Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, the youngest daughter of Uzbekistan's strongman, says her socialite sister Gulnara Karimova has a “slim” chance of assuming the presidency after their father, Islam Karimov, departs from the political scene.
In an interview with the BBC Uzbek Service published on September 25, Karimova-Tillyaeva, 35, said she had not spoken to her sister in 12 years and said she learns about the near-constant scandals surrounding Gulnara from the media.
"I believe her chances are slim," Lola said of Gulnara's apparent ambitions to succeed their 75-year-old father.
Lola, Uzbekistan's permanent representative at UNESCO in Paris, distanced herself from her father’s human rights abuses and her sister’s corruption inquiries, explaining that she spends little time in the country.
Gulnara Karimova, 40, styles herself a pop star and fashion designer. Until recently she was Uzbekistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva. She resigned in July after authorities in France searched several of her properties at the request of Swiss prosecutors investigating a money-laundering case involving her associates.
Gulnara has also been named in a corruption investigation in Sweden over Scandinavian telecoms giant TeliaSonera’s purchase of the rights to operate in Uzbekistan. The company denies wrongdoing.
"I learn all information about my sister, including news about TeliaSonera, from foreign media, including the BBC website. As for whether the Uzbek president is aware about this, I have no information because I do not spend much time in Uzbekistan and go there only two or three times a year," Lola said. "When I meet my father we do not discuss political issues and we have never discussed this topic."
To a question about whether Lola and Gulnara are rivals in life or business, Lola said, "My sister and I have not spoken for over 12 years. We have never hidden this and many people know this. For many years I have had no relations [with her] – neither as family, nor as friends. I would like to let you know before you ask questions that we do not see one another even at family events."
"We are absolutely different people,” she continued. “For good relations to exist there should be similarity in world outlook or character or there should be similar interests and habits. Some sort of closeness should exist in two people's attitudes. However, this has never existed in relations between us. We are absolutely different individuals and I remember we have been like this since childhood. You understand that these differences only deepen with the years."
Among the 18 questions Lola agreed to answer in writing was one concerning rumors circulated by exiled Karimov rival Muhammad Solih in March: that the president had suffered a heart attack. "I would like to say that information reported in the past decade about my father's health is absolutely groundless," Lola said. "He is a person who does sports and he has paid good attention to his health for as long as I can remember."
Lola – who lost an embarrassing 2011 libel case in France when she sued a news site for labeling her a “dictator’s daughter” – shied away from discussing her relations with her father, or Gulnara’s for that matter. But she indirectly criticized Karimov’s policy of forcing children to pick cotton each fall. "I am against any exploitation, especially the exploitation of children. [...] I absolutely cannot agree with any form of child exploitation. It is hard for me to assess this situation but it is regrettable if such a situation exists," Lola said. "This situation should not happen in any country."