Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva distances herself from sister Gulnara Karimova.

In an extensive interview with the BBC, the Uzbek president’s younger daughter Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva has given an extraordinary insight into the life of Uzbekistan’s ruling family and commented on a number of sensitive issues concerning Uzbekistan’s domestic policy.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, 35, Uzbekistan's permanent representative at UNESCO in Paris, said that she has not been in contact with her ambitious older sister, Gulnara Karimova, who at the time was seen as a possible presidential successor, for 12 years.

“My sister and I have not spoken to each other for 12 years,” Karimova-Tillyaeva said adding that there were no family or friendly relations between her and her sister.

Asked by the BBC why she took a French news site Rue89 to court in 2011, Lola said that she found reports claiming that she had paid a considerable amount of money to an actress for her presence in a charity event as “insulting”.
“I absolutely realistically assess the situation and that these are difficult times for many people, how hard many people work to feed their families, and therefore such claims are insulting to me. This was the main point which prompted me to react and file suit against the paper,” she said.

Lola KarimovaTillyaev family photo

“At the height of the court proceedings on the legal action I brought against Rue89, the media coverage mainly focused on the angle that I filed suit against the use of the word “dictator” in relation to my father. Here, I would like to clarify some points. I did not question the rightness or wrongness of using this word, because I understand that this is a political term. Media have the right to express their point of view and stance. However, in that context, the definition of ‘dictator’s daughter’ in the press uniquely affected my personality.

Each person is born with the inalienable right to be judged on his personal qualities, business, attitudes and actions,” Karimova-Tillyaeva said.

“I think that I did the right thing. By defending myself against defamation in the press, I only used an inalienable right which every person is entitled to.”

“I know my name outpaces myself, but I want to be seen as a person with her own principles and viewpoint,” she added. Asked by the BBC correspondent why she kept silent on the matter for so long, Mrs Karimova-Tillyaeva said she was eight-month pregnant at the time and her health and that of her child were a priority for her.

She also said that her lawyer did his best to communicate her stance to the media, but people just didn’t want to listen to it.

Mrs Karimova-Tillyaeva also made it clear she didn’t have any political ambitions and that her priority was her husband Timur Tillyaev and their three children.

Her sister Gulnara Karimova, by contrast, has been one of the most visible personalities in Uzbekistan for more than a decade and on several occasions hinted that a presidential bid may not be out of question.

However, in her interview, Lola dismissed Gulnara’s chances outright saying her chances of succeeding her father were miniscule.

Mrs Karimova-Tillyaeva said she never discussed politics with her father during their rare meetings.

“I’m only two to three times a year in Uzbekistan. During the meetings with my father, we don’t discuss political issues,” she said.

Asked about her take on the use of child labour in cotton fields, for which Uzbekistan has faced harsh international criticism for years, Lola gave a forthright response condemning the practice.

“I’m against all forms of exploitation, especially when it concerns a child. Being a mother of three children, I understand that it is important for the child to remain a child ...

“Any exploitation of children is unacceptable to me. I find it hard to assess the situation, but if such facts exist, it is sad and should not take place in any country of the world. I understand that what I do is probably insufficient ... and if even one child is forced to somehow act against his or her will and exploited or his or her rights are violated, then I take it as my personal tragedy.

“This means that people, who are involved in it, do not understand their responsibility and have no compassion. I categorically reject any use of force, whether it is forced labour or other forms of violence against any person, especially children.

“I am aware of the complexity of the situation, and I think your question is even more difficult in the context of the current situation. My wish, power and influence are not always sufficient,” she said.

Asked about what she thought about the widespread claims 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 a 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 in the region.

“My take on the problem is that unemployment and lack of opportunity are largely contributing to the problem of radicalisation. 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, and 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 channelled for local businesses and foreign companies in order to create more jobs that will provide local people with decent earning opportunities,” Karimova-Tillyaeva said.

Karimova-Tillyaeva said her husband has a share in a trade and transport company. She also stressed that Mr Tillyaev has never been involved in public tenders, been associated with national resource industries like gas or cotton, and does not enjoy tax exemptions or monopoly status.