Uzbek Dictator's Daughter Sparks Controversy at Cannes AIDS Gala
The presence of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan's dictatorial President Islam Karimov sparked controversy at a star-studded AIDS fund-raiser at the Cannes Film Festival, AFP reported. Last week the sponsor of the gala, the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) was showered with protests from concerned Uzbek and international NGOs who have been campaigning on behalf of Maxim Popov, a jailed HIV/AIDS educator in Uzbekistan.
Concerned at what they saw as unwarranted association with Uzbekistan's abusive government, activists asked the Foundation for Aids Research (amfAR) to cut ties with Karimova, currently Uzbekistan's ambassador to Spain. Mick Jagger, Jennifer Lopez, Russell Crowe, Patti Smith, Mary J. Blige and many other stars attended the May 20 dinner and auction hosted by Alan Cumming.
The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a letter to amfAR on the eve of the event:
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization for the defense of journalists, is astonished to note the presence among you at this 7th annual event of Gulnara Karimova. The organization recognizes the evening’s valid and admirable character, but questions the appropriateness of the participation of the daughter of the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, central Asia’s “outstanding” dictator.
Commenting on the RSF statement, AmfAR chief executive officer Kevin Robert Frost said his foundation had met with Karimova "who has agreed to take steps to clarify the situation and to work with AmfAR on the matter," AFP reported.
Interestingly, top fashion blogs covering the Cannes AIDS dinner simply took no notice at all of Gulnara or the controversy; Reuters did not cover it either. The event raised more than $6.7 million from dinner tickets and a celebrity auction, more than $4.5 million last year, but down from $10 million in 2008, which was blamed on a lack of "A-list star power," Reuters reported.
The Uzbek independent online publication uznews.net featured a photo of Gulnara dramatically draping herself over actress and singer Jennifer Lopez to speak to her husband, singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, while Lopez appears to point a finger at her. But GooGoosha's star seems to be waning, possibly as the politics changes in Tashkent, and none of the fashion publications ran Karimova's picture.
RSF put Gulnara's father, President Islam Karimov on its annual list of "press predators" for banning independent media and jailing at least a dozen reporters. The Western-sponsored publications Popov distributed were printed in neighboring Kazakhstan and the Uzbek government had previously allowed their dissemination.