- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - The producers of New York’s Fashion Week have canceled a show scheduled for next week by the daughter of the president of Uzbekistan amid pressure from a human rights group and a planned protest over the use of child labor in her country.

“As a result of various concerns raised we have canceled the Guli show on September 15th,” IMG spokesman Zach Eichman said in an email Friday.

He did not elaborate on the reasons, but Human Rights Watch had been in contact with organizers for about a week, raising objections to the planned show by Gulnara Karimova because of what it calls widespread human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.

“The decision by New York Fashion Week to cancel a show by the daughter of Uzbekistan’s abusive ruler sends a message to the Uzbek government that its appalling human rights record is of global concern,” the group said in a statement Friday night.

Adding to the pressure on organizers, the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum had called for a protest to coincide with the Sept. 15 show in the Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center. While applauding Friday’s decision, the group still plans the rally as a more general protest against child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

“This is still a broader issue affecting the entire fashion industry,” said Tim Newman, campaign director of the labor group.

Karimova is the eldest daughter of Uzbek leader Islam Karimov. She has held several positions in her country’s government, including heading its diplomatic missions in Spain and at the United Nations office in Geneva, where she lives with her son and daughter.

A publicist for Karimova’s fashion show did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. The New York Post first reported the show’s cancellation Friday evening.

This was not Karimova’s first appearance at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York _ she held a show last year as well. Asked why no protest was mobilized then, Newman said his group simply hadn’t been aware of her planned appearance early enough. “This year, we were prepared,” he said.

It was Human Rights Watch that initiated the opposition, not only because of the child labor issue but because of other rights abuses,” said Steve Swerdlow, Uzbekistan researcher at the rights group. “Torture, suppression of dissent _ there were many compelling reasons,” he said in a telephone interview. “We felt the fashion industry shouldn’t be lending her a platform.”

Karimova has been involved in a number of charities. However, her image as a philanthropist was dealt a blow recently with the release of U.S. diplomatic cables by Wikileaks.

“The discussion of the honest, hardworking (Gulnara), looking out for the best interests of her country, likely irks the many business people who have been crushed by Karimova and her greed as well as the general public, who view her as something of a robber baron,” one dispatch reads.

In March, Human Rights Watch said it had been forced to close its office in Uzbekistan after facing years of harassment by the Central Asian nation’s authorities.

Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist since 1989 when it was still part of the Soviet Union, stamping out all opposition and any signs of Islamic radicalism.


AP Fashion Writer Samantha Critchell in New York and Associated Press Writer Peter Leonard in Moscow contributed to this report.

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