This week, representatives of the European Union will meet in Ashgabat with the government of Turkmenistan as part of the annual dialogue on human rights. The event comes at a time when the EU is seeking to forge closer ties with the five Central Asian states in the face of changing geopolitical realities brought about by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ahead of the meeting, the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) presented the EU with an overview paper on key human rights issues that the EU should discuss with the government of Turkmenistan, including the following:
- Incumbent President Serdar Berdimuhamedov‘s failure to move on from his father’s repressive legacy and take effective action to improve human rights in the country after taking office in March 2022.
- Internet censorship worsening – more and more online resources are being arbitrarily blocked in Turkmenistan, and professionals who install applications to bypass blocking to provide access to inaccessible resources are being intimidated and harassed. The government also announced the creation of an “autonomous national digital network”, raising concerns about increased scrutiny of the country’s internet use.
- Physician Khursanai Ismatullayeva, journalist Nurgeldy Khalikov, activist Murat Dushemov and lawyer Pygamberdy Allaberdiyev remain imprisoned for their peaceful and legitimate civic or journalistic activities. Persecution and pressure continues against Agadjum Bayramov , 73, who spent six years in prison on politically motivated charges and was released this year.
- There remains a risk of detention and forcible return to Turkmenistan of regime-critical activists residing in Turkey, whose authorities are complying with requests from the Turkmen government to prosecute individuals deemed “inconvenient” by the Turkmen authorities, despite the fact that no cases have been reported to date. case of deportation of activists to their homeland.
- Other forms of persecution of persons who openly speak out about the situation in the country, defend their rights or communicate with like-minded people, both in Turkmenistan and outside the country, incl. intimidation of relatives and persons maintaining contact with them.
- The practice of enforced disappearance continues, and the fate of dozens of people subjected to this practice over the past 20 years remains unknown. The systematic use of enforced disappearances against persons convicted on political grounds as a result of unfair trials began after the assassination attempt on former President Saparmurat Niyazov in 2002, the details of which remain unclear to this day.
- Authorities continue to react harshly to spontaneous expressions of dissatisfaction; new cases of voluntary-compulsory participation of citizens in mass public celebrations under the threat of punishment are also reported. The health and well-being of participants in these events is at risk.
- A campaign has intensified to reinforce traditional values regarding the role of women in Turkmenistan and to introduce sweeping restrictions on the appearance and behavior of women. As part of this initiative, propaganda activities organized by the authorities in public institutions and schools, police raids, detentions and fines against violators of restrictive requirements were reported.
Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan