Dictator’s Daughter to Show at New York Fashion Week

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Designer Gulnara Karimova backstage with models at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia on April 2, 2011 in Moscow, Russia.

Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov and herself a high-level official in his government, will present her Guli clothing line at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York on September 15.

UPDATE: Saturday, Sept. 10. Karimova’s show has been canceled. Human rights advocates are aghast and have called on IMG, the company that produces Fashion Week, to cancel the show.  Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch told the New York Post, “There’s nothing fashionable about lending a high-profile platform to the senior official of one of the world’s most repressive governments.”  The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) plans to stage a mock fashion show outside the tents in protest.

An IMG spokesperson admitted to the Post that, in response to the controversy, “The event is exploring its legal options for cancellation.”  However, Karimova’s father has a close relationship with the event sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, which may complicate efforts to nix the show.

Islam Karimov presides over a brutal regime that is known for censorship, torture, and the disappearance of political opponents.  A terrifying figure, he is notorious for boiling an enemy alive.  This family heritage has afforded the 39 year-old Karimova many privileges, as her father has given her a slice of several state businesses and granted her diplomatic status.

(MORE: Karimov’s Crackdown)

Her Guli collection features garments made of local Uzbek cotton, but even that is not without stain.  There have been allegations of forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry, which is the second largest in the world.  The ILRF has waged a successful campaign to encourage retailers to boycott Uzbek cotton; Target, the Gap, H&M, and Walmart have all signed on.

Though Karimova’s personal website paints her as a well-rounded businesswoman whose name is “often associated with the creation of a modern model of social projects and the accumulation of charitable undertakings,” it seems her fellow Uzbeks see it differently.  A Wikileaks cable describes Karimova as “the single most hated person in the country.”

Karimova’s other cultural interests include the pop music industry, where she is known as GooGoosha and has recorded a song with Julio Iglesias.  She has previously studied at Harvard and the Fashion Institute of Technology, and she holds a PhD in political science.

MORE: A New Era for New York Fashion Week

Allison Berry is a contributor at TIME.  You can continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.