Tashkent Gets WikiLeaked: Gulnara is "Most Hated Person in the Country"
Tashkent has finally gotten WikiLeaked.
The Guardian has a stash of cables up and an article summarizing -- not surprisingly -- the antics of President Islam Karimov's notorious daughter Gulnara Karimova -- and interestingly -- just how much static U.S. leaders get from President Karimov when they try to support human rights in Uzbekistan.
In what is alleged to be a September 13, 2005 from the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, a U.S. diplomat describes Gulnara Karimova as "The single most hated person' in Uzbekistan."
The cable writer adds for emphasis: "We have no polling data to support that statement, but we stand by it."
Journalists have often reported rumors of Karimova's extensive business dealings with corporations close to the state, particularly Zeromax, the conglomerate now seized by the government after going bankrupt. This January 28, 2005 cable comes closer to any other known source to making the connection:
According to various reports from industry insiders, Gulnora Karimova, the President's daughter, is interested in taking over a new cellular company with U.S. investment, as well as Uzbektelekom, the monopoly state- owned telecommunications company. She also reportedly has agreed with local mafia boss, XXXXXXXXXXXX, to take over his share of ZeromaxXXXXXXXXXXXX. In an ironic twist, if this comes to pass, it would leave Gulnora in control of Coca-Cola - her ex-husband's former company.
"ZeromaxXXXXXXXXXXXX" is likely a reference to a subsidiary -- these are now being transferred or sold off.
The cable concludes:
Aside from her interests in the telecommunications industry, Emboff also heard from XXXXXXXXXXXX that Gulnora struck a deal with local Mafia boss XXXXXXXXXXXX to take over his share of Zeromax. XXXXXXXXXXXX According to several sources, Zeromax's largest revenue stream comes from organizing and transporting crude oil from Kazakhstan for delivery to Uzbekneftegaz, something post believed Gulnora to have been involved in for several years. XXXXXXXXXXXX(Ref B)
The revelations on Gulnara generally fall in the "news we already knew" basket as much of the WikiLeaks revelations seems to be characterized in the media. But there are details that go further toward confirming what the independent press has only been able to speculate about --and which is still denied by the principles involved. Neil Livingstone, a Washington businessman closely involved with Zeromax, denied to the Guardian that Gulnara had interests in the company.
Lola Karimova, President Karimova's other daughter, gets some colorful copy in the embassy dispatch as well, described as pulling up to a club in a Porsche Cayenne four-wheel drive – "one of a kind for Tashkent" – and dancing all evening with her "thuggish-looking boyfriend" in a place illegally selling hard liquor.
But then there is the "new news" basket that perhaps even insiders hadn't known, and goes some way to explaining why the U.S. can seem reluctant to raise human rights issues squarely in Tashkent. It turns out that when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored an Uzbek human rights defender, the Uzbek government was infuriated.
Last year, Secretary Clinton presented the "Women of Courage" awards, including to Mutabar Tadjibayeva, described by the State Department as one of the "most vocal activists in Uzbekistan, a country in which human rights issues remain a serious concern". Tajibayeva heads the Fiery Hearts Club, a group seeking justice in Ferghana Valley, who herself was beaten and hospitalized after demonstrating for the resignation of a corrupt prosecutor.
A cable not yet published but referenced by the Guardian says President Karimov "flew into a rage" after the awards ceremony:
Karimov's displeasure was conveyed in "icy tones", which alarmed the embassy: "We have a number of important issues on the table right now, including the Afghanistan transit (NDN) framework."
On 18 March 2009, the US ambassador, Richard Norland, submitted to a personal tongue-lashing from Karimov with an "implicit threat to suspend transit of cargo for US forces in Afghanistan via the Northern Distribution Network".
Norland claimed to have calmed Karimov down on that occasion, but warned Washington: "Clearly, pressuring him (especially publicly) could cost us transit."
The timing of the release raises further questions about the opaque WikiLeaks operations and its relationship to mainstream media. In the first round of sensational news November 28 dubbed #cablegate on Twitter, Tashkent was strangely missing from the list of capitals of the world spilling their secrets. Finally, it has appeared after nearly two weeks, but is not yet contained in the WikiLeaks web page (which moved to a Swiss server after being bounced from Amazon) or any of the many mirror sites.
Does that mean that WikiLeaks people grant the Guardian an embargo, so they have a chance first to publish their stories? Are they both deciding to wait with some material, to place it strategically? Why didn't any of the Tashkent cables come out that first week when Secretary Clinton traveled briefly to Tashkent to meet with President Karimov?
Or is it possibly a workload question, and with the more than 250,000 cables, the people involved simply aren't able to sift through the material and collate it?
In any event, not all the cables referenced by the Guardian have been published in full by the Guardian or by WikiLeaks yet.