24 June 2002
Turkmenistan To Have Presidential Election In 5-6 Years
21 June 2002
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was congratulated on the 10th anniversary of his election on 21 June, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. A concert in the Rukhiet Palace in Ashgabat was given in honor of the event. "We will have a presidential election in five or six years. Those who may run for president must start preparing themselves for the role of the national leader now," Niyazov said.
Ministers, foreign ambassadors, and numerous representatives of foreign companies working in Turkmenistan did not have a chance to present flowers to the president. "I have plenty of work to do today," Niyazov said when bidding farewell to the guests.
The last presidential election in Turkmenistan took place on 21 June 1992, with 99.5 percent of vote for Niyazov, who had previously been the president of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic since 1991.
Niyazov's term was extended for five years in January 1994 by a referendum, and the People's Council declared him president for life in December 2000, though he later said on his 61st birthday in February 2001 that he would step down in 2010. (ITAR-TASS)
Turkmen Security Committee Head Gets 20 Years
19 June 2002
Turkmenistan's Supreme Court has sentenced the former chairman of the National Security Committee (KNB, former KGB), Mukhammed Nazarov, and his deputy Khayyt Kakaev to 20-year prison terms, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. They will spend three years in jail and the remainder of their sentence they will be kept in a high-security correctional facility. Nazarov and Kakaev were found guilty of premeditated murder, torture, drug trafficking, abuse of power, illegal arrest, and taking bribes.
Also, another former department head, A. Allakuliev, was found guilty of the same crimes and sentenced to 18 years in prison. A state commission, formed on Niyazov's orders, had held an investigation since March which resulted in more than 70 criminal cases. (Interfax, ITAR-TASS)
Turkmenistan To Abolish Free Higher Education
19 June 2002
As part of a broad reform of higher education, beginning in 2003 students will have to pay to study at Turkmenistan's 16 state universities, Deutsche Welle's Russian Service reported on 19 June.
Entrance examinations will focus on the student's proposed discipline and the biography and writings of President Niyazov. After two years' study, students will be required to work in the economy for two years before completing their studies.
A Turkmen journalist, who preferred to remain unnamed, characterized the innovations as part of Niyazov's deliberate attempt to lower educational standards, along with the abolition of Russian-language teaching in schools that will deprive students of the opportunity to study in Russia or other CIS states. (Deutsche Welle)
Record Amount Of Wheat Harvested From Niyazov's Own Field
18 June 2002
President Niyazov supplied to the state over 252 tons of wheat harvested from his personal plot of 60 hectares in the mountainous region outside Ashgabat, Interfax reported on 18 June citing Niyazov's press service.
The harvest averaged over 4.2 tons per hectare, according to the report. Niyazov donated the 198 million manats that he received for the grain to the construction of a mosque in his clan's village of Kipchak.
The Turkmen leader started farming nearly 10 years ago when he called on the country's senior officials to take the lead in overcoming food shortages. He called on all deputy prime ministers and cabinet ministers to rent 40 to 60 hectares of nonirrigated land along the road leading to their country homes and raise wheat with the help of their families.
"This harvest is nothing short of a miracle. Peasants have never seen this amount of wheat harvested on this kind of soil," the press service reports. (Interfax)
Iran, Kazakhstan discuss pipeline to Persian Gulf via Turkmenistan
17 June 2002
Iran has said it is ready to begin negotiations on a giant project to construct an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Persian Gulf via Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 June. The announcement was made by Iranian Ambassador to Astana Morteza Safari during talks with Kazakh Prime Minister Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov on 17 June.
According to the Kazakh government, the French company Total Fina Elf is planning to carry out feasibility studies on the proposed oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to Iran through Turkmenistan and on to the Persian Gulf. The Kazakh leadership has repeatedly expressed its interest in the construction of the pipeline. In April, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said his country "considers Iran as a promising export route for its oil." (ITAR-TASS)
Ashgabat and Tashkent Strengthen Ties
17 June 2002
During a phone conversation on 17 June, Turkmen and Uzbek Presidents Saparmurat Niyazov and Islam Karimov agreed to continue strengthening and deepening mutual cooperation, particularly in the fuel and energy sectors, turkmenistan.ru and Interfax reported. A representative Uzbek delegation will visit Turkmenistan shortly to discuss specific bilateral cooperation fields.
Karimov invited Niyazov to come to Tashkent on an official visit at any time convenient for him. "The invitation was accepted with gratitude. The exact time of the visit will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels," Niyazov's press service reported. (Turkmenistan.ru, Interfax)
Turkmenbashi Is Tired Of Too Much Praise
17 June 2002
President Niyazov asked journalists during a session of the cabinet of ministers not to link all publications and broadcast programs to his name, "to refrain from unlimited praise of the president," turkmenistan.ru reported on 17 June.
According to Niyazov, the media is linking all achievements of the country to the president's activity only, "which is unfair to the people, whose deeds should be covered by TV and radio." (Turkmenistan.ru)
Afghan Turkmen Say They Have Been Sidelined in Loya Jirga Process
18 June 2002
By Charles Recknagel
In the run-up to Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, district elections across the country were held to elect delegates to the assembly. Those elections were intended to assure that the interests of all Afghanistan's regions, and all its varied ethnic groups, would be represented at the national assembly.
But while the organizers of the Loya Jirga, and international election monitors, have called the district polls largely fair, they were also flawed. There were reports of local power holders bribing or intimidating candidates to drop out of races and that interference assured that many of Afghanistan's regional strongmen won elected seats to the assembly. Other powerful figures, such as provincial governors and top officials, joined the Loya Jirga as appointed delegates.
Among those complaining that they were pushed aside in the Loya Jirga elections are Afghanistan's ethnic Turkmen. Community leaders say that by the time the voting for delegates was complete, only 30 Turkmen became delegates to the assembly. They also say that many other candidates who tried to win election from Turkmen-majority areas were prevented from doing so by the non-Turkmen armed factions that control northern Afghanistan.
It is unclear how many ethnic Turkmen live in Afghanistan because no national census has been conducted for more than 20 years. But Turkmen leaders estimate the community numbers some 2 million people. The Turkmen have traditionally lived in the north of the country, but hundreds of thousands fled to Iran and Pakistan during the past two decades.
Abdullah Furqani is a community leader among the Turkmen refugees in Pakistan. He recently told our correspondent in Kabul that the Turkmens were deliberately excluded from the Loya Jirga process by more powerful ethnic groups. "Some people were forced to step back during the elections. As an example, in Kondoz province a person, whose name I won't tell you, was elected as a delegate. But he was threatened by some people that if he remained a delegate then dangerous consequences would await him. And in this way, they presented people from their own [non-Turkmen] tribe," Furqani said.
Most of the parts of northern Afghanistan where Turkmen live are under the control either of ethnic Uzbek-based or ethnic Tajik-based militias. The two most powerful regional leaders are ethnic Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum and ethnic Tajik commander Ustad Atta Mohammad. The two men are rivals for control of one of the region's largest cities, Mazar-i-Sharif, though both support the outgoing interim administration in Kabul. Dostum, who is interim deputy defense minister, is widely expected to take a top position in the new Transitional Authority. Atta Mohammad is a close associate of interim Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim, who is expected to keep his same position in the new government.
Turkmen leaders say that during the district elections they complained about their exclusion to the United Nations-assisted Special Independent Commission for Convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga. The commission, made up of 21 prominent Afghans, was tasked under the Bonn accord with organizing elections for the assembly and addressing complaints.
But according to Furqani, the Turkmens' complaints went unheeded. He said he traveled to Kabul to complain on behalf of Turkmen refugees in Pakistan after none of their candidates was chosen to represent the Afghan refugees in that country. The Turkmen refugee candidates had hoped to be chosen by the Special Independent Commission, which was responsible for appointing delegates to represent the large Afghan refugee and expatriate communities.
"Our problem is that we were completely forgotten and our delegates were not elected. Our Turkmen refugees in Pakistan requested me to come here because their rights were neglected, so despite having an official job I came to Kabul to talk to them. But no one even listened to me and they paid no attention to us at all," Furqani said.
Furqani said after his complaints were ignored, many Turkmen refugees in Pakistan became disillusioned with the Loya Jirga process. "Hearing that, the Turkmen refugees were completely disappointed and they said that until they were given their rights they would [maintain their distance from Afghanistan's factional conflicts] and stay in Pakistan as refugees. They also said they had lots of hopes for this Loya Jirga, but unfortunately they were disappointed," Furqani said.
The Special Independent Commission's spokesman, Ahmad Nader Nadery, told our correspondent that the commission did not receive complaints from the Turkmens. He also said that the rules governing the elections gave the Turkmens a fair chance to represent themselves at the Loya Jirga. "We never received complaints like this. Because, as you know, the rules for the election of the people was according to the size of the population of each district. And they can elect their own representatives [with the formula of] one delegate for every 25,000 people in the population. So, the number of the Turkmens that we have at the Loya Jirga is exactly according to the number of their population," Nadery said.
Nadery also said that if Turkmens voted for members of other ethnic groups to represent them, that would be in the spirit of the Loya Jirga process, which has sought to break down ethnic divisions in the country. "Something was new in this election. Even the Turkmen and the Uzbeks were ready to elect [representatives] from other ethnic groups. In this election it was not a matter of the ethnic division of the Afghans. It was about all the population of Afghanistan," Nadery said.
Nadery said that, for example, a large number of Pashtun and Tajik delegates were elected from majority-Uzbek districts. He said that showed a lack of ethnic divisions in such areas.
But while election officials argue that the Turkmens freely chose the delegates from their regions, community leaders say many Turkmen refugees in Pakistan are now putting off returning to northern Afghanistan because of concerns over what they call the intimidation of Turkmen candidates there.
If the Turkmens do not return, they could become one of the largest remaining refugee communities in Pakistan. Large numbers of refugees from other ethnic groups have already returned home since the inauguration of the interim administration in January. The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, predicts that a total of some 1.2 million Afghan refugees will return home from Pakistan and Iran by the end of this year.
Turkmen community leaders call the Turkmens' plight the result of refusing to organize their own armed factions to compete in Afghanistan's civil wars, something that has frequently meant they have been victimized by other militias. Instead of arming, the Turkmen have sought to maintain their economic self-sufficiency through carpet weaving and animal husbandry. Carpet weaving continues to sustain the large number of Turkmen refugees in Pakistan, giving them a means to delay their return home until they feel safe to do so.
The president-elect of Afghanistan's new Transitional Authority, Hamid Karzai, pledged to try to reduce the power of the country's militias as he was endorsed by the Loya Jirga late last week.
Karzai said at a news conference on 14 June that "our objective is to take Afghans to a better life, out of this quagmire of 23 years, a quagmire of warlordism, terrorism, and hunger." He also vowed to make his government representative of all the people of Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)