After she was kicked out of Fashion Week’s Lincoln Center site, dictator’s-daughter-turned-designer Gulnara Karimova is preparing a runway anyway, holding court today at Cipriani — but she’ll have more than fashionistas waiting for her.
Dozens of nationals from Uzbekistan are protesting her Fashion Week show, saying she uses forced child labor to pick the cotton for her fashionable fabrics, and they’re prepared to rally against her wherever she may be.
Yusuf Sabirov, 44, flew in from Arizona to boycott her runway show. An Uzbek refugee, Sabirov said he fled the country after the 2005 Andijan massacre, when hundreds of protesters were killed by soldiers led by Karimova’s father, Islam Karimov.
“I was in the [protest] when the soldiers came to shoot us,” he remembered.
Karimova’s line, GULI, showed at Fashion Week last year, but organizers apparently weren’t aware of her political past.
This year, they kicked her off the runway after protests and are reportedly refunding $30,000 in rental fees Karimova spent on her show.
“We’re horrified by the human rights abuses in Uzbekistan,” a Fashion Week spokesman said.
Gulnara Karimova attends amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS Gala during the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival.
Sabirov and about 500 other refugees were resettled by the United Nations, but his daughter and son are still in Uzbekistan, forced to pick cotton. In order to attend school, he said, they must pick cotton for five cents a pound.
"I didn't feel like we won," he said. "My little girl is still going to pick cotton."
Claims to infamy
Karimova’s father, Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov, has been accused of human rights abuses.
The United Nations reported that torture in Uzbekistan is “institutionalized, systematic, and rampant.” In one 2002 example, Karimov’s security forces boiled two political prisoners alive.
Karimov has been “elected” for three terms in a row with more than 90 percent support from voters — unmarked ballots, as well as ballots of those who did not vote, were automatically counted as “yes.”
And Karimova was not described favorably in Wiki-Leaks documents released last year, which called her “a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people” and “the single most hated person in the country.”
Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro.