Sting with Gulnara Karimova at the fashion show in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. If she looks like this then her daddy couldn’t possibly boil his enemies?
He is a superstar lauded for his commitment to human rights and passionate defence of Brazil’s rainforests.
But Sting has been labelled ‘a hypocrite’ after playing at a concert in Uzbekistan organised by the brutal regime of Islam Karimov.
Enemies of the 72-year-old dictator have been shot in the street and a former British ambassador to the ex-Soviet state even accused him of boiling alive his political opponents.
Yet according to reports by two of the few remaining independent Uzbek media organisations, Sting, 58, accepted up to £2million to sing for Gulnara Karimova, the despot’s glamorous daughter and anointed heir.
Uznews.net and Eurasia.net claim the former Police frontman sold out the National Opera House in the capital, Tashkent, in October last year. Tickets went for £1,400 – 45 times the average local monthly salary.
One report said huge screens were erected outside the venue to show the concert to thousands unable to buy a ticket. It was the highlight of a week-long festival organised by Ms Karimova’s Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation.
Despot: Gulnara’s father, the Uzbek President Islam Karimov
Britain’s ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said: ‘It appears Sting is a hypocrite. He’s incredibly stupid to be unaware of what sort of regime it is. His human rights and environmental activism seem to have flown out the window.’
Ex-Communist official Karimov, who came to power in 1989, has locked up 6,000 people who have dared to question his rule.
In 2005, the army slaughtered hundreds who protested against poverty and corruption in the city of Andizhan. And thousands of children are used as slave labour in huge state cotton plantations.
Sting has been a tireless Amnesty International activist for 30 years, yet just last week, the organisation criticised the conviction in Uzbekistan of film-maker Umida Akhmedova for a documentary exposing how the country’s women have to prove their virginity on their wedding night.
The concert is also at odds with Sting’s long-standing eco-activism. The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth biggest lake but has lost 80 per cent of its volume thanks in part to the Karimov regime’s intense irrigation of desert-based cotton fields.
Analysts say Western stars are invited to boost domestic support for the dictatorship.
Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo flew to Tashkent in December to meet Ms Karimova, 37, who owns the country’s largest football club, Bunyodkor, where ex-Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is the world’s highest-paid manager on £16 million a year.
Singers Rod Stewart and Julio Iglesias have also recently played there .
A European diplomat said: ‘This is a strategy to give credibility to a government with blood on its hands. It’s a personal initiative of Ms Karimova, presumably linked to her ambitions to succed her father.’
In a statement, Sting said: ‘I played in Uzbekistan a few months ago. The concert was organized by the president’s daughter and I believe sponsored by Unicef.
‘I supported wholeheartedly the cultural boycott of South Africa under the apartheid regime because it was a special case and specifically targeted the younger demographic of the ruling white middle class.
‘I am well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that.
‘I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular.
‘I seriously doubt whether the President of Uzbekistan cares in the slightest whether artists like myself come to play in his country, he is hermetically sealed in his own medieval, tyrannical mindset.’
Ms Karimova’s spokeswoman did not return calls.