Members of the European Parliament called on the Turkmen authorities to release the doctor Ismatullayeva on the anniversary of her arrest

Statement by members of the European Parliament, human rights activists and independent journalists on the anniversary of the arrest of Turkmen doctor Khursanai Ismatullayeva

July 16 marks one year since the arrest of a doctor from Turkmenistan , Khursanai Ismatullayeva . She is serving a nine-year sentence in a criminal case that was apparently brought in retaliation for her labor dispute, which was discussed at a European Parliament event.

Until 2017, Khursanai Ismatullayeva worked at the Ene Myahri perinatal center in the city of Gökdepe, Akhal velayat. She was illegally fired from her job, and all attempts to legally reinstate her in office were in vain.

In the fall of 2020, Ismatullayeva turned to independent journalists for help. Her detailed history has been published . At first, there was no reaction from the authorities: the doctor was not reinstated, but she was not subjected to persecution either.

However, on July 15, 2021, the story of Kh. Ismatullayeva was voiced during the online meeting “Practices of suppression in Central Asia: voices of human rights defenders”, organized by the deputies of the European Parliament. The next day, ten security officers arrived at Ismatullayeva's house and took her away in an unknown direction.

It later emerged that the doctor had been arrested as part of a case of alleged fraud. She was accused of appropriating the apartment of an elderly man whom she looked after in 2016-2018. Following the consideration of the case in the Bezmeinsky District Court of Ashgabat, chaired by Judge Amanmukhammed Ishanguliyev , on September 7, 2021, Ismatullayeva was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The doctor is not a criminal, she has not been hiding from anyone all these years, all transactions with the elderly man's apartment were officially certified by the authorities. This story did not seem illegal to anyone until Khursanai Ismatullayeva got in touch with an independent publication. The witnesses who spoke in court spoke the same phrases and did not hide the fact that Ismatullayeva’s “fraudulent actions” were first learned at the police station in July 2021 after an online meeting. A notary named H. Kuliyev , who registered the documents for the apartment, first passed as an accomplice, but then was excluded from the number of defendants "due to repentance." Realtor D. Annanurov , who also participated in the real estate transaction, was not held liable at all.

Ismatullayeva was not a political activist, she did not fight for regime change, she did not criticize the current government. She just wanted to protect her labor rights, but ended up in a colony. The doctor initially understood that this could happen in Turkmenistan, so at the end of 2020, just in case, she recorded a video message to the then President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov . The video, in which she talks about a possible fabrication of a criminal case, was published later, when these fears were justified.

We call on the new president of Turkmenistan, His Excellency Serdar Berdimuhamedov , to reconsider the criminal case of a doctor who was valued by patients but disliked by management. By contacting independent media, talking about wrongful dismissal and trying to get her job back, Dr. Ismatullayeva exercised her right to freedom of speech and protection of her labor rights. She should not have been punished for this with many years in prison. We call on the Turkmen authorities to release Khursanai Ismatullayeva from detention and bring those who made the malicious decision to take revenge on her to justice.

Heidi Hautala , Vice President of the European Parliament, Greens/EFA

Helmut Scholz , MEP, The Left

Petras Auštrevicius , MEP, Renew Europe

Ruzi Thun und Hohenstein , MEP, EPP

Isabelle Santos , MEP, S&D

Ruslan Myatiev , Turkmen.News (Netherlands)

Farid Tukhbatullin , Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (Austria)

Rachel Denber , Human Rights Watch (USA)

Brigitte Dufour , International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan