Uzbekistan’s first daughter a paradox in a powerful place

Is first daughter a fashionista? a robber baron? a future leader? all of the above?

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MOSCOW Glamour queen. International diplomat. Plunderer of the poor. Gulnara Karimova has been called all of these things. But all the eldest daughter of Uzbekistan’s aging authoritarian leader appears to want is for people to like her.

By the looks of things, that isn’t quite working out.

Over the weekend, the producers of New York’s Fashion Week canceled a show by Ms. Karimova amid pressure from a human rights group and a planned protest about the use of child labor in her country.

In a face-saving gesture, her backers revived the event Thursday at ultrachic Cipriani on 42nd Street.

Turning up at fashion shows and dropping by at the Cannes Film Festival are part of a carefully nurtured public relations exercise by Ms. Karimova, who despite her frivolous image is seen as a possible successor to her father.

On the international scene, she has carved out an image as a fashionable jet-setter. In her home country, Ms. Karimova is feted by official media as an accomplished diplomat, academic and philanthropist devoted to the cause of disadvantaged women and children.

To her many detractors, Ms. Karimova, 39, is a “robber baron” who has ruthlessly used her power to pillage businesses in Uzbekistan and who luxuriates in self-imposed European exile, while many in her country endure crushing poverty.

Uzbekistan, a mainly Muslim nation of almost 28 million people, is strategically placed along a key transportation route supplying U.S.-led coalition troops engaged in combating insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.

It is rich in natural gas and gold, as well as being one of the world largest cotton producers, making it potentially attractive to investors.

Although officially touted as an international stateswoman, Ms. Karimova rarely appears to bother herself with such matters.

Her official website conveys the image of a carefree fashionista obsessed with gaudy jewelry flitting between charity events in Uzbekistan and gala evenings in Europe.

Ms. Karimova appears to take inordinate pride in having been photographed with notables including former President Bill Clinton, singer Elton John and action film star Steven Seagal.

Another website, Googoosha.uz, documents Ms. Karimova’s short-lived pop career: She sang under the name GooGoosha - reputedly her father’s favorite nickname for her. One particularly eye-popping music video depicts a flying sports car wending its way to a palace in verdant mountains, greeted by Ms. Karimova bedecked in a flowing white dress.

On top of all that, Ms. Karimova heads her country’s diplomatic mission at the United Nations’ office in Geneva, where she lives with her son and daughter.

What the Harvard regional studies master’s course graduate’s websites don’t mention are her widely alleged links to obscure Swiss-registered Zeromax GmbH, a failed holding company widely believed to have been under her control.

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