U.S. NGO Faces Criticism for Karimova's Role at Cannes AIDS Fund-Raiser
HIV/AIDS campaigners recently found themselves caught between the desire to help a persecuted colleague in Tashkent and deference to diplomatic niceties for a star-studded fund-raising event coming up this week in Cannes. Andrew Stroehlein, Communications Director for the International Crisis Group writes about the disconnect between two positions taken recently by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) regarding Uzbekistan.
On the one hand, amfAR has supported jailed psychologist and HIV/AIDS educator Maxim Popov as a human rights cause. On the other, amfAR is organizing a high-profile AIDs event at the Cannes Film Festival May 20 with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's autocratic President Islam Karimov. Karimova, 37, currently Tashkent's ambassador to Spain, recently described by El Pais as “part Princess Diana, part Sarah Palin, part [James] Bond girl, part Cruella de Vil" and "her father's right hand".
The independent Uzbek website uznews.net asked May 17 whether the American organization had been swayed by Karimova's large contribution to their cause, although amfAR was among 107 organizations that signed a petition to the Uzbek government urging Popov's release. Popov, 27, was detained in January 2009 and sentenced in September 2009 to seven years of imprisonment on charges of alleged "mismanagement of funds" and "corrupting youth" for his work on HIV/AIDs prevention among young people, despite support from UN and other international agencies.
Cub Barrett, a spokesman for amfAR, pleaded for patience in waiting for an explanation from his organization, and vowed to continue campaiging for Popov's release, uznews.net reported. Last weekend, Gulnara Karimova's name was removed from amfAR's website about the Cannes event, but then inexplicably restored.
Stroehlein wrote several emails inquiring about what he saw as inconsistent positions, and received a statement today from amfAR:
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