NY Fashion Week cancels show by Uzbek president's daughter
Gulnara Karimova, who runs the fashion label Guli, is the daughter of President Islam Karimov who has presided over Uzbekistan since 1990. His 21-year-long dictatorship has been marred by corruption and violent and brutal repression of its people.
Uzbekistan has one of the worst human rights records in the world. According to a former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Uzbekistan’s use of torture is "systematic" and employed both as a means of extracting information and as a punitive measure once sentencing has occurred.
In June 2011, Human Rights Watch reported that there are at least 13 human rights defenders currently languishing in Uzbekistan's prisons for no other reason than their legitimate human rights work. Human Rights Watch was itself expelled from Uzbekistan earlier this year.
The announcement to cancel Karimova’s show came a few days after IMG, organisers of the New York Fashion Week, released a statement in which it said:
“We’re horrified by the human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, and hope that the attention Human Rights Watch generates is able to effect change in the country. We also hope to work hand-in-hand with Human Rights Watch during Fashion Week and beyond to challenge those in power in Uzbekistan to take action immediately.”
For human rights defenders, the decision to shelve the show will be celebrated. This time, New York will not be showcasing a label associated with forced child labour and environmental and human rights abuses. It will also send a clear message to Gulnara Karimova that these production practices will not be tolerated internationally.
Most of Uzbekistan’s cotton is exported to clothing factories in the Far East, and a significant proportion will be used in products on sale in the EU.
EJF is urging clothing brands and retailers to examine their supply chains and halt the use of Uzbek cotton until these abuses are halted. So far 40 major high street retailers including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Levis and Gap have committed to avoid the use of Uzbek cotton in their products.
All eyes must now turn to the designers and labels at London’s Fashion Week, which begins on Friday 16th September 2011.
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