Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva´s first interview to the Western media

In her first ever interview to the Western media, the Uzbek president’s younger daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, has revealed how deep divide goes between her and her notorious older sister GulnaraKarimova.

Lola, 35, who currently serves as her country’s ambassador to UNESCO, said she and Gulnara shared little in common and had not spoken for 12 years as they have quite different characters from childhood. “With the years, the difference only grows,” she added.

“We have never hidden this from anyone… We have neither family nor friendship contacts. We don’t even meet each other for family activities,” Lola said.

Her extensive interview to the BBC has shown that Mrs Karimova-Tillyaeva stands at the opposite pole to her ambitious and power-hungry sister Gulnara. Observers note that in stark contrast to Gulnara who kept tight grip on all major lucrative sectors of the impoverished Central Asian nation’s economy, Lola and her husband Timur Tillyaev have led a quiet life abroad and have always distanced themselves from Uzbekistan’s politics and political elite. They are not believed to wield any major political influence, though Timur Tillyaev maintains some of his business interests in Tashkent.

Lola KarimovaLola Karimova-Tillyaeva on a visit to an orphanage in Samarkand

Karimova-Tillyaeva

Karimova-Tillyaeva distanced herself from President Karimov’s policies saying that “unemployment” and “lack of opportunity” were the biggest sources of frustration.
Responding to the BBC’s questions, Karimova-Tillyaeva said she never discussed politics during her rare meetings with her father, and dismissed her sister’s chances to succeed the ageing Uzbek leader, though Gulnara was seen by many regional experts as the front-runner to inherit her father’s throne at the time.
In her interview, Lola gave forthright answers to a number of sensitive questions concerning Uzbekistan’s domestic policies.

Asked about her take on the use of child labour in cotton fields, for which Uzbekistan has faced harsh international criticism for years, Lola made it clear that she condemned the practice. “I categorically reject any use of force, whether it is forced labour or other forms of violence against any person, especially children.”

Asked about what she thought about widespread criticism that her father, who rules Uzbekistan for more than two decades, is using the perceived threat of Islamist resurgence and extremism as a pretext to crush all dissent and maintain tight grip on power, Karimova-Tillyaeva distanced herself from President Karimov’s policies saying that “unemployment” and “lack of opportunity” were the biggest sources of frustration.

“Of course radical extremist groups and elements exist in Central Asia and the nearby regions, though, in my view, the serious jihadist players have largely been eliminated or marginalized in the past decade. Due to Central Asia’s proximity to Afghanistan and the porous and poorly guarded border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, there is certainly a likelihood that the situation in regional countries will destabilize in future. Islamist militants of Central Asian origin who have become battle hardened in the Pakistani-Afghan border are particularly worrying for the regional authorities. The security vacuum created by the departure of the US and international coalition troops could also further destabilize the situation in Afghanistan and neighboring countries as various internal forces will undoubtedly compete to fill the void.

Lola Karimova Timur Tillyaev and Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva with their
daughter Mariam

“At the same time it should be mentioned that Islam is an important part of Uzbek people’s lives, who have for centuries followed the moderate version of Islam, which, in turn, contributed to the peaceful co-existence of followers of various faiths in our country.

“My take on the problem is that unemployment and lack of opportunity are largely contributing to the problem of radicalization. These two factors are the most important sources of discontent among the population and in turn inextricably linked to the problem of extremism. I strongly believe that it is fundamentally wrong to rely on force in dealing with this problem, to which there is no easy solution. The regional governments need to engage more actively with the local population to address the social problems that feed radicalisation, especially in the Ferghana Valley. More funds need to be allocated for building schools, improving the system of education and vocational training, creating more jobs. There is great need to improve the investment climate in the valley and more government support needs to be channeled for local businesses and foreign companies in order to create more jobs that will provide local people with decent earning opportunities,” Karimova-Tillyaeva said.

She added that it hurt her when she was referred to only as a “dictator’s daughter”.

“I know that my name outpaces myself, but I want to be seen as a person with her own principles and viewpoint,” she said.

Mrs Karimova-Tillyaeva also spoke about her charitable organizations whose work focuses on helping and educating orphaned children and children with special needs.
In a pointed criticism of her sister’s flaunting of her public deeds, Lola said: “I have noticed that the more you talk about what you're doing, the less pleasure you get from your work.”

charitable work

Lola said she was involved in charitable work since her student years and that her first charity called “You are not alone” was founded in 2002 as a continuation of what she “had seen and comprehended by that time”.

“This is a non-government organization which helps orphaned children and children left without parental care, and its main goal is to ensure better opportunities for these children’s living conditions and education.

“We provide children from orphanages with all the necessary supplies and equipment, carry out construction and maintenance work for creating better living conditions.”

She went on to say that the Education Centre under the charity helps children from orphanages and children with disabilities with their school studies and preparations for entrance exams to colleges and universities. Her second charity, the National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children, founded in 2004, provides medical and educational assistance to children with special needs, including children suffering from cerebral palsy, mental retardation, speech delay, infantile autism, Down syndrome.

Mrs KarimovaTillyaeva said that all services are provided free of charge and the charity also provides surgery and treatment grants to children in need, as well as helps in enrolling children with disabilities in public schools.