Feature

The dancer and the diplomat

Nadira Alieva made an unlikely escape from misery, says Kevin Sullivan in The Washington Post. Alieva grew up hungry and abused in bleakest Uzbekistan. When she was just 11, her drug addict father forced her to smuggle heroin from Afghanistan in her under

Nadira Alieva made an unlikely escape from misery, says Kevin Sullivan in The Washington Post. Alieva grew up hungry and abused in bleakest Uzbekistan. When she was just 11, her drug addict father forced her to smuggle heroin from Afghanistan in her underwear. By the time she was 21, she was dancing at a sleazy club in Tashkent, stripping for leering, drunken businessmen. Then, one night in 2003, a gray-haired man 23 years her senior came into the club; he couldn’t take his eyes off her. “Who is that old foreigner?” Alieva recalls thinking. “Does he have any money?” The foreigner, it turned out, was Craig Murray, at the time Great Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan. Murray slipped a $20 bill into Alieva’s embroidered panties, along with his business card. He later told her he was married and wanted her to be his mistress. But soon he fell in love. He split with his wife, left the Foreign Office when news of his affair became public, and paid Alieva’s father $9,000 to take her to London. “I felt she was drawing me into her soul,” Murray explains. Four years later, they are still together. Alieva now takes acting classes and performs a one-woman show, The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer, in London’s West End. “My screen ambition,” she says, “is to play one of those James Bond girls.” She says she owes her new life to Murray, but can’t bring herself to say she loves him. “I don’t know how to put this, because this is really difficult for me,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever believed in being in love, honestly.”

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