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Turkmen Report: March 8, 2004

8 March 2004
Turkmen Parliament Declares 2004 Year Of President's Father
5 March 2004

Turkmenistan's parliament on 5 March voted to make 2004 the year of "Hero of Turkmenistan Atamurat Niyazov," the father of President Saparmurat Niyazov, ITAR-TASS and AP reported the same day.

Niyazov's father reportedly died in World War II, in 1942 in the North Caucasus. Atamurat Niyazov was posthumously awarded the title of "Hero of Turkmenistan" in 2000.

The rest of President Niyazov's family died in the Ashgabat earthquake of 1948. Last year was the year of President Niyazov's mother, Gurbansoltan Eje, who was also posthumously awarded the title of "Hero of Turkmenistan" in 2002. (ITAR-TASS, AP)

Media Group Calls On Turkmenistan To Release RFE/RL Journalists
4 March 2004

An international media watchdog group on 4 March called on Turkmenistan to release two Turkmen journalists, RFE/RL and AFP reported the same day. The group Reporters Without Borders called on Turkmen authorities to release Rakhim Esenov and Ashyrguly Bayryev, two RFE/RL journalists who were arrested on 26 February and 1 March.

The media-rights group said it fears the two journalists could be tortured or badly treated in jail.

Turkmen authorities say Esenov was detained for smuggling copies of his banned novel into the country. It remains unclear why Bayryev was detained. (RFE/RL, AFP)

Two Turkmen Foreign Correspondents Arrested
3 March 2004

The human rights organization Amnesty International has released a statement expressing concern about the fate of two correspondents working for a foreign radio company in Turkmenistan, AP reported on 3 March. The Amnesty statement said writer and journalist Rakhim Esenov, fellow journalist Ashyrguly Bayryev and Esenov's son-in-law Igor Kaprielov have been detained by Turkmen Security Service officers and are "at risk of being tortured or ill-treated."

Esenov was summoned to the National Security Ministry on 23 February and accused of smuggling 800 copies of his book "The Crowned Wanderer" into Turkmenistan. The book was banned in Turkmen publishing houses, so Esenov had it published in Moscow. (Amnesty International, AP)

UN Says Heroin Addicts Increasing In Central Asia
3 March 2004

The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Central Asia said on 3 March the number of heroin addicts in Central Asia is rising due to the flow of narcotics from neighboring Afghanistan, Reuters and AP reported the same day.

Roberto Arbitrio said the increase in heroin addicts has been accompanied by an increase in the HIV infections due to shared needle use. Arbitrio was speaking at a conference where an annual report by the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent UN organization that monitors the global drug situation.

The board in its annual report says Turkmenistan is the only neighboring country of Afghanistan not participating in the international monitoring effort known as Operation Topaz.

According to the report, Turkmenistan has not reported any seizures of opiates or precursor chemicals since 2000, although major quantities had been seized in previous years. (Reuters, AP)

Turkmenistan Not Cooperating In Antitrafficking Efforts
3 March 2004

The International Narcotics Control Board has criticized Turkmenistan for a lack of cooperation in regional efforts to halt the flow of illicit drugs from Afghanistan, RFE/RL reported on 3 March.

The board in its annual report says Turkmenistan is the only neighboring country of Afghanistan, which is not participating in the international monitoring effort known as Operation Topaz. The three-year-old operation focuses on acetic anhydride, a chemical that is used in the making of heroin. The UN body says Turkmenistan's help is essential to prevent smuggling of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals from Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan has 700 kilometers of common border with Afghanistan, which the report says remains the world's major producer of opium poppies, from which heroin is made. According to the report, Turkmenistan has not reported any seizures of opiates or precursor chemicals since the year 2000, although major quantities had been seized in previous years. (RFE/RL)

Niyazov Says Turkmenistan Has No Disputes With Neighbors
2 March 2004

Turkmenistan has no disputes with its neighbors, President Niyazov said, Interfax reported on 2 March.

"Attempts to set Turkmenistan and neighboring Uzbekistan, Iran, and Afghanistan against each other will result in failure since we have no disputes," Niyazov said while inaugurating the new Military Institute building in Ashgabat. "There is no longer the threat of armed aggression against us, but some may try to sow the seeds of enmity between us," he added. He said that Turkmenistan "will not spare money on the armed forces." In total, he said $20 million was put into the Military Institute, which was built by a Turkish company.

Another military institute for training personnel for special services, including the National Security Ministry and the State Border Service, will be built in Ashgabat soon, Niyazov announced. (Interfax)

Report Cites Surge In Opium Output In Afghanistan, Concern Over Turkmenistan
3 March 2004

By Nikola Krastev

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) remains seriously concerned that despite commitment and efforts by the Afghan Transitional Administration, increasingly widespread illicit cultivation of opium poppy is taking place.

In 2003, the report said illicit opium-poppy cultivation had spread to new areas, although a decrease was noted in the traditional poppy-growing provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Oruzgan.

The reports notes that drug trade in Afghan opiates generates funds that corrupt institutions, finance terrorism and insurgency, and lead to a destabilization of the region. Opium is used to make heroin and other illegal drugs.

In 2001, the INCB initiated Operation Topaz, an international monitoring operation focusing on acetic anhydride, a critical chemical used in the manufacture of heroin. The report notes with satisfaction that Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan joined Operation Topaz in 2003. But the board expressed deep concern over continued noncooperation on the part of Turkmenistan.

Vincent McClean, who is the New York representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said that the INCB is trying to involve Turkmenistan in its activities but so far without much success. "Various steps have been taken to integrate [Turkmenistan] with the drug-control measures that are being taken and [the report] talks about a number of cooperative activities, but it does in that paragraph urge Turkmenistan to strengthen its regional cooperation efforts and to join the international community in the fight against drugs," he said.

The INCB is also concerned that Turkmenistan has failed to take part in several regional and sub-regional drug-control activities and that the country was not actively participating in those cooperation arrangements that it had formally joined. The active cooperation of Turkmenistan, a country that shares a 700-kilometer border with Afghanistan, is seen as essential for the success of global efforts to prevent smuggling of illicit drugs.

Gregory D. Lee is a former supervisory special agent for the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He is the author of "Global Drug Enforcement: Practical Investigative Techniques" and spent a number of years during his active career in Central Asia. Lee told RFE/RL that lack of cooperation on the part on Turkmenistan may be the result of a different view among Turkmen officials on stopping the drug trade.

"There's a possibility that they look at it as a trade issue. There's also the aspect of how do you enforce something when you don't have the means to do it? Their law-enforcement structure could be such that they don't have the training or the background, or they don't perceive it as a problem in their own nation that will warrant expending time and money and resources to help other nations when they have so many problems on their own," Lee said.

The INCB report says that the use of injection drugs is the major driver of HIV/AIDS epidemics in a number of countries. In the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe, McClean said something like 90 percent of new infections are caused by injecting drugs and sharing needles. It's also the major cause of HIV/AIDS infection in China, where there's a burgeoning epidemic.

"Governments need to adopt measures to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS, measures such as needle-exchange schemes for injecting drug users but [should ensure] that those measures should not promote or facilitate drug abuse," McClean said.

The INCB report says that Central Asia suffers from widespread drug trafficking, yet it has relatively low levels of violent drug-related crime. That may be due to strong family ties and the influence of strict social norms. However, the report says evidence suggests that this picture might be changing.

The INCB notes in its report the increasing use of the Internet and postal services for illicit trade in narcotics and psychotropic substances, including the smuggling of drugs diverted from domestic distribution channels.

The full text of the report can be found at (RFE/RL)