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Posted by admin on 2013/5/3 6:26:00 (2140 reads)

“I am in favour of creating new political parties and organizing independent media.” (January 2012)

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Posted by admin on 2013/5/2 14:34:00 (2455 reads)

Profoundly embarrassed by a botched cover-up over President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s epic fail as a racehorse jockey, Turkmen authorities are engaged in frantic, if futile damage control efforts.

The opposition-oriented website reported April 30 that Turkmen security agents were swarming all over Ashgabat airport, reportedly stopping people as they prepared to board departing flights and taking “aggressive measures” to prevent the spread of images and video of Arkadag’s horsecapades.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Regnum news agency reported May 1 that Turkmen “specialists” were going to great lengths to determine the source of the video, which first appeared here on Regnum quoted a Ministry of National Security official as saying security officers had “checked out every last one of our citizens” who were at the track and now they were turning their attention to the foreign attendees.

“They are trying to determine the spot in the guest bleachers where the filming took place and the possible cameraman who might have uploaded the footage of the fall to the internet,” the Turkmen official told Regnum.

As readers will recall, Berdymukhamedov “won” a high-stakes horse race on April 28, but his efforts to convince the world that he is the reincarnation of Willie Shoemaker hit a brick wall when he went flying off his mount and did a face plant on the track shortly after crossing the wire.

Turkmen state-controlled media pretended as though nothing had gone wrong, reporting only that Berdymukhamedov had won the race and the $11-million purse that went to the winner. At least one Western media outlet swallowed the twisted Turkmen account.

There are lots of lessons to be learned from the Turkmen government’s handling of Berdymukhamedov’s pony ride:

-When it comes to kooky despots, Berdymukhamedov is the only clear rival to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. The clip of Berdymukhamedov’s fall is a case of life imitating art, evocative of the race scene in the Sacha Baron Cohen 2012 satire, The Dictator. Berdymukhamedov’s evident need to be seen as the man who is the best at everything is as pathetic and bizarre as Kim’s budding friendship with Dennis Rodman.

-Turkmenistan’s cult of personality has stripped officials of common sense, and has fostered the rampant spread of ineptitude. After his wipe out, when he is sprawled out on the track, and it is unknown whether or not he has suffered a serious spinal injury, Berdymukhamedov is surrounded by minions dressed in black, who proceed to mindlessly lift him up and aimlessly carry him around. Basic medical procedure should have called for Berdymukhamedov to be kept motionless until he could have been placed on a backboard with his neck stabilized before any attempt was made to move him. If he had been seriously injured, all that movement could have killed him. It’s worth noting here that Berdymukhamedov and his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, have systematically neglected Turkmenistan’s health care system, effectively starving the country of skilled medical personnel.

-Western diplomats and business executives are enabling Turkmenistan’s personality cult. It’s sad to think that Turkmen authorities almost got away with totalitarian fraud. Security officials did their best to confiscate and delete all photos and video taken of Berdymukhamedov’s accident by those at the racetrack. You can’t blame the Turkmen for trying. After all, that’s what totalitarian regimes do: lie all the time. One of most disturbing and damning aspects of the incident is that virtually all of the hundreds of foreigners at the track, including many Western diplomats and business executives, appeared willing to go along with the Turkmen efforts to alter reality.

So while Turkmen security types keep searching for the source of the video showing the emperor without his clothes, those Western diplomats and business executives who were present should be examining their consciences. It was only through a fortunate coincidence that got its hands on the video. That most foreigners present didn’t do something to correct the record after the Turkmen media attempted to airbrush history is shameful.

Posted by admin on 2013/4/11 18:10:00 (1905 reads)


NEW YORK—Turkmenistan’s authoritarian state is being called to account before the UN Human Rights Committee over the death in police custody seven years ago of human rights activist Ogulsapar Muradova.

Muradova died on September 14, 2006, over ten weeks after being detained by police with her brother and another activist. The authorities blamed natural causes, but members of her family said her body bore marks of violence, and international human rights organizations have continued to press for a full investigation into her death.

A mother with three children, and the sister of an exiled opposition figure, Muradova also worked as a correspondent in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat for the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty radio station. She was a critic of the repressive regime of then president Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled Turkmenistan from the collapse of the Soviet Union until his death in December, 2006.

Her brother Annadurdy Khadzhiyev, in a complaint filed on his behalf by the Open Society Justice Initiative, is now asking the UN Human Rights Committee to push for a proper investigation into his sister’s death and mistreatment.

“Turkmenistan has refused to openly investigate the events and mistreatment that led to my sister’s death, and to punish the abusers,” Khadzhiyev said. “The authorities should fully cooperate with the United Nations, and provide details about what happened to my sister. As the government continues talking about democratization, it should not be covering up the crimes of the past.”

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said: “This case involves egregious human rights violations. Turkmenistan needs to acknowledge its responsibility for Ogulsapar Muradova’s arbitrary detention, torture and death, and provide her family with remedies, including appropriate compensation and a public apology”.

After her arrest on June 18, 2006, the Turkmen police held Muradova in custody with virtually no connection to the outside world until she appeared for her trial on August 25, 2006, on charges of possessing weapons.

During her detention, she was interrogated without a lawyer, with indications that she was subjected to physical abuse, and the forcible use of drugs, to force an admission to trumped up charges. During this period, she passed a message to her family that she “could not stand the mistreatment”.

The government first claimed that Muradova died of “natural causes”. Several years later this was changed to “suicide”, after an alleged investigation that was never made public. In addition to failing to investigate her mistreatment and death, the Turkmen authorities have refused to provide redress to her family, and have persecuted Ms. Muradova’s children when they tried to draw international attention to her case. As a result, the family could not pursue any domestic remedies.

In the complaint to the United Nations, the Open Society Justice Initiative states that Turkmenistan is responsible for torture and arbitrary killing of Ms. Muradova, her arbitrary detention and egregious violations of her fair trial rights, including publicly declaring her guilt before her trial and denying her prompt effective assistance of a lawyer, and closing her trial to the public.

Muradova’s two co-defendants in the trial were released in February 2013 after serving their term.

Turkmenistan still remains closed to independent scrutiny: international human rights organizations are denied access to the country, and no independent monitors, domestic or international, have access to its detention facilities. Recently, the Committee against Torture expressed concern about use of torture to extract confessions from detainees, and forced confessions as evidence in court and about “numerous and consistent reports on a number of deaths in custody and on the alleged restriction on independent forensic examination into the cases of such deaths”.

Posted by admin on 2013/2/19 5:22:00 (2305 reads)

TURKMENISTAN: Two journalists freed after seven years in prison in appalling conditions

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that journalists and human rights activists Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadjiyev were released during the weekend on completing seven-year jail sentences in appalling conditions.

“We are delighted that these two journalists have finally been freed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We often feared for their lives during these past years, in which reports of terrible prison conditions occasionally reached us. Nonetheless, they are in very poor shape after this ordeal. Nothing will be able to redress the seven long years of unjust detention.

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Posted by admin on 2013/2/16 22:13:28 (1653 reads)

(New York) – Two Turkmen civil society activists convicted on politically motivated charges were freed on February 16, 2013, after serving out their prison terms, Human Rights Watch said today. Sapardurdy Khajiev and Annakurban Amanklychev, wrongfully imprisoned since their arrest in June 2006, suffer numerous health problems from their incarceration.

“Every single second Khajiev and Amanklychev spent behind bars was a terrible injustice,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While we’re overjoyed that they’re finally free, the oppressive state practices behind their jailing persist and should be addressed.”

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Posted by admin on 2013/2/16 15:30:00 (1691 reads)


Two Turkmen activists Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev have been released from prison in Turkmenistan today (February 16, 2013) after serving their full prison terms. Amanklychev and Khadjiyev were sentenced to seven years in prison for helping to make a documentary about Turkmenistan in 2006 for “Envoyé spécial,” a current affairs programme broadcast by the French state-owned TV station France 2, and for gathering information about the human rights situation for the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation. Initially, the government accused them of spying for Western intelligence services. Later, the charges were changed to "illegal acquisition, possession or sale of firearms or ammunition."

A third person who was convicted at the same time, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent in Turkmenistan Ogulsapar Muradova, died in detention in September 2006 after being tortured.
International human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly called on the Turkmen government to release Amanklychev and Khadjiyev and to conduct open investigation into the case of Muradova’s death in detention.

In 2010, The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the immediate release of Amanklychev and Khajiev, claiming that their detention is a violation of international law.

In 2011, Amnesty International called Amanklychev A. and S. Khadziyev prisoners of conscience.

Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
February 16, 2013

Posted by admin on 2013/1/22 10:41:10 (1743 reads)

One of the world’s most repressive states promises all sorts of freedom.

Turkmenistan has passed its first media law since it separated from the Soviet Union in 1991, and on paper it looks great, with commitments to freedom of expression and an end to censorship.

In this tightly controlled Central Asian state, though, there is really very little prospect of change. The government-run media will carry on being as heavily censored as they have been for the last two decades.

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Posted by admin on 2012/11/7 10:33:00 (1694 reads)

The European Parliament faces a litmus test of its commitment to a principled EU policy on human rights. At issue is whether it will support upgraded relations with Turkmenistan, ruled by one of the most repressive governments in the world, without requiring any rights improvements in exchange.

When it votes on a partnership and co-operation agreement with Turkmenistan, the European Parliament should do what member states have not done – consider human rights.

The European Parliament faces a litmus test of its commitment to a principled EU policy on human rights. At issue is whether it will support upgraded relations with Turkmenistan, ruled by one of the most repressive governments in the world, without requiring any rights improvements in exchange.

The test will be an upcoming vote – possibly as soon as November – on a partnership and co-operation agreement (PCA) with Turkmenistan. The parliament should reject such an obviously misguided move, and send a clear message that enhanced relations with the European Union must go hand in hand with concrete improvements in human rights.

This is a message the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission, and member states – eager to pursue closer relations with gas-rich Turkmenistan – have consistently failed to send. The EU's long-standing quest to upgrade relations with Turkmenistan has paid scant attention to human rights, even though Turkmenistan's atrocious rights record could not be more at odds with the PCA's human-rights clause. The clause commits both parties to respect human rights, and provides the possibility of suspension should either violate this principle.

If taken seriously, this clause would mean that, in the absence of improvements by Turkmenistan, the EU would have to initiate proceedings to suspend the agreement as soon as it was concluded. By ignoring this reality and failing to use the lead-up process to upgraded relations to secure even the most minimal progress in rights, the EEAS, the Commission, and member states have squandered precious time and leverage.

The Parliament now has a crucial opportunity to set things right. To do so, it needs to look no further than its own reform demands, as formulated in 2008 and re-affirmed in 2010 – basic steps such as releasing political prisoners, lifting travel bans on activists and their relatives, and allowing independent human-rights monitors into the country, which it set as prerequisites for closer relations with Turkmenistan.

To date, none of the Parliament's benchmarks have been met. Hundreds – possibly thousands – of political prisoners languish in Turkmenistan's prisons, including Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiev, who worked with human-rights organisations before their imprisonment in 2006, and Gulgeldy Annaniazov, a political dissident whose relatives have had no information about him since his imprisonment in 2008.

The government interferes with residents' right to leave and return to Turkmenistan, through an informal, arbitrary system of travel bans on activists, their families, and relatives of exiled dissidents. The country remains utterly closed to human-rights scrutiny due to the government's long-standing denial of access for independent human-rights monitors, including no fewer than ten UN rapporteurs, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and non-governmental organisations.

The Parliament should make its consent to the PCA contingent on measurable progress in these key areas of concern, and insist on a serious effort by the EEAS, the Commission, and member states to press for such progress. Of course, there is much more than human rights to the EU's relationship with Turkmenistan. But strategic interests such as energy security are no justification for overlooking human rights, and articulating concrete expectations for rights reform should not be seen as an impediment to good relations.

For the Parliament to vote in favour of a PCA with Turkmenistan in the current circumstances would mean succumbing to the same political expediency that has led the EU to ignore human-rights abuses in its relationship with this country for so long. The Parliament should make a clean break from this sorry record, and ensure an EU policy true to the core values and principles that underpin its relations with third countries.

Hanging in the balance are the many victims of Turkmen government repression, including Amanklychev, Khajiev and Annaniazov, who should be able to count on the EU's unwavering support for their rights and freedoms.

Veronika Szente Goldston is the Europe and Central Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

Posted by admin on 2012/8/8 8:11:00 (2236 reads)

Turkmenistan is building a new women’s prison which it may be able to use to showcase improvements in penal conditions that will not be evident elsewhere.

The facility is being put up by a Turkish contractor close to an existing women’s prison located 100 kilometres from Dashoguz in northeastern Turkmenistan.

The new prison will contain a cellblock, a clothing factory where inmates will work, a kindergarten and school for their children, and even a shop.

If this is accurate, the new facility will be an improvement on the current women’s prison camp at Dashoguz, built by the Soviet authorities in 1967.

The Independent Bar Association of Turkmenistan based in the Netherlands says the camp was designed to house 700 inmates but now holds more than 2,000, with 12 or 14 to rooms meant for four.

Eight out of ten of the female inmates are there for drugs convictions, although others were locked up simply for being relatives of disgraced government officials.

Rights groups report that inmates are abused and tuberculosis is rife in the facility.

Vyacheslav Mamedov, leader of the Netherlands-based Civil Democratic Union, says the replacement prison looks like an attempt to repair Turkmenistan’s appalling reputation for prison conditions.

"It seems the prison will become a showcase for the Turkmen penal system – somewhere international inspections could be allowed to take place," Mamedov said. "The international community has long criticised the authorities for the disorder in the prison system, which remains closed to the outside world and is characterised by torture and brutality."

Turkmenistan has a high prison population by any standards – 550 people per 100,000 of the population, twice as many as Kyrgyzstan, for example.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a police officer in Turkmenistan said

"Lack of space means our penal institutions hold 250 per cent more convicts than they should,” he said. “This causes disease to spread. So the country needs to modernise its prison camp buildings as a priority».

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.


Posted by admin on 2012/7/1 9:28:00 (2517 reads)

Turkmen National Security Ministry, Ashgabat. (Photo: IWPR)1The Soviet-era practice of holding show trials for individuals accused of relatively minor economic crimes is alive and well in Turkmenistan, and local observers say that once in the system, defendants have no chance of a fair hearing. For the state, it is a demonstration of power, and for the security agencies, an opportunity to show they are fighting crime.

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