Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to Spain and permanent representative to the United Nations, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a Harvard student, a patron to Uzbekistan’s fledgling fashion industry, a jewelry designer, a pop star, and, most recently, the country’s best known twitterer. Gerard Depardieu has just agreed to star in a film based on a screenplay she wrote. None of these carefully constructed roles can compete with the one that Gulnara Karimova is evidently uncomfortable with: the daughter and rumored successor of Islam Karimov, who is, indeed, Uzbekistan’s dictator.
“In Uzbekistan, Gulnara, who is forty, is feared no less than her father, who has run the Central Asian nation since it was a Soviet Republic and he was Party Secretary,” writes Antelava, whose investigation into forced sterilizations in the central Asian state recently won one of the UK’s top Foreign Press Association awards for the best radio program of 2012.
Sadly, it’s a scandal that is unlikely to feature in Gulnara’s tweeting, but which continues to raise disturbing questions, according to a new report from News Briefing Central Asia.
“The Improvement of Mother and Child Health Services program is a joint effort by the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, the European Union and the Uzbek health ministry. Four years after the program began, Uzbek hospitals continue to carry out forcible sterilizations of women, a practice that activists say UNICEF and the EU need to address,” the agency reports:
Some months after Zulkhumor, a 28-year-old from Navoi region in western Uzbekistan, gave birth to her second child by Caesarean section, she discovered she had been given a hysterectomy.
“There are secret instructions that women who’ve had two children should have their fallopian tubes tied or their uterus removed during labour, to prevent them having any more children,” she said. “Friends of mine have fallen victim to the same medical procedures as me – it’s common practice in Navoi and other towns.”
Independent experts on the ground, however, say medical provision for mothers and children remains poor, and the government’s international partners appear either to be taken in by its claims, or to be ignoring the facts.
This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.