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Uzbekistan For the Uzbekistanis!

I am boycotting this year’s Miss World pageant because the organizers, in a pre-emptive surrender to Sharia, have canceled the swimsuit contest. However, I can’t resist making an exception for the curious case of Rakhima Ganieva, Miss Uzbekistan.

Miss Ganieva seems like a pretty typical pageant contestant. This is how the Miss World site describes her:

18 year old Rakhima loves to play the piano. Born and Raised in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Rakhima is a talented musician, who hopes to continue with her skill of making music long into the future. Currently a student, she has aspirations of further studies in the field of International Relations & Law, which she hopes will aid her in a career in this field. Describing herself as “Cheerful & serious at the same time” Rakhima enjoys many activities, including playing tennis, travelling, and learning history.

Miss Ganieva adds her own contribution:


Let me introduce myself. My name is Rakhima Ganieva. I am from a beautiful and sunny city Tashkent famous for its architectural monuments and its hospitable and friendly people. Tashkent is not only the capital of Uzbekistan but also an important historical and cultural centre.

As for me, I am 18 years old. I have graduated from Tashkent Professional College of Tourism and I plan to enter the university, probably the law faculty.

Like most young people of my age, I have a lot of hobbies and interests. First of all, I am fond of music, classical as well as modern. I can also play the piano. Besides, sport plays a very important role in my life. I had been going in for callisthenics for 4 years but now I prefer playing tennis. I lead a healthy life style. When I have some free time, I like to read a good book. For example, my favourite Russian writers are Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy.

I like travelling as I am very interested in the cultures and life styles of other countries. I have been to Russia, England, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus. And now I am very excited and happy that I am taking part in this significant event, namely the 63rd edition of the Miss World pageant which will be held in a very amazing country Indonesia.

A very amazing country where evidently it is unsafe to appear in a swimsuit. But I digress. A few days ago, scandal engulfed Rakhima Ganieva, as it was reported that she is not, in fact, Miss Uzbekistan; and, indeed, there is no such person:

Rakhima Ganieva, the 18-year-old representing Uzbekistan at the 2013 Miss World pageant in Indonesia has all the right credentials. She’s beautiful, sporty, plays the piano and describes herself as “cheerful and serious at the same time”.

There’s only one problem: no one in Uzbekistan has ever heard of her, says The Times. … Indeed, officials in Tashkent, the capital, say the country has never staged a Miss Uzbekistan contest.

A spokesman for the Taskent modelling agency where Ganieva trained “briefly” as a 15-year-old told Eurasianet.org that she “never passed through any special selection process in Uzbekistan”.

“If there had been a process to choose a young lady for this competition, I can assure you that a much more beautiful model would have been chosen,” he added.

That’s a low blow. Here is another:

There is confusion too at the Uzbek Culture and Sports Ministry and the National Committee on Women. Neither of them know anything about Ganieva’s participation in the Miss World contest, Eurasianet.org says.

Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov, took to Twitter to express her disgust. She described Ganieva as a “Tajik-looking girl” who “appeared out of nowhere”.

If your geography is rusty, Tajikistan borders Uzbekistan to the southeast. Apparently if you’re an Uzbek, “Tajik-looking” is an insult.

This, admittedly, doesn’t look good:

In a video posted on site, Ganieva says she’s enrolled at Tashkent’s University of World Economy and Diplomacy, but the university says it has no record of her.

That reminds me of the great disillusionment of my youth, when UCLA announced that it had no record of any of the dozens of Playmates of the Month who had been described as “UCLA coeds.” Based on the calumny that has flowed out of Uzbekistan, there has been a rush to judgment, and most observers have concluded that Miss Uzbekistan is a fraud. But I’m not so sure. The Miss World site describes her as the first-ever Miss Uzbekistan:

Uzbekistan will be at Miss World for the first time this year, with Rahima Ganieva flying the flag for her nation.

Rahima, from Tashkent won the event held on the 20th of July.

Is it likely that an event of which the pageant organizers appear to have knowledge was entirely fictitious? One wouldn’t think so. Moreover, this pageant site also carried news of Miss Ganieva’s coronation on July 25:

Another country that will debut at Miss World 2013 is Uzbekistan. Rakhima Ganiyeva was crowned Miss Uzbekistan 2013 and will represent her nation at Miss World 2013 in Indonesia.

So I think we shouldn’t be too quick to take the word of critics in Uzbekistan that Miss Ganieva is an imposter. So far, it seems that the Miss World pageant is standing behind Miss Uzbekistan; she is listed as one of the contestants and she continues to participate in events in Bali.

Still, the idea of a young woman making her way from Tashkent to Bali and brazenly announcing herself as Miss Uzbekistan has a certain appeal. Especially since the reason why Uzbekistan allegedly hasn’t held a Miss World qualifying pageant is that it is, like Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country. If Miss Ganieva really is a fraud–or, less pejoratively, an entirely self-appointed Miss Uzbekistan–then I take my hat off to her. If the organizers of the Miss World pageant had as much guts as this Uzbek teenager, they wouldn’t have caved in to hypothetical terrorists and abandoned the pageant’s signature competition.

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