Islam Karimov is the president of Uzbekistan; he's also widely known as a brutal dictator accused of the systematic use of torture. His regime is charged with things like boiling political dissidents to death and forcibly sterilizing women. Now one of his daughters, who's well-disliked in her own right, is at the center of another PR scandal for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
According to U.S. cables obtained by Wikileak, Karimova has been called "the single most hated person in the country." She's been accused of being a "robber baron" who's solidified her own personal fortunes by doing things like shutting down rival companies at gunpoint. She also makes pop music, jewelry and has a fashion line. Last year, New York's Fashion Week canceled a planned show for the line over accusations that Uzbekistan uses forced child labor to harvest cotton.
A series of media reports have pointed out that when she's not jailing her ex-husband's family or putting out catchy dance tunes, Karimova is also behind the charity Komen partners with in Uzbekistan, the National Breast Cancer Association. But Komen spokesperson Leslie Aun told us today that Komen stands behind their work with the NBCA and rejected accusations that the organization hadn't been adequately vetted by Komen.
"We're not responsible for every single person who's connected with the organizations we work with," she told us.
Nathan Hamm at Registan first broke the story , pointing out that several charities Karimova runs, including one called Fund Forum, are partnering with Komen for marathons they're putting on to raise money for breast cancer research. He's skeptical of Gulnara's motives, suggesting that her charitable efforts are an attempt to whitewash her image and draw attention away from both her questionable business dealings and the misdeeds of her father's administration.
After his first story ran, a Komen rep then contacted Hamm and told him that actually, Komen only has an agreement with the National Breast Cancer Association, which the rep defended as a charitable organization whose only goal is to fight breast cancer, and which has no direct ties with Karimova.
But Hamm points to a host of evidence that Karimova is very much involved in NBCA; it's a subsidiary of another charity, Women's Assembly, that lists Karimova as a main sponsor. And Women's Assembly shares an address in Tashkent with several other charitable efforts, including Fund Forum. As Foreign Policy pointed out when they picked up the story, Fund Forum has also declared itself an official sponsor of this year's race alongside Susan G. Komen. On Karimova's personal web page that outlines the work she does with Fund Forum, she lists the NBCA as one of the organizations she's affiliated with.
Aun sent Unfair Park an official statement defending their work with the NBCA, which is reproduced in full at the bottom of this post. She called the organization "well respected," with and said that Komen "carefully vets our partners."
"Women deserve access to information and tools on fighting breast cancer," she said. "No matter where they live in the world or who their government is."
Statement from the Susan G. Komen Foundation:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is working with the National Breast Cancer Association of Uzbekistan to participate in a race to raise funds to screen and treat Uzbek women for breast cancer, which claims 1,000 lives in that country each year. This agreement is part of Komen's outreach in 50 countries with organizations that educate, screen and provide treatment for women facing this disease.
NBCA is a well-regarded breast cancer NGO that began in 2009 to raise funds to implement national breast screenings, cancer treatment and support for breast cancer survivors.
The NBCA is supported by the United Nations, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Dr. Julie Gralow of the Seattle Cancer Care Institute, among other organizations.