Gulnara Karimova

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Gulnara Karimova
Gulnara Karimova.jpg
Gulnara Karimova, photographed in 2009
Uzbekistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva
In office
Succeeded byBakhtiyor Ibragimov[1]
Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Spain
Succeeded byDilshod Akhatov[2]
Personal details
Born (1972-07-08) 8 July 1972 (age 48)
Fergana, Uzbek SSR, Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Mansur Maqsudi (div.)
ParentsIslam Karimov
Tatyana Karimova
RelativesLola Karimova-Tillyaeva (sister)
Alma materTashkent State University
Harvard University

Gulnara Islamovna Karimova (Cyrillic Uzbek: Гулнора Исломовна Каримова; Russian: Гульнара Исламовна Каримова, Gul'nara Islamovna Karimova; born 8 July 1972) is the elder daughter of Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan from 1989 to his death in 2016. Karimova is the founder of the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation and chair of its Board of Trustees; she is also the head of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on cultural and social aspects of life in Uzbekistan.[3] According to political observers, Gulnara Karimova was widely considered to be in line to succeed her father as President of Uzbekistan, however, after 2013, Gulnara had conflict with her father, and she began to rapidly lose influence in Uzbekistan.[4][5]

According to the BBC, Karimova was placed under house arrest in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in November 2014,[6][7][8] and was rumored, according to Central Asian news reports, to have died from poisoning on 5 November 2016.[9][10][11][12] Karimova was questioned by Swiss prosecutors in December 2016 regarding accusations of money-laundering.[13]

In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Treasury[14] included Karimova in a new Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act list, effectively banning all United States entities from dealing with Karimova or any of her organisations or associates.

Early life and education[edit]

Karimova graduated from the Youth Mathematic Academy in Tashkent in 1988. During 1987 she interned at the State Committee of Uzbekistan on Statistics. From 1989 to 1994 she attended Tashkent State University, where she obtained a bachelor's degree from the International Economics department. During her second year, she worked as a translator at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In 1992, she completed a course of jewellery design in New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.[15]

Between 1994 and 1996 she was enrolled at Institute of Economy at the Uzbekistan Academy of Science where she pursued a master's degree. During 1994-1995 she was intern-teacher at the political science department of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent. Afterwards, from summer 1995 until 1996, she worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan at the department for political analysis and forecast, where she was assigned to write analytical reports for the State Security Council and the Presidential Administration.[16]

The next phase of her education took place after a few years of full-time work. Between 1998 and 2000, Karimova enrolled at the graduate level at Harvard University, where she was awarded a master's degree in regional studies.[17] At the same time, she was enrolled at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED) in Tashkent, where in 2001, was "awarded" a PhD in political science. Since 2009, she has held a chair of political science at the UWED. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications which she received in 2006, from Tashkent University of Informational Technologies.[18]

Career and activities[edit]

Political and diplomatic activities[edit]

Between summer 1995 and autumn 1997, she was Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan. During this time she helped on with organizing the Tashkent International Conference "Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone" (CANWFZ).[19]

In 1998 and from 2000 to 2003, Karimova served as counselor at Uzbekistan's Mission to the United Nations in New York.[16] From 2003 until 2005 she was minister-counselor at the Uzbek embassy in Moscow, and served as adviser to the minister of foreign affairs from 2005 to 2008. In February 2008, she was appointed deputy foreign minister for international cooperation in cultural and humanitarian affairs. In September of the same year, she was named Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva and took up the post in December 2008.[20] In January 2010, she was named Uzbek Ambassador to Spain.[21] She is a member of the Cercle Diplomatique de Genève.[17][22]

In 2012, Karimova was honoured with the "Silk Road and Humanitarian Cooperation" Award of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.[23]

Business interests[edit]

According to US diplomats in Uzbekistan, Karimova "bullied her way into gaining a slice of virtually every lucrative business" in the country and is viewed as a "robber baron".[24]

Karimova was believed to control Uzdunrobita, Uzbekistan's national mobile telephone network, as well as the country's healthcare, and media sectors.[25] However, since June 2007 Uzdunrobita has been totally owned by Mobile TeleSystems OJSC ("MTS" – NYSE: MBT), the largest mobile phone operator in Russia and the CIS.[26] December 2009, the Swiss magazine "Bilanz" described Gulnora Karimova as one of the ten richest women in the country.[25]

In the interview to the Swiss economic magazine Bilan, Karimova denied her involvement into mentioned cases stating: "I have never considered the opportunities of doing business in Switzerland. ... These references are insinuations of my opponents. My name has been mentioned earlier several times in relations to companies such as Zeromax in Zug, Interspan, Oxus Gold, Wimm-Bill-Dann of Russia, Carlsberg and many others."[27]

In March 2014, the Swiss Prosecutor's Office announced that it had extended a money laundering investigation to include Karimova.[28] The probe, launched in 2012, had initially focused on four of Karimova's allies.

Working though the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice seized $850 million in 2016 that had been "funneled through corrupt deals" by Karimova.[29][30] Karimova is also under investigation in Uzbekistan on charges of corruption, although she denies any wrongdoing.[30]

Promoting Uzbekistan in politics[edit]

In 2005, Karimova established and promoted the "Centre for Political Studies", the first independent think tank.[16] which focuses on scientific-applied research on present-day issues of internal and foreign policy of Uzbekistan, regional security, economic development and international cooperation. The Centre prepares informational, analytical and prognosis materials on these subjects. Today the Centre for Political Studies cooperates with more than 25 institutions worldwide.[31] Karimova is a chief-editor of the monthly published the Information-Analytical Bulletin “Uzbekistan & Central Asia”.[32]

Charity and social initiatives[edit]

Gulnora I. Karimova – World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2009

Under Karimova's supervision five NGOs have been established in Uzbekistan. In 2009, two of the foundations, the Social Initiatives Support Fund (SISF) and the Women's Council Public Association, organized a conference on "Medical aspects and role of Public Organizations in breast cancer problems solutions".[33] In 2006, under the SISF, Karimova took on initiative of micro-credits for women farmers in rural areas of Uzbekistan.[34][35]

Karimova is founder and the chair of the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation (the Fund Forum).[36] The Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation (the Fund Forum), the biggest NGO in the country was established in spring 2004[37] Since then, signed a number of MOU with international organisations and in 2010, received consultative status at the ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council).[38] On 24 December 2010, the International Olympic Committee honored the Fund Forum with its annual "Sport – Inspiring Young People" Trophy for its activities in the area of sport, education and culture among youth.[39] Beyond national cultural and art promotion, the Fund also provides merit- and need-based scholarships for undergraduate and graduate levels.[40]

In June 2010, the Fund Forum in cooperation with other foundations engaged in humanitarian aid to those affected by the events in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.[41]

In 2010, she initiated the organization of a charitable marathon, "In the Name of Life" under the auspices of the Fund Forum, the Women's Council and the Uzbekistan National Breast Cancer Association.[16] 100,000 people across the Uzbekistan have joined the marathon since its launch.[42][43] In 2012, Karimova is reported to donated over 25 million sum to the National Breast Cancer Association to purchase cancer medication during the marathon.[44] In 2013, the race attracted 7,000 runners.[45]

In April 2012, Karimova announced that she had initiated the establishment of a new NGO, the "Forum of Socially Responsible Citizens of Uzbekistan", which focuses on support of Uzbek citizens' social initiatives.[46][47]

Support of youth[edit]

In 2004, on her initiative was created "YangiAvlod" Festival which supports children in arts disciplines. Also in 2009, the news have spread internationally that two of the world's most famous football strikers Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo agreed to support Gulnara Karimova's new initiative launching a children's project.[48] Both of the players evidently have signed Memorandums of cooperation with the Fund Forum.[49][50]

Another project of Karimova, the Kelajak Ovozi Talented Youth Contest, has reportedly been attended by 388,000 young people in Uzbekistan since 2005, with projects and ideas ranging from IT, through architecture and design, to social innovations and poetry.[51]


In 2006, Karimova released her first music video singing a song called "Unutma Meni" (Don't Forget Me) under the stage name "Googoosha", apparently her father's nickname for her. She also performed in a later music video, singing a duet of "Besame Mucho" with Julio Iglesias.[52]

In December 2012, Googoosha released a duet with French actor Gérard Depardieu.[53] During his visit to Uzbekistan, the French actor agreed to star in an Uzbek film. Gulnara Karimova wrote a screenplay for "The Theft of the White Cocoon," a story about the origin of the famed Central Asian silk, and set in the 5th and 6th centuries.[54]

Googoosha's first single "Round Run" was released in April 2012, with various remixes by DJ White Shadow,[55] Razor N Guido of USA and Max Fadeev of Russia. In June 2012 Karimova released her self-titled debut album in the US and other countries on iTunes.[56] The album was also expected to be released in Asia, Russia and a number of other European countries. However, early reviews by critics have panned the debut album thus indefinitely halting the release in those markets.[57]

Fashion and jewellery design[edit]

In March 2009, Karimova presented her own special jewellery collection "GULI for Chopard", designed for renowned Swiss company Chopard.[58] Reportedly her royalty for design from sales of the collection will benefit the "Yangi Avlod" (New Generation) Children's Festival. As of June 2016, the Children's Festival has yet to receive any monetary proceeds from the sales.[59][60]

In September 2010, Karimova presented her fashion line "Guli" featuring Uzbek fabrics and designs based on the traditional Uzbek long coat, at New York's Fashion Week.[61]

In September 2011, Karimova's planned spring 2012 fashion show at New York's Fashion Week was cancelled[62] after Human Rights Watch and other organizations had drawn attention to her connection to her father's government and its record on torture, and child and forced labour. According to Human Rights Watch, up to two million Uzbek children are forced to leave school each year for two months to pick cotton – a fabric woven throughout Karimova's designs.[63] However the fashion show was eventually held in New York, with the location changed to Cipriani.[64]

In Uzbekistan, Karimova also hosts Art Week featuring catwalk shows of international labels such as Cavalli, Scervino and Chopard.[65] Art Week also includes International Theatre Festival, Golden Guepard Tashkent International Film Forum, Biennale and Photobiennale exhibitions as well as master-classes, round tables, concerts and charity events.[66]

Gulnara Karimova presented her first fragrances, Victorious for men and Mysterieuse for women, on 8 October, as part of Style.Uz Art Week 2012.[67] The fragrances were created by French perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.[68] Halit Ergenç became a face of Victorious for men.[69]

Cinema against AIDS[edit]

In May 2010, Karimova was at the center of a scandal surrounding her attendance of the annual "Cinema against AIDS" gala fundraising event organised by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research during the Cannes Film Festival.[70]

AmfAR faced criticism from NGOs such as Reporters without Borders, with claims that it would be hypocritical for AmfAR to accept the attendance of Karimova given her country's refusal to take AIDS treatment seriously. Just months before the Cinema Against AIDS dinner, a 27-year-old AIDS activist, Maksim Popov, had been sentenced by an Uzbek court to seven years in prison for distributing information to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS. The Uzbek court deemed the information to be against society's moral standards.[71]

Personal life[edit]

Marriage and divorce[edit]

In 1991, she married Mansur Maqsudi, an American businessman of Afghanistan Tajik origin. They have two children, a son, Islam Karimov Jr., born in 1992 and a daughter, Iman Karimova, born in 1998. When the marriage started to crumble in July 2001, Karimova took the two children and left the United States for Uzbekistan. An Uzbek judge granted her a divorce, while a US court granted one to Maqsudi.[72] When Karimova refused to accede to the US court ruling awarding custody of the two children to Maqsudi, an international arrest warrant in her name was filed with Interpol. In return, Maqsudi faced arrest in Uzbekistan, and some of his relatives were arrested and imprisoned.[73] Others were driven to the Uzbek-Afghan border and released in Afghan territory,[72][failed verification] and Maqsudi had his business assets in Uzbekistan, particularly his interest in a joint-venture with Coca-Cola, taken away.[74] According to The Guardian, as part of her divorce settlement, Karimova kept $4.5 million worth of jewellery and business interests worth approximately $60 million.[75] On 9 July 2008, custody of the two children was fully given to Karimova, by a Consent Order signed by Judge Deanne M. Wilson (Superior Court of the State of New Jersey).

Rumours of marriage to Sodiq Safoyev[edit]

In 2003, when Sodiq Safoyev was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, rumours about his marriage to Karimova surfaced in local and international media. Safoyev, a career diplomat and a divorcee as of 2001, was hinted to have been picked by the President Islam Karimov as his possible replacement, hence the marriage to his daughter.[76] However, the allegations were denied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the BBC, which published the story, was accused by First Deputy Minister Vladimir Norov of intruding into the personal lives of Safoyev and Karimova.[77]

Alleged house arrest and rumoured death[edit]

It has been reported by the BBC, based on a letter and a voice recording from Karimova (received in March and August 2014, respectively), that she is currently under house arrest.[6][7][8]

On 22 November 2016, a Central Asian news portal Centre1 claimed that Karimova died on 5 November 2016, after being poisoned and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Minor cemetery in Tashkent. According to RIA Novosti, sources close to the family disputed the claim that she was dead but did not provide any proof as to her current status or whereabouts.[9][10][11][12]

In December 2016, Karimova's son, Islam Karimov Junior, called for his mother's whereabouts to be revealed by Uzbekistan. He revealed that she was being kept against her will "without any even basic human rights that every person deserves on this earth". He explained that living in London, he cannot go back to Uzbekistan from fears that he will not be allowed to return, which was also the reason why he did not attend the funeral of his grandfather, who was initially responsible for putting Karimova under house-arrest.[12]

In January 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Karimova was questioned by Swiss prosecutors in December, 2016, regarding accusations of money-laundering.[13] At the time she was being kept under house arrest.[13] In 2015, an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reported that Karimova had taken over US$1 billion in bribes from Scandinavian and Russian telecom companies wanting involvement in the Uzbek market.[30] In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice seized $850 million that was funneled through corrupt deals by Karimova.[29] Karimova is also under investigation in Uzbekistan on charges of corruption, although she denies any wrongdoing.


On 28 July 2017, the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office released a statement saying that she was in custody following a 2015 conviction and faces additional charges in an ongoing investigation, marking the first time authorities have revealed details about her.[78] The statement also said she was a member of an organised criminal group that controlled assets worth more than $1.3 billion in 12 countries, including properties in London worth £22.9 million and hotels in Dubai worth $67.4 million. She was also alleged to have acquired $595 million worth of assets and received $869.3 million in kickbacks that were paid into offshore accounts.[79] In 2017 Karimova was sentenced to 10 years in jail for fraud and money laundering but that was commuted in 2018 to five-year house arrest. In March 2019 she was sent to prison for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest.[80][81]


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Further reading[edit]