Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 299 - (28/11/05)
Religion matters enormously in the former Soviet Union. Its
persecution by the communists for obvious reasons in a totalitarian state,
intolerant of anything other than its atheist creed had the effect of redoubling
people's faith, hoping that God or Allah would rid them of their oppressor
This is still true in Turkmenistan, where a totalitarian state of oppressive
might continues, albeit under another creed.
Big Brother in Ashkabad
The president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, is a vile dictator with a
difference. He is even more repressive than President Karimov of Uzbekistan,
having 20,000 political prisoners to Karimov's 7,000 or so, although a release
of 8,000 of them was planned by the end of the year. The regime is so tight that
it is improbable that anything as dramatic as what happened in May in Andijan in
Uzbekistan, where an uprising led to a massacre of 700 or so, could ever happen
What sets him apart is that he is a religious freak of the first order, with
inspiration from on high. The Rukhmana, a religious tome in several volumes, in
his view rivals the Bible and the Koran for profundity and insight. It is
required reading in the schools, eclipsing even study of the sciences.
Niyazov persecutes all other religions in the country, although for practical
reasons only in a modified way in the case of Islam, by far the dominant
religion in fact. He has more than personal reasons for doing so, being afraid
of the fact that they all owe allegiance to centres of their faith outside the
He aspires to an Orwellian state. Can Big Brother tolerate another faith,
moreover based abroad? Certainly not. Recent events show that clearly, as the
following report attests.
Activists flay US report on religious freedom
Human rights groups have strongly criticised a US government report for failing
to designate Turkmenistan a country of particular concern (CPC) on the issue of
"Turkmenistan's government still refuses to allow residents of the country
to practice their faith freely," Felix Corley, the editor of Forum 18 News
Service, an agency monitoring religious freedom in the former Soviet republics
and Eastern Europe, said from London on 17th November.
The largely desert, but energy-rich state denied its 5.5 million inhabitants the
right to religious freedom, despite longstanding international pressure to
reform, Corley argued, citing continued persecution of minority religious
communities such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Baptists, with police raids on
prayer meetings, arbitrary arrests and beatings.
But religious persecution remained very much across the board, he added.
Turkmenistan's majority Muslim community was tightly controlled. Turkmenistan
has the religious prisoner of conscience with the longest jail sentence in the
former Soviet Union, former chief mufti Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah who is on a
22-year jail sentence.
Meanwhile the country's Russian Orthodox Church has been denied re-registration
for refusing to allow its parishes to become independent of the Central Asian
diocese headquartered in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, Corley noted.
"Minority faiths cannot function freely," the activist said.
"Even some of those recently registered still cannot meet freely without
being harassed, raided and fined."
His comments follow the release of the seventh US Annual Report on International
Religious Freedom, examining the status of religious freedom around the world in
several countries, including CPCs.
According to the 8 November report to the US Congress, which is mandated by the
International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998 and seeks to examine barriers
to religious freedom in individual countries, Georgia, India, Turkmenistan and
United Arab Emirates had showed "significant improvement" in the
protection and promotion of religious freedom through modification of legal and
social barriers over the past year. But Corley asserted such an assessment was
premature and for religious freedom to arrive in Turkmenistan, the government
needed to end the ban on unregistered religious activity and stop raiding
religious meetings, while at the same time allowing religious communities to
build and maintain places of worship freely.
He is not alone is his call. On November 14, a coalition of NGOs released a
statement disputing the report's conclusion that Turkmenistan, alongside
Uzbekistan, was not a CPC, describing such an appraisal as inconsistent with the
report's own findings and therefore unjustified.
Indeed, under the statutes of the International Religious Freedom Act, any
government that engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of
religious freedom in that country over the proceeding 12 months is to be
designated as a CPC.
"Given the overwhelming evidence of severe and widespread violation of
religious freedom in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan during the period under
consideration, the conclusion that these governments have not 'engaged in or
tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom' is factually
incorrect, and therefore in violation of the statute," a coalition
Michael Cromartie, chairman of the US Commission for International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF), described the omission of both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
from the CPC list as "particularly troubling" and a discredit to
Congress's intent in passing the IRFA. "In the face of the severe religious
freedom violations perpetrated by the Turkmen and Uzbek governments, the
continued failure to name them as CPCs undermines the spirit and letter of the
IRFA," he said.
Hare Krishna at bay
Turkmenistan recently jailed a Hare Krishna devotee, Cheper Annaniyazova,
for seven years on charges of illegally leaving the country. Before being
sentenced, she was compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital. "Cheper
tried to get an exit visa to go to Kazakstan to stay in the temple in Almaty,
but was refused," a source close to the Hare Krishna community said, Forum
18 reported. "She went anyway, crossing the border to Uzbekistan."
Despite a claimed abolition of exit visas, Turkmenistan is preventing three
religious believers - two Protestants and a Hare Krishna devotee - from leaving
the country. Forum 18's source insists that the heavy sentence was imposed at
the behest of the MSS secret police to intimidate the Hare Krishna community.
Turkmenistan must read 'My Dear'
But Niyazov is nothing if not versatile. He fancies himself as a poet and
writer of stirring tales as well. He has just published another book of his
poems, called "My Dear," which will become mandatory reading for all
his country's citizens, state-owned media reported.
The publication of new work by the president is no small event in Turkmenistan.
Niyazov's new poems were introduced at a presentation in the Turkmen parliament
attended by government officials, lawmakers, journalists and academics, the
official paper, Neutral Turkmenistan, said.
The new poems by Niyazov, who is also called Turkmenbashi, or Father of All
Turkmen, are about love for the motherland, history and philosophical thoughts
on human kindness and the beauty of the surrounding environment, the paper said.
The book also includes stories on Niyazov's childhood and youth, and verses and
stories about Niyazov's parents, who died when he was young.
Niyazov's earlier books and poems also have become obligatory reading, none more
so of course than the Rukhmana, What a country and what a nutter!
Pars Energy to invest in LNG terminal in Turkmenistan
Iran's Pars Energy is to build a liquefied natural gas terminal at the port of
Kiyanly on Turkmenistan's Caspian Sea coast with a capacity of 180,000-200,000
tonnes per year. A source in Turkmenistan President Saparmurad Niyazov's press
service recently said that Niyazov signed a special resolution allowing
Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery Complex to sign a contract with the Iranian company,
Interfax News Agency reported.
According to the contract, which is worth 22.7905 million Euro, work will also
be carried out to connect the new terminal with an existing LNG terminal at
Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery Complex and an LNG tank farm being built at Kiyanly.
According to the presidential resolution, the work will be paid for with
supplies of LNG to the Iranian company. Construction is planned to start this
year in November and should be completed in February 2008.
India, Turkmenistan for closer cooperation in energy, industry
The foreign secretary of India, Rajiv Sikri, has held a number of high level
meetings to discuss closer cooperation in energy and industry in Ashgabat
recently, New Europe reported.
In separate meetings at the foreign ministry and cabinet of ministers of
Turkmenistan, Sikri discussed a wide range of topics. Turkmen TV reported that
negotiations were focused on the areas of common interest such as oil and gas
branch, fuel and energy sectors, transportation, textile industry, agriculture,
science, education, culture and health-care. The Indian envoy stressed that the
bilateral relations had grown steadily because of the historical ties between
the 2 lands. He said that Turkmenistan is the centre of communications, through
which the major trans-national highways pass and it serves as guarantee of
successful interstate collaboration.
The sides expressed readiness to expand interaction in science and education
through implementation of joint educational and research programs. One such
training centre successfully works at Turkmen Polytechnic Institute already.
Turkmenistan, Iran to cooperate in Caspian resources
Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, and Iran's President, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad,
had a telephone conversation recently over issues of bilateral relations,
including cooperation in the oil and gas sector, problems of the Caspian Sea, as
well as a forthcoming meeting of the heads of the Caspian Sea littoral states,
Turkmenistan.ru reported, referring to the State news service (TDH).
According to the TDH, both sides expressed satisfaction with the level of
relations and agreed to continue cooperation on the issues. Niyazov stressed the
main condition for reinforcing stability and the progressive development of the
region could be cooperation between Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran in a number of
projects, including the development of resources of the Caspian Sea.
In this context, both presidents agreed the minister of foreign affairs of Iran
and the Iranian president's special envoy on the Caspian issues would visit
Turkmenistan at the beginning of November to discuss issues of expanding
Turkmen-Iranian partnership. On Niyazov's invitation to visit Turkmenistan,
Ahmadinezhad said that he would be pleased to meet Niyazov in Iran.
As the presidents of both countries noted, the exchange of visits would further
develop and strengthen Turkmen-Iranian relations. The dates of visits will be
fixed through diplomatic channels.
Turkmenistan grants operations rights to MTS
Barash Communication Technologies Inc. (BCTI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of
the Russian mobile phone operator MTS will operate in the territory of
Turkmenistan for a period of five years. Turkmen president, Saparmurat Niyazov,
recently signed a resolution to this effect, Turkmenistan.ru reported.
According to the new formula, the profits would be split 80:20 between BCTI and
the ministry of communications. Apart from Turkmen Telecom, BCTI is the only
cellular phone provider in Turkmenistan. BCTI was the first mobile phone
provider in Turkmenistan and it enjoyed 10 years of monopoly rights. Ministry of
communications of Turkmenistan will sign within one month the necessary contract
with BCTI. MTS recently acquired BCTI. Michael Barash, a US citizen who
emigrated from Georgia, originally owned BCTI.