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Posted by admin on 2020/8/30 20:52:00 (1054 reads)

Statement by the Prove They Are Alive! Campaign on the International Day of the Disappeared

August 30, 2020

Today marks the International Day of the Disappeared, and the government of Turkmenistan continues to disappear people into its medieval prison system in gross violation of the country’s own legislation and in violation of international conventions and human rights standards.

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Posted by admin on 2020/8/18 9:57:00 (2126 reads)

According to reports from Turkmenistan, the authorities are increasing its pressure on civic activists, in an attempt to prevent the dissemination of criticism on the internet, and suppress information about street protests by Turkmen ex-pats overseas. (For more information, see:

Many have activists described attempts to intimidate and pressure their relatives.

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Posted by admin on 2020/7/24 14:16:00 (1442 reads)

Statement from Human Rights Organizations

July 23, 2020

We, representatives of human rights organizations from various countries, express our serious concern about the growing pressure on Turkmen civic activists inside the country and abroad, pressure on their relatives in Turkmenistan, and the threat of forced return to the country by participants in the protest movement outside of Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan remains one of the most repressive states in the world. Since the summer of 2019 there has been a significant growth in protests among communities of Turkmen migrants abroad (in Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, USA, etc.), and, according to some information, in Turkmen society itself.

A new wave of protest action was provoked by the inaction of the authorities after the catastrophic hurricane of April 27, 2020 in Lebap and Mary velayats. There were reports of damage to buildings, long-term power outages, and sewer and water supply failures. The authorities blocked entry into the affected regions and persecuted activists who tried to inform the world via the internet about what was happening. Unconfirmed information spread about public protests, including the blocking of roads in one of the regions of Turkmenabad on May 13.

On May 15, Turkmen activists living in Turkey initiated the first protest action in front of the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul. Around 20 people criticized the authorities for failure to provide assistance to the suffering population in the regions. They spoke about social problems and demanded the resignation of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

On May 20, a similar action took place in Northern Cyprus, with the participation of 35-40 Turkmen activists. On May 29, another action took place in front of the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul.

On June 26, a group of activists dressed in t-shirts with anti-presidential symbols marched through the streets of Istanbul chanting slogans demanding the resignation of the head of Turkmenistan. When the demonstration was over, unknown persons tried to kidnap the organizer, Khanum Rasulova, but she was protected.

Information about the protest demonstrations was widely distributed over the internet. More and more participants joined, with an expanding list of demands.

On June 28, on the eve of President Berdymukhamedov’s birthday, Turkmen citizens living in the United States held a demonstration in front of the UN Headquarters in New York City, and in front of the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, DC.

On July 16, Turkmen activists in New York organized an airplane flight with a banner containing a portrait of Berdymukhamedov, the Turkmen flag, and the inscription, “Dictator of Turkmenistan! SOS!”

On July 19, Turkmen citizens in Istanbul planned to hold a rally at the Turkmen consulate demanding the president’s resignation, criticizing corruption and the government’s hiding the truth about the coronavirus, etc. It was also supposed to demand the consulate exchange expired passports for new ones (as provided by the law on migration), and provide an opportunity for those with valid documents to travel home to support their loved ones. Hundreds of Turkmen citizens planned to participate in the action.

Because of the large number of participants, the Turkish authorities forbade the rally, claiming that there was a limitation because of the coronavirus. The Turkish police began arresting people even before the rally began. More than 80 Turkmens were detained on that day. It turned out that the consulate of Turkmenistan had filed a complaint with the Turkish authorities before the fact, providing the last names of five of the activists, who, allegedly, had disturbed the work of Turkmen diplomats and threatened them with violence.

Almost all those who were detained were released after 4-5 hours. Only Dursoltan Taganova, age 29, was held under guard. She is well-known as one of the leaders of the newly created Turkish branch of the opposition movement, “Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan.” Her name was included in the consul’s complaint. According to her lawyer, the consulate’s claims were not confirmed. However, Taganova’s documents are expired (as they are for many Turkmens in Istanbul), and she is threatened with deportation. At present she must pay a fine of 2,000 Turkish lira. The court will decide whether other conditions that fall under the migration legislation will apply to her.

While the police were dealing with the detained Turkmens, dozens of activists waited for their release in a park next to the consulate. Some of them held an unsanctioned demonstration in a modified format. They divided themselves into groups of 10-12 people, unfurled posters in various locations around the city, and demanded the resignation of President Berdymukhamedov. One of the groups organized a sit-in at the park.

In an attempt to put down the wave of protest actions, the Turkmenistan authorities put more pressure on activists and their relatives. Several Turkmen students who are studying in Turkey reported that representatives of the Turkmen secret police approached them at their dormitories demanding that they show them private correspondence on their phones, copied down their contacts, and looked at their photographs. If photos or contacts of activists seen in the protests were found, the students were threatened with deportation and subsequent imprisonment in Turkmenistan.

In Turkey, Russia, and other countries there have been cases of intimidation by telephone, accompanied by threats of physical violence.

There are also reports from Turkmenistan of pressure on activists and their relatives. There are unconfirmed reports of attempts in recent months to hold protests and to distribute leaflets criticizing the government’s policies.

A Turkmen activist who appeared on YouTube using the pseudonym “Vepa Chopan” stated that the authorities in in Turkmenistan were putting pressure on his parents, his wife, and children, demanding that he “shut up” and stop making presentations on the Internet.

On June 16 in Bezmeinsk Etrap of Ashgabat, another activist, Murad Dushemov, was detained. He had appeared on YouTube with a call for the unification of the opposition. Several days later he was placed under house arrest.

A friend in Turkmenistan of Khanum Rasulova (organizer of the June 26 protest action in Istanbul) was repeatedly summoned to the local administration of the Ministry of National Security where he was beaten. Officials demanded that he get her to refuse to participate in the protest movement. On June 24-25, he was held in the Ministry of National Security for a day and was again severely beaten and denied food and water. There have been reports of pressure on Rasulova’s relatives.

In July, three sisters, who are activists well-known in chats under the name of “Gulnar,” were intimidated in Bayram-Ali by the police, who threatened them with physical harm.

This is far from a complete list of information of this kind.

Turkmenistan has faced serious political, economic, and social problems. Contrary to official statements, negative trends are growing, which leads to a rapid increase in tension in the society. However, the existing political model, contrary to the Constitution and the requirements of international law, does not allow citizens to freely express their opinions and participate in a real way in the governance of the country.

In this situation, we call on the government of Turkmenistan to abandon the practice of suppressing dissent, to immediately end the persecution of activists, and to begin a dialogue with emerging civil society. This is the only way that the escalation of political confrontation can be stopped, and is an opportunity for a constructive solution to the accumulated problems.

Refusal to engage in dialogue, attempts to conceal problems, and an increase in repression could have dangerous consequences for Turkmenistan and other states in the region.

Tadzhigul Begmedova, Turkmen Helsinki Fund
Farid Tukhbatullin, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights
Vitaly Ponomarev, Human Rights Center, “Memorial” (Russia)
Krasimir Kanev, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Kate Watters, Crude Accountability (USA)
Svetlana Gannushkina, Committee “Civil Assistance” (Russia)
Vyacheslav Mamedov, Democratic Civic Union of Turkmenistan
Olga Zakharova, Freedom Files (Poland)
Valentin Gefter, Institute for Human Rights (Russia)
Ivar Dale, Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

This statement is also supported by Turkmen civic activists, whose names must be kept anonymous to ensure their safety.

Posted by admin on 2020/7/3 19:23:00 (1154 reads)

Top USCIRF officials: Hold Turkmenistan accountable for its many violations of human rights.

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Posted by admin on 2020/5/6 3:30:00 (1365 reads)

Storm Survivors Need Help, Not Censorship

Last week a hurricane tore through eastern Turkmenistan’s Lebap and Mary provinces. It was one of the country’s worst natural disasters in almost 10 years. But as residents struggle to bury their dead and repair homes, state and state-affiliated, privately-owned media have maintained a deafening silence.

Turkmenistan has no media freedoms – state media dominates, and the authorities block most independent and Western outlets. Authorities also try to intimidate people from reporting on unsettling or controversial news by jailing them on bogus charges, using proxies to assault them, and threatening their extended families.

Authorities have tried to prevent residents from sharing visuals documenting the hurricane’s destruction. Rights and Freedoms of Turkmen Citizens, a Prague-based group, spoke with a woman who security service held for 2 days, together with 29 others, accusing them of sending videos “abroad.” The same group also received reports that security services held another 19 women for the same reason in Turkmenabad, Lebap’s capital, releasing them May 3. The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights said police are watching for people in cars filming the damage on their cell phones.

Turkmen authorities’ censorship and efforts to prevent information on the harms sustained from becoming public makes it difficult to accurately assess the damage and casualties. Radio Liberty said it confirmed 30 deaths. Turkmen news spoke with a medical official who estimated 300 dead in Turkmenabad. It seems most buildings in the city have been damaged. Smaller towns have been badly damaged by the winds and flooding. Videos are circulating of roofless homes and severe damage inside.

For years, Lebap province has had chronic shortages of food, with staples sold at state-subsidized prices, and scattered reports indicate this problem has deteriorated. This could worsen food insecurity for people living in poverty.

Utilities were restored in parts of Turkmenabad and some, but not all, towns. Conscripts are clearing debris. The authorities might make construction materials available at discounted prices, and one source reported local authorities are rushing residents to repair their homes.

Some reports indicate the authorities may withhold civil servant’ wages for one month to pay for disaster relief.

Turkmenistan’s priorities should never include hunting down people filming news in their region, but particularly now in the wake of a disaster, the priority should be making effective and comprehensive efforts to bring aid to all who need it.

Posted by admin on 2020/4/17 16:06:00 (1356 reads)

Turkmenistan is one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world. Human rights violations are routine and severe, the right to freedom of expression is severely restricted and all media are controlled by the state. Torture and other ill-treatment is reported to be widespread, and prisoners are held in conditions amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, and in many cases subjected to enforced disappearances. Deaths in custody are commonplace and uninvestigated. Believers who follow unauthorized religions and critics of the regime risk being imprisoned on fabricated charges. Women face discrimination, and same-sex sexual relations between men remains a criminal offence.

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Posted by admin on 2019/9/10 15:52:00 (1778 reads)

Statement by the Prove They Are Alive! Campaign on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

The Prove They Are Alive! Campaign

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Posted by admin on 2019/7/15 16:16:00 (1950 reads)

This publication shines a spotlight on Turkmenistan, a country in the middle of a sustained economic crisis that has seen hyper-inflation in the lives of ordinary people and widespread food shortages, all despite its vast gas reserves. This economic crisis has in turn led to the regime's repression of its people becoming ever tighter and its personality cult becoming ever more grandiose.

The publication documents Turkmenistan’s ‘Potemkin economy’, with marble facades, respectable official GDP figures and tightly regulated state shops that mask huge structural challenges and a chaotic black economy. It also details Turkmenistan’s massive human rights abuses that have seen it ranked as the worst in the world by Reporters without Borders and many other global freedom rankings. In particular, the publication draws attention to the massive use of forced labour, ‘disappeared’ activists in the prison system and restrictions on independent journalists and human rights activists.

A key part of the publication’s conclusions and recommendations argues that the current economic turmoil creates new opportunities for leverage on human rights by the international community. It also makes the case that pressure should be placed on Turkmenistan to abide by its UN and international investment treaties, and to allow greater access to UN Special Rapporteurs and international NGOs to help ease the humanitarian elements of the current crisis.

Posted by admin on 2019/4/20 8:26:00 (2269 reads)

The international human rights organization “Reporters Without Borders” has published an annual World Press Freedom Index.

In the 2019 ranking Turkmenistan is ahead of North Korea ranking 180th at the bottom of the rating.

“This disgraceful performance is the outcome of several years of increasingly ruthless repression in which the authorities have relentlessly persecuted journalists working clandestinely as the correspondents of Turkmen exiled media”, the report runs.

In 2018 Turkmenistan ranked 178th.

The neighbours in Central Asia region ranks as follows:

Uzbekistan, where the last journalists imprisoned under dictatorship of Islam Karimov, had been released, improved the ranking from 165 to 160;

Kazakhstan dropped one position down ranking 158th. According to researchers, the uncertainty, surrounding succession of power, made the regime even more paranoiac and asserted the intention to keep the tight grip;

Kyrgyzstan has significantly improved its positions leaping from the 98th to the 83rd place after the former and the incumbent heads of the state withdrew their legal lawsuits against critical journalists;

Tajikistan considerably exacerbated its performance by dropping down from the 149th to the 161st place. Most of its independent media have been forced to close or to relocate abroad.

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework, transparency and quality of infrastructure, which allows news outlets to operate.

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Posted by admin on 2019/3/28 9:28:00 (2046 reads)

New York, March 25, 2019 -- Turkmenistan authorities should allow freelance reporter Soltan Achilova to freely travel outside the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On March 11, Achilova, an Ashgabat-based journalist who contributes to independent news website Khronika Turkmenistana (The Chronicles of Turkmenistan), was barred from boarding an international flight, according to media reports and Farid Tukhbatullin, editor-in-chief of Khronika Turkmenistana, who spoke with CPJ.

An immigration officer told Achilova that she could not leave the country, but did not provide any explanation or documentation, Tukhbatullin said. According to CPJ reporting, Achilova has previously been detained by police, physically assaulted, and threatened over her journalism.

"Authorities in Turkmenistan should immediately lift the travel ban imposed on veteran independent journalist Soltan Achilova and allow her to travel internationally," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. "Systematic harassment of Achilova and a handful of other journalists must be stopped as they do the important job of reporting from one of the most closed-off countries of the world."

Achilova was planning to attend a seminar in Tbilisi, Georgia, on a flight routed through Istanbul when she was stopped at passport control in Ashgabat International Airport, Tukhbatullin said.

CPJ's calls to the Turkmenistan Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General's Office, which are among the government agencies that can impose a travel ban on a citizen, were not answered.

Khronika Turkmenistana, which is based in Vienna, and Achilova's former employer, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Turkmen-language Service, are among the few critical Turkmenistan-focused media outlets, Tukhbatullin told CPJ.

The government tightly controls the internet through the only state provider, and has blocked critical websites, social media, and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal, according to CPJ reporting.

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