Gulnara Karimova: Singing ‘Robber Baroness’

A year ago, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov was riding high – the head of a business empire, a pop star, she was seen by some as a possible future leader. But over the last 12 months all that’s changed – her businesses closed, her official positions snatched away. Can she bounce back?

She was sucking away so many resources that she single-handedly created a budget deficit”

But for many outsiders, Gulnara Karimova is the friendly, modern face of one of the most repressive regimes on earth. The Harvard-educated 41-year-old has been a businesswoman, a fashion guru, a diplomat, a philanthropist – and a pop star, Googoosha. In recent months, she has also acquired a new image: that of a defender of human rights.

As Karimova’s business and media empires have crumbled, she has become an outspoken critic of Uzbekistan’s repressive government.

“Another re-branding exercise,” says a former adviser to Karimova, who asked not to be identified due to fear of retribution. “I don’t believe for a second that she has changed. It’s all part of her battle for survival.”

The battle is a family feud worthy of Shakespeare, but it is unfolding – in part at least – on Twitter.