Human rights in Turkmenistan: Wikis


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Human rights in Turkmenistan refers to the rights of the citizens of Turkmenistan.

The human rights of Turkmenistan has been heavily criticized by various countries and scholars worldwide.[1][2] Standards in education and health declined markedly during the rule of President Saparmurat Niyazov.


Discrimination against ethnic minorities

The Turkmen government's decision to cancel a dual-citizenship agreement with Russia in 2003 prompted thousands of ethnic Russians to leave Turkmenistan as they lost their property.[3] Many of those fleeing "in panic" reportedly feared being trapped in a state which has been widely criticised for human rights abuses and has imposed severe restrictions on foreign travel for its citizens. According to reports, those who did get out were regarded as "lucky". Those without Russian passports may be forced to become Turkmens, and fear that they may never be able to return to Russia.[4]

For these who remained, estimated at around 100,000, all Soviet-time diplomas, certificates and other official documents that were issued outside the Turkmen SSR were nullified, drastically limiting the people's access to work. At the same time, universities have been encouraged to reject applicants with non-Turkmen surnames, especially ethnic Russians.[5] Russian television is difficult to receive in Turkmenistan, the Russian-language radio station Mayak was taken off the air[6] and the Russian newspapers were banned earlier.[7]

Notable bans

Former Turkmenbashi Saparmurat Niyazov banned playing of video games, listening to car radios, performing opera and ballet, smoking in public, long hair on men, and even growing facial hair. It has been speculated that the latter ban was enacted to enforce conformity of appearance,[8] or even to compensate for Niyazov's own inability to grow a beard. Niyazov ordered the closure of all libraries outside the capital of Ashgabat in the belief that all Turkmen are illiterate.[9] He reportedly also closed many hospitals outside of the capital, forced physicians to swear an oath to himself and the Ruhnama instead of swearing the Hippocratic Oath,[10] and cut pensions to a third of the country's elderly population.[11] News anchors, both men and women, were prevented from wearing any sort of makeup after Niyazov discovered he was unable to tell the difference between them when the presenters wore it[12].

Freedom of religion

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by article 11 of the Constitution of Turkmenistan. However, like other human rights, in practice it does not exist. Former President Saparmurat Niyazov's book of spiritual writings, the Ruhnama, is imposed on all religious communities. According to Forum 18, despite international pressure, the authorities severely repress all religious groups, and the legal framework is so constrictive that many prefer to exist underground rather than have to pass through all of the official hurdles. Protestant Christian adherents are affected, in addition to groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Bahá'í, and Hare Krishna.[13] Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned and suffered beatings due to being conscientious objectors.

The U.S. Department of State’s 2005 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom (released November 8, 2005) indicates persistent restrictions on religious freedoms in Turkmenistan, while categorizing it among countries that had made "significant improvements in the promotion of religious freedom." U.S. Representative Chris Smith stated, however, "The reforms that were instituted by the Niyazov regime over the past year did not go far enough, and even the report itself states that serious violations of religious freedom continue." U.S. Senator Sam Brownback noted, "Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have clearly received more credit than the facts would warrant." The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, appealed to the government of Turkmenistan in June 2003 and again in 2005 for an invitation to visit the country, but received no response.[14]

Freedom of expression

According to Reporters Without Borders' 2006 World Press Freedom Index, Turkmenistan had the 3rd worst press freedom conditions in the world, behind North Korea and Burma. It is considered to be one of the "10 Most Censored Countries". Each broadcast under Niyazov began with a pledge that the broadcaster's tongue will shrivel if he slanders the country, flag, or president.[15] While he was president, Niyazov controlled all Turkmen media outlets and personally appointed journalists. Controversy surrounds the death of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Ogulsapar Myradowa, who was apparently tortured to death in September 2006 while in state detention.

Political freedom

Any opposition to the government is considered treason and punishable by life imprisonment. Turkmenistan has many political prisoners, the most well-known of whom are Batyr Berdyýew, Ýazgeldi Gündogdyýew, Boris Şyhmyradow, and Muhammetguly Aýmyradow. They are not granted any access by the International Red Cross, OSCE, ar any medical institutions. There are several rumours of their deaths, but these cannot be confirmed, and most of their whereabouts are unknown.

Police brutality

Arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of detained persons are common in Turkmenistan, as is torture to obtain confessions. In 2004, border guards shot and killed six people who were allegedly illegally crossing the border from Iran. There are reports of prisoners dying after having food and medical care withheld.[16] Ogulsapar Myradowa, a journalist and human rights activist, died violently in prison in September 2006.

Women's rights

Under the laws of Turkmenistan, domestic violence and prostitution are illegal, though enforcement is scant. However, laws prohibiting rape and guaranteeing women the same marriage and inheritance rights as men are generally respected.

See also


External links



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