The Rise And Fall Of Gulnara Karimova, The 'Uzbek Princess'

Gulnara Karimova had entrenched herself as one of the most prominent figures in Uzbekistan's elite before her own father put her under house arrest.
Posted at 1:15 AM, Sep 17, 2014

Meet Gulnara Karimova, entrepreneur, Harvard graduate, daughter of Uzbekistan’s president and the subject of some bizarre family — and political — drama.

Dubbed the "Uzbek Princess," she's held her own fashion show.

Released a single she created with a French tax exile.

And helped grow several NGOs in Uzbekistan.

Karimova often served as a rare window into Uzbekistan, home to one of Earth's most secretive governments. But as high as she flew, Karimova has fallen that much further. The West got a look at her current situation Tuesday as photos showing the Uzbek Princess under house arrest were smuggled out of the country.

Her London-based spokesman responsible for releasing the photos told The Washington Post confrontations with guards outside her house "occur all the time whenever she tries to go out the door, to get some air or to see if people are around and particularly when she is requesting extra food." She's also quoted as calling for medical help.

The story of Karimova's house arrest goes back to at least 2011, when her fashion image fell apart in a child labor scandal.

In 2012, a Swedish investigative report found links between Karimova and a Swedish telecom giant which had reportedly bribed its way into Uzbekistan’s mobile phone market with her help. 

And then in February, her once-active Twitter account, which had been used to argue with a BBC reporter and to accuse her sister of “sorcery,” simply vanished. 

Sources close to her father told The Economist President Islam Karimov was furious over his daughter's airing of the family's and the government's dirty laundry. The outlet speculated Karimova was eventually put under house arrest for hurting her father's reputation.

But she managed to communicate in the form of a rambling letter smuggled to the BBC detailing her arrest and constant surveillance. The news organization later received a smuggled audio recording from Karimova saying she and her daughter were being treated “worse than dogs.”

She probably won't get much sympathy at home, though. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks called her “something of a robber baron” and “the single most hated person in the country,” saying she had a reputation for using her father's authority to “crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way.”

Karimova's father is up for re-election this December, though some are unsure if he'll run again since he's reportedly been suffering from health problems. 

This video contains images from Getty Images.