Washington Babylon — November 13, 2009, 9:32 am

Blogger Junket to Uzbekistan: Torture chambers likely not among tour stops

A short while back I noted here that Gulnara Karimova, daughter and henchwoman of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, had recently hosted rock star Sting in Tashkent, the nation’s capital. Sting took in a fashion show and other events with Gulnara, whose father’s regime killed one prisoner by immersion in boiling water, and in 2005 slaughtered hundreds of protesters in the town of Andijan. “The scale of this killing was so extensive, and its nature was so indiscriminate and disproportionate, that it can best be described as a massacre,” Human Rights Watch said in a study of the events at Andijan.

Now Gulnara has hired an American firm to bring bloggers to “a gala event in Tashkent,” to quote an email that Chris Stone, vice president at Atlas International
Partners
, has been sending to invitees. The email says that the event will “showcase the work of young Uzbek artists” and is being sponsored by the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation, which is chaired by Gulnara Karimova. Here’s an excerpt from the email:

The Foundation wants to bring a couple of well-known bloggers over to Tashkent to live-blog the event — and it would like at least one to be a public policy or foreign affairs blogger, undoubtedly because Ms. Karimova is a political figure in Uzbekistan in her own right. That said, the live blogging would involve talking about the cultural and artistic aspects of the event, and your touristic impressions of Uzbekistan; it should not be overtly political…We believe that the Foundation’s primary aim is to get people talking about Uzbekistan as a cultural destination, like Egypt, rather than a place people think about only when there is a crisis in Central Asia.

We can offer you $1,000 in compensation, and would cover business-class airfare from the US to Tashkent (you would probably leave on the 14th or 15th and return the 18th or 19th, although you’re welcome to extend your visit if you want), your stay in the Intercontinental Hotel in Tashkent, and incidentals such as meals and visa fees.

Finally, I should emphasize that I am making this inquiry on a preliminary basis; the Foundation has to approve our proposal. I understand that Ms. Karimova is reviewing the proposal personally and will get back to us within the next 24 hours, which would be necessary to get your visa processed on Friday. Our feeling is that she is likely to give us a green light, so I am assembling a team of bloggers now.

If you are interested, it would be helpful if you can let me know as soon possible. It would also be helpful to know how many hits per day your blog receives and whether you would be interested in writing about the event in any of the print media to which you contribute.

I’m not sure who is on Gulnara’s “team” of bloggers, but if you start reading posts later this month about the exciting arts world of Tashkent, it’s a safe bet that it will be the handiwork of one of the junketeers. And for those who want to go, you can suck up to Stone by telling him that you’re a big fan of Gulnara’s music. Just don’t say anything about Andijan.

I called Stone and he tells me that his firm offers “strategic advisory” services and that Gulnara is “trying to position herself as a patron of the arts.” He asked if I was interested in going and I said I was not. I asked if he didn’t think it was unethical for journalists to accept an offer of money and travel to a place like Uzbekistan, especially when it was clearly expected that nothing unfavorable would be written. “I guess it would depend on whether the blogger was a journalist or not,” he said. “Travel writers get paid to go to places all the time.”

Stone would not disclose which bloggers were going on the junket but he told me that he had approached Abovethelaw.com and suggested strongly that a blogger there had agreed to go on the Uzbek trip. However, he refused to answer a direct question about that.

I emailed the blog’s editor, Elie Mystal, and associate editor, Kashmir Hill, to see if they could clarify the matter. They have not yet replied to my email; if they do, I’ll update this post immediately.

Update: Hill emailed back now to say: “This comes as news to me. i don’t know anything about it.”

Managing editor David Lat says: “As far as I know, neither I nor anyone at Above the Law is going to Uzbekistan!”

So the list of junketeers remains entirely unknown.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2019

The Red Dot

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gimme Shelter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Body Language

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Trash, Rock, Destroy

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Make Way for Tomorrow

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Gimme Shelter·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.

After living on the East Coast for eight years, I’d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, that’s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, they’d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalism’s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someone’s roof.

Post
Perhaps the World Ends Here·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Climate disaster at Wounded Knee

Article
Body Language·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

But somebody has slipped. The school is putting on the musical South Pacific, and there are not enough roles for the girls, and she is as tall as or taller than the boys, and so they have done what is unthinkable in this striving 1980s town, in this place where the men do the driving and the women make their mouths into perfect Os to apply lipstick in the rearview. For the musical, they have made her a boy.

No, she thinks. They have allowed her to be a boy.

Article
Trash, Rock, Destroy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

In an email before our meeting, Despentes asked that we not do a photo shoot. “There are so many images available already,” she explained. Much had been written about her, too. A Google search yielded page after page: profiles, interviews, reviews, bits and bobs—she read from Pasolini at a concert with Béatrice Dalle; someone accused her of plagiarizing a translation; a teacher in Switzerland was fired for teaching her work. The week I met her, she appeared in the culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles in conversation with the rapper-turned-actor JoeyStarr. The woman is simply always in the news.

Article
The Red Dot·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

An eight-foot minke whale washed ashore on the Thames, the third beaching of a dead whale on the river in two months.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

Subscribe Today