Gulnara "Googoosha" Karimova, whose father rules Uzbekistan with an iron fist, wants to be a Western-style celebrity, but a despot's daughter still can't have it all.
It's July in Uzbekistan, and Gulnara Karimova's camera crew is trampling the city of Bukhara. There's a man in black running on the roof of the Poi Kaylan mosque, there's a camera crane staring down a minaret, and in the center of it all is Gulnara, the dictator's daughter, in a black and white dress, blowing kisses, sashaying like a star.
I'm watching this on YouTube in Saint Louis, cut off from the action, as are the people in town. Like so much about the family of President Islam Karimov, Gulnara's video is a selective spectacle, open only to the camera crew that has barricaded the streets. They are creating an Uzbekistan that they can market to the world: an Uzbekistan without Uzbeks, a holy Bukhara with only one site worth seeing. "Googoosha", the video proclaims, "coming soon".
Everyone in Uzbekistan hates Gulnara Karimova. That's what the State Department wrote in 2005, citing her greed and corruption, her theft from nearly every lucrative business, her connections to organized crime. Like so much unearthed by Wikileaks, this emerged as a quasi-revelation. Who wouldn't hate Gulnara Karimova, a number of media asked, the mafiosa princess with the cruel heart and delusions of grandeur (and scholarship, and fashion design, and enterprise)?