Uzbekistan Abuzz With Chatter About Gulnara Revelations
Ever since prosecutors in Uzbekistan confirmed last week that the late president’s eldest daughter, Gulnara Karimova, has been convicted on corruption charges and is facing more investigations, social media users in the country have been in an absolute frenzy.
The news came as a particular surprise since the day before, on July 27, state media was devoting intense coverage to memorial ceremonies for her father, Islam Karimov, who died last year. Tables across the country were heaving with plov at memorial events. Members of parliament, diplomats and public activists assembled to mark their respects. Even President Shavkat Mirziyoyev met with guests at a special function.
Only Mirziyoyev and his immediate entourage could have known that the Karimov name was going to hit the headlines for altogether different reasons the following day.
Gulnara Karimova still divides people.
“Without a doubt Gulnara is guilty and she should be tried in court, but she can’t be made to hold the can for everything. After all there were high-ranking officials who were her partners and co-conspirators in crime. They should be fired and brought to justice,” Hashimbek Halikov, a lawyer, wrote on his Facebook account.
Others were stunned by prosecutors’ claims that Karimova had managed over her decade of depredations to make away with billions of dollars.
“How many centuries would you have to live to gobble up such a sum. An average person lives 80 years. That is 29,200 days. If they spent $100,000 for every single day, it would come to $2.9 billion. And they are talking there about a sum greater than $3.5 billion. What the heck would she steal all that money for? She had a hellish appetite,” another internet user cited by Podrobno.uz wrote.
Ulugbek Hatamov wondered how Uzbekistan might be able to make reparations for all the money allegedly salted away in foreign lands. Prosecutors say Karimova stashed away more than $700 million in Switzerland alone.
"All Uzbeks should demand the money back from Europe. After that, we need to create a transparent system to spend this money,” he wrote on Facebook.
As to Karimova herself, Hatamov suggested she could be sent on internal exile to the town of Zarafshan, around 700 kilometers from Tashkent, where she could “live in a small house and earn a living through honest labor.”
“Three weeks ago I learned that my client was moved to a prison, although nobody is prepared to tell which one,” he told the website.
Hamza Hakimov took news of the prosecutors’ revelations as a sign of real change.
“Now I am really wondering if we are seeing truly different times, more proper times,” he mused.
Akbar Yusupov cautioned him against excess optimism, however.
“You are naive Hamza Hakimov,” he said. “All this is being done to return the dosh from abroad. This is a requirement for the return of assets. It is necessary that the accused be subject of a criminal investigation in the country.”
Rights activist Saidzhakhon Zainabiddinov, meanwhile, has come to Karimova’s defense and even made a public statement to that effect.
"I unequivocally consider Gulnara Karimova innocent and I deem her a victim of manipulation by internal and external forces. As a human rights defender, I will use my abilities to defend her virtue,” he wrote.
In the hope of receiving yet more information, Uzbeks turned en masse to the Akhborot evening news on July 30, but they were to be disappointed. Television had nothing to say about the case, so instead social media has become the primary outlet for information on this unfolding saga.
It seems like the only person not to have expressed an opinion about Karimova so far is Mirziyoyev.