Swiss company widely seen as a money laundering vehicle for the regime's proceeds, though she always denied this.

An American diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks showed just what ordinary Uzbeks think of her: "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," it stated. "She remains the single most hated person in the country."

Not so successful with gaining friends at home, she is trying to win popularity abroad. "Love Kylie Minogue? Check out exotic pop sensation Googoosha!" gushes her official Twitter feed, although in reality Ms Karimova probably has more in common with Imelda Marcos or Saif al-Gaddafi.

Long talked of as a potential successor to her ageing father, the 40-year-old dictator's daughter studied at Harvard and has since embarked on a series of attempts to give herself international legitimacy, including as a fashion and jewellery designer. A fashion show of hers at New York Fashion Week was cancelled last year after protests from human rights groups.

The website for Googoosha does not give any hint as to her parentage. Instead, it shares photographs and videos of the wannabe starlet, as well as various musings. "My poems are rhymed thoughts, sensations and feelings, that is why they have become really valuable to me," she writes.

"The flavour of self-comprehension in these poems made them sound like melodies of life. These are Googoosha's life experiences…listen, dance, celebrate and reflect. "

However, despite the widespread advertising and promotion, it is unclear how well Ms Karimova's songs are doing commercially. A claim in the Uzbek media that her song had made it to number five in a US music chart appears to be fabricated. And in the reviews of the album on the website Amazon, some users appear to have worked out just who the singer is.

"Amazingly rhythmic sounds of torture," writes one reviewer, who gives the album one star out of five. "I never knew the sounds of children labouring in the hot sun for 12 hours a day could be so relaxing and Enya-esque."

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