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Gulnara Karimova Ends Provocative “Twitter War” in Uzbekistan

Gulnara Karimova, the glamorous daughter of Uzbekistan's president, disappointed the more than 50,000 followers on Twitter by deactivating her account (@GulnaraKarimova) today. During the last several weeks, her tweets provided a rare glimpse into power struggles in one of the world's most secretive states.

The fall of the “princess”

One of the richest and most influential people in Uzbekistan, 41-year-old Gulnara Karimova was long mooted as a possible successor to her father who has ruled the Central Asian nation since 1989. Harvard-educated Gulnara served as Uzbekistan's ambassador to the United Nations and Spain in the past. More recently, she has focused on her career as a pop star and fashion designer. She has also built an extensive network of charities and media, business, and cultural projects in Uzbekistan.

Several weeks ago, however, Karimova's projects in the country came under fire from security services. A number of people she worked with and some of her bodyguards were arrested on charges she alleged were trumped-up.

Gulnara Karimova. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Gulnara Karimova. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“Twitter war”

In a surprise move, Karimova took to Twitter to expose what she described was a plot by the country's powerful security minister to limit her political influence. During the last several weeks, she tweeted about the intensifying attacks by the Uzbek security services on her political and business interests. She also accused the security services of using torture to extract confessions. 

As the frequency of her Twitter posts increased, so did the number of her followers. Many of them included foreign journalists and academics. Gulnara's tweets provided an unprecedented real-life first-person account of the power struggles in one of the world's most secretive states. BBC described Gulnara's use of the social network as “Twitter war”.

Apparently, Gulnara had many netizens on her side in that war. She re-tweeted hundreds of posts by other Uzbekistani Twitter users voicing their support for her. The followers of her account also included individuals from neighboring countries who wished the children of strongmen ruling their countries also used Twitter. On November 20, a Tajikistani follower of Karimova's account tweeted [ru]:

I begin and end my day by watching the Twitter soap opera about the Uzbek padishah [king], his daughter @GulnaraKarimova and the evil security vizier [minister]

It's a pity that they don't make this kind of movies in Tajikistan.

Another Twitter user wrote [ru] on November 20:

Gulnara Karimova's story is perhaps the first ever struggle for power one can follow on Twitter.

Gulnara quits Twitter

Gulnara's “Twitter war” intensified in mid-November as she became more explicit in blaming Uzbekistan's security minister of using Stalin-style coercive methods to strengthen his grip on power. Then, on November 20, she blamed her fall from grace on her mother, Tatyana Karimova. Gulnara alleged that Tatyana Karimova “promised to destroy everything connected to [Gulnara]” if Gulnara did not stop “meddling” in her business interests. About a month before, Gulnara accused [ru] her mother of practicing occult rituals and possibly “satanism”. 

After spending some time “airing her family’s dirty laundry” on November 21, Gulnara disabled her Twitter account.

Many netizens now feel disappointed about losing the rare glimpse into power politics and feuds within the ruling family in Uzbekistan:

Gulnara Karimova has deleted her Twitter account. It's sad, for that was an interesting account ( http://t.co/wo8dWrSBuI

Shit! Where is Karimova? Bring back Karimova! How am I now going to get updates about what is happening in Uzbekistan?

How does the soap opera about the Uzbek padishah and his daughter end? is there a happy end or not? I demand that the soap opera go on!

The “soap opera” might as well continue soon. After all, when Gulnara had disappeared from Twitter in the past, she returned shortly afterwards with a much stronger passion for tweeting.

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