After protests from human rights and labour groups about the use of forced child labour in Uzbekistan's cotton industry and grave human rights violations including torture, imprisonment and censorship, IMG, the model agency organizing New York's Fashion Week have cancelled the participation of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan's notorious dictator Islam Karimov, the New York Post reported today.
“As a result of concerns raised, we have canceled the Guli show on September 15th,” a spokesman for the Fashion Week producer said today.
Karimova had been expected to show her "Guli" line of ethnic clothing on September 15.
Meanwhile, the Fashion Week sponsors, Mercedes Benz, told the Post they had nothing to do with chosing the Guli line for the show:
“We have no influence on the contents of the fashion show or the program itself,” said Han Tjan, a spokesman for Mercedes. “We’re just sponsoring. If you’re the sponsor of the football game, you can’t decide who is playing.”
But Karimova participated in the Fashion Week show last year, just as children were being forced to pick cotton in Uzbekistan. At that time, the fashion press gushed about Karimova's many accomplishments from academia to entrepreneurship.
Mercedes Benz, long in business in Uzbekistan, started an $8 million joint venture with Uzbekistan to manufacture city buses last year.
IMG is to be congratulated for immediately doing the right thing as soon as they learned about the controversy involved and heard the protests from NGOs over Uzbekistan's awful human rights record.
But how exactly did Karimova get invited to the show -- last year and this year? Was Uzbekistan's relationship with Mercedes Benz involved at all? Karimova is already notorious for buying herself good will and positive publicity with charitable contributions as she did for the amFAR Cannes AIDS benefit. Reporters need to ask questions about how this highly controversial Uzbek figure ended up on the schedule at Fashion Week in the first place.