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Turkmen Report: September 9, 2000


9 September 2000
HUMAN RIGHTS AND POLITICAL NEWS
Niyazov Lashes Out Against Corrupt Officials
September 8, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov condemned several officials who he said have abused their power.

At the Ministers' Cabinet meeting yesterday, Niyazov lashed out against a wide-spread corruption in the country, particularly saying poor harvests in Dashoguz region are due to the lack of discipline among the region's leadership.

Following the accusations in corruption, the President dismissed the head of the Dashoguz region Yazgeldy Gundogdyev and the head of the state "Obakhyzmaty" agricultural concern Serdar Babayev.

Niyazov also discussed at the meeting a historical conference to take place in Ashgabat in mid-October. According to Neutral Turkmenistan daily, the conference is expected to draw 175 prominent experts and historians. (RFE/RL - "Neutral Turkmenistan" daily)

Listeners' Letter Claims OSCE Mission In Ashgabat Does Little To Help
September 8, 2000

The OSCE mission in Ashgabat is not able to provide an adequate protection of human rights, says a letter from a group of RFE/RL listeners in Turkmenistan.

The letter recalls the hope that was associated with inauguration of the OSCE office in Ashgabat in 1998. "We thought that at least now there would be an authority that could put an end to arbitrary repressions by the government," the listeners write. However, the OSCE mission proved incapable of dealing with the Turkmen authorities.

While criticizing the OSCE mission overall, the letter praises efforts of Piotr Iwaszkiewicz, a former Human Rights officer whom the authorities forced to leave Turkmenistan. "He took risks, met with people, tried to help, and even though he did not achieve much, at least the authorities were well aware of the OSCE presence in the country."

The new OSCE officials in Ashgabat do not communicate with anybody, rarely leave their offices, and refuse to meet with people who come to visit, the letter says. It further mentions rumors circulating in Ashgabat claiming that the OSCE officials are either Communists or that they have been bribed by the regime of President Niyazov.

As one of the suggestions, the letter says the OSCE mission could achieve more if its leadership would not be changed every year, but would work as a unit for 4-5 years. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen FM Seeks Reform Of UN, Deplores War in Afghanistan
September 7, 2000

Batyr Berdyev, the foreign minister of Turkmenistan, told the United Nations today that the organization needs to be reformed. But he rejected the idea that it be dissolved.

Berdyev said the UN can do its job most effectively if it expands the Security Council to better reflect the diversity of the organization's membership.

In a speech to the UN's "Millennium Summit" in New York, the foreign minister also deplored the civil war that continues to rage in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan's neighbor. But he cautioned that any outside involvement in the conflict would be - as he put it - "doomed to failure."

Berdyev also forwarded to those attending the summit the regrets of his president, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov's ill health prevented him from joining other heads of state at the meeting. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen TV To Air German Language Courses
September 6, 2000

Turkmen TV Channel 3 is to begin airing German language courses, Turkmen State News Service reported following a meeting in Ashgabat between German embassy officials and representatives of the Turkmen television. The program has been endorsed by the Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov and will be aired daily. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen State News Service)

U.S. Report Says Turkmenistan Restricts Religious Freedom
September 5, 2000

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State released today its 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

With respect to Turkmenistan, the report maintains that the Turkmen government "restricts all religious expression except for the two registered groups, Sunni Muslims and Russian Orthodox Christians. Unregistered groups are discouraged from holding gatherings, disseminating religious materials or proselytizing, although some unregistered congregations exist."

The U.S. State Department report cites particular cases of violations of religious freedom and government crackdown on Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witnesses and Baha'i congregations.

The report mentions that in April 2000, new procedures ordered by President Saparmurat Niyazov and approved by the Parliament limited house searches by government authorities and restricted their ability to institute criminal proceedings against Turkmen citizens. These measures resulted in a decline of harassment of religious believers.

However, the report says that overall respect for religious freedom had declined, "the government became more intolerant of religious minorities and increased its interference with their religious observances." (U.S. State Department)

Turkmenistan To Step Up Cooperation With India
September 4, 2000

Turkmen radio reports that President Saparmurat Niyazov met today with the Minister of Tourism and Culture of the Republic of India, Ananth Kumar.

Kumar heads an Indian delegation that will participate in the days of Indian culture due to start in Ashgabat today.

Kumar and Niyazov discussed ways of cooperation between India and Turkmenistan, particularly in the fields of education, archeology, professional training, research, and economy. The Turkmen president briefed his guest on prospects for setting up a joint working group for a bilateral fuel and energy project. The two sides agreed that the project will be addressed further during the visit of India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to Turkmenistan. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen Radio)

ECONOMIC NEWS
Turkmenistan's Industrial Output Up 18% In January-August
September 8, 2000

Turkmenistan posted industrial output of 9.6 trillion manats (5,200 manats/$1) in the first eight months of 2000, up 18% in comparable prices.

The national statistics institute reported that the major industries, including state companies, posted output of 6.9 trillion manats, up 26% year-on-year.

State fuel and energy companies account for 66% of production. Light industry is accountable for 17% of production. (Interfax)

Turkmenistan Is Newest Asian Development Bank Member
September 7, 2000

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said today it has accepted Turkmenistan as its newest member and plans to send an economic mission soon to help decide how it can best assist the former Soviet republic.

The Manila-based ADB said Turkmenistan became the bank's 59th member on August 31.

"ADB, which seeks to reduce poverty in Asia, expects to focus on giving the poor better access to income-generating opportunities and to basic social services in the country," the bank said in a statement.

The bank noted that a decline in income since Turkmenistan's independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has been "accompanied by a deterioration in social indicators" with per capita income estimated at 640 dollars per year.

The ADB said it will also support efforts to reform the economy, which is mainly dependent on the production of primary goods, especially natural gas, oil and cotton.

"State-owned enterprises still comprise 90 per cent of the Turkmenistan economy, which is undergoing transition from a command to a market economy," the statement said.

Turkmenistan, which has the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas and possesses substantial oil resources, was the largest natural gas producer in Central Asia during the Soviet era. But production declined due to reduced market access. (DPA)

Ashgabat Cannot Develop Kyapaz Field Without Azerbaijan - SOCAR Chief
September 5, 2000

Turkmenistan cannot develop the Kapyaz deposit without Azerbaijan, director of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) Ilham Aliyev told journalists today.

He noted that according to Azerbaijani specialists, 20-30% of the deposit is located in the Turkmen sector. The Azerbaijani side has suggested setting up a joint venture on a 50-50 basis to announce a tender and find a foreign partner for joint development of the deposit. However, the Turkmen side insists that the Kyapaz deposit fully belongs to Turkmenistan, Aliyev said.

"Given this position, any negotiations are out of question, and it seems to us that in putting forward these unacceptable conditions, Turkmenistan in not interested in joint development of the Kapyaz deposit," Aliyev said.

He further maintained that Turkmenistan's claims are groundless and that it is not capable of developing the Kapyaz field without Azerbaijan since it would have to incur additional expenses. Aliyev said Turkmenistan would have to build a new infrastructure and a new platform and to construct a pipeline from Kapyaz to the shores of Turkmenistan. Not a single serious foreign company would work under these conditions because it would not be in its economic interests, Aliyev claimed.

An agreement on exploring and developing the Kapyaz deposit was singed in Moscow in 1997 with participation of Lukoil (30%), Rosneft (20%), and SOCAR (50%). However, Rosneft later withdrew from the project.

The Kapyaz deposit is located 145 kilometers from Baku on the Azerbaijani-Turkmen border of the Caspian. SOCAR specialists forecast the deposit's oil reserves of over 100 million tons. (Interfax, BBC Central Asia Monitoring - ANS TV, Azerbaijan)

Kazakhstan To Toughen Hydro-Meteorological Monitoring In The Caspian
September 5, 2000

Over the next two to three years Kazgidromet plans to increase monitoring of weather and pollution conditions in the Caspian, Kazgidromet General Director Tursynbek Kudekov said in Almaty at the fifth session of the coordinating committee for meteorology and pollution monitoring in the Caspian Sea.

According to an Interfax correspondent, directors from the meteorological services in Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will take part in the session, which is taking place on September 5-6. (Interfax)

REGIONAL NEWS
U.S.-Based Watchdog Voices Concern Over Kyrgyz Vote
September 8, 2000

A U.S. government-funded institute says Kyrgyzstan's October presidential polls are being undermined by a controversial language exam. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs says six candidates had been barred after failing the Kyrgyz language test according to criteria that are neither public nor uniform. (RFE/RL)

Red Cross Say Tajikistan Urgently Needs Food Aid
September 8. 2000

The International Red Cross is seeking more donations to buy food for Tajikistan, where crops have been devastated by a drought.

Red Cross executive Roger Bracke heads a team that has spent the past two weeks visiting the worst hit areas. He said in Dushanbe today 250,000 people are in serious need of food.

Bracke plans to ask donor countries for five million to seven million dollars to buy at least 25,000 tons of food and wheat seed for next year's crop.

The Tajik agriculture ministry says this year's drought-related losses total nearly 50 million dollars. So far, only the United States and Germany have answered the Tajik government's request for food aid. (RFE/RL)

Tashkent Denies Reports Of Having Political Prisoners
September 6, 2000

The Uzbek authorities have denied media reports that there are political prisoners in the country.

The reports about "200 more political prisoners" appearing in Uzbekistan are not true, Uzbek Justice Minister Abdusamat Polvonzoda told the press today.

He dismissed as a crude distortion of evident facts media claims that freedom of conscience is restricted.

Uzbekistan has banned the operations of extremist religious organizations, movements and sects encouraging terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, he said.

"Extremists have nothing in common with true Islam. They are using the religion of Muslims to camouflage their true objectives of overthrowing the constitutional system and seizing power," Polvonzoda said, adding that groups led by Takhir Yuldash and Juma Khodzhiyev (Namangani) have declared a jihad [the holy war] against Uzbekistan and its people.

"There is reliable evidence that members of their gang committed scores of murders and armed robberies against peaceful families in the republic," Polvonzoda said. (Interfax)

Taleban Forces Reportedly Take Coveted City In Afghanistan
September 6, 2000

The Afghan Islamic Press reports today that Afghanistan's ruling Taleban militia has captured the key opposition-held northern city of Taloqan.

The Pakistan-based news agency quoted Taleban and independent sources saying Taleban forces entered the city early today after weeks of fighting.

The report said forces of main opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood strongly resisted the attack in eastern parts of Taloqan but later retreated.

Taloqan was the administrative center of the anti-Taleban alliance led by Masood. The city, which lies close to the border with Tajikistan, has remained the main supply route for Masood's forces. (RFE/RL)

CIS Ministers Discuss Anti-Terrorist Fight In Central Asia
September 6, 2000

The interior ministers of 12 former Soviet states are meeting in Kyrgyzstan today to discuss a joint program to combat terrorism amid a series of Islamic incursions across Central Asia.

A Kyrgyz interior ministry spokesman said before the meeting in Bishkek that the ministers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will exchange opinions on the joint program for combating international terrorism and extremism from 2000 to 2003.

The CIS comprises all the countries of the former Soviet Union apart from the three Baltic republics.

The ministers are expected to sign agreements on cooperation to counter terrorism and the repatriation of juvenile criminals during three days of talks in the Cholpon-Ata resort in Kyrgyzstan.

The meeting convened against a backdrop of incursions into southern Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan by some 200 Muslim insurgents, who are seeking to create an Islamic state in Central Asia's Ferghana Valley. (RFE/RL)

Another Journalist Interrogated In Azerbaijan
September 5, 2000

The New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a report today alleging that "in a widening crackdown on local media, Azeri authorities called in a second editor for questioning in connection with recent attempted hijacking in the Azeri enclave of Nakhchivan."

CPJ said Gunduz Tahirli, editor of Azerbaijan's leading independent daily Azadlyg, was questioned for almost three hours on September 4 at the prosecutor general's office. Tahirli later told the local press that his visit to the prosecutor's office was connected to the arrest of Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition daily Yeni Musavat, and the attempted plane hijacking on August 18.

Arifoglu, editor of the opposition daily Yeni Musavat, was arrested on August 22. After a week in solitary confinement at the Ministry for National Security, he was formally charged with illegal possession of arms, terrorism, and organizing an attempted hijacking. The Musavat opposition party had denied any involvement in the case.

Following his arrest, Arifoglu started a hunger strike, and according to CPJ, his health has deteriorated significantly since his detention. He was forced to end his strike on September 3, but the Azeri authorities deny reports about his bad health.

CPJ had said earlier it feared that Arifoglu's arrest, along with other press freedom violations in Azerbaijan, constitutes an organized government campaign to stifle independent media in Azerbaijan in advance of scheduled parliamentary elections November 5. (CPJ)

Kyrgyzstan Sentences 9 For Attempt On President's Life
September 4, 2000

A trial of nine persons accused of preparations for an attempt on Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev's life and overthrow of the state's constitutional system has been wrapped up in Bishkek.

The nine people were arrested in May of 1999 and charged with preparations for a terrorist attack against the president and an attempt to overthrow the constitutional system, Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies have told Interfax. The charges were supported by the investigation that was completed in August of 2000.

Seven people have been sentenced to 16-17 years in prison and confiscation of their property. Another two have been given suspended sentences of 3 and 4 years in prison.

Among those sentenced to 16 years in prison is the prominent Kyrgyz human rights worker and the head of the Kyrgyz Prisoners of Conscience Guild, Toichubek Turgunaliyev who refused to plead guilty. (Interfax)

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Learning To Love Turkmenbashi
Mariya Rasner, RFE/RL

Special for Transitions On Line

September 4, 2000

Every day in the lives of Turkmen school children begins with an oath:

"Turkmenistan, my beloved motherland, my beloved homeland! You are always with me in my thoughts and in my heart. For the slightest evil against you let my hand be lost. For the slightest slander about you let my tongue be lost. At the moment of my betrayal to my motherland, to her sacred banner, to Saparmurat Turkmenbashi let my breath stop."

In the morning, children line up at schools, recite the oath, kiss the national flag - one after the other, in the same spot - and only then begin their studies. Many college and university students go through a similar ritual. Afterwards, they attend lectures on "Domestic and International Politics of the Turkmenbashi," "Saparmurat Turkmenbashi's Teachings About Society," "Introduction to Patriotism," and "Politics of Independence and Neutrality." In the absence of textbooks - there are only a few, none have been published since the 1970s - students rely on newspapers. Again, there are only a few, but at least they provide some information - sometimes.

The 2 August issue of the Neutral Turkmenistan daily, for instance, writes about an "important" meeting of the country's leading teachers, professors, and education officials. They came together in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat to discuss the latest educational reforms and a new university admission policy. The paper quotes one of the participants at the meeting, a university dean, announcing the inauguration of a research center, which is to study a variety of subjects as directed by the "educational teachings of Saparmurat Turkmenbashi about society, the use of the Turkmen language, translation techniques and theories, textbook publishing..." The list of teachings to be followed goes on and on, as do assertions of loyalty to the "highly esteemed" Saparmurat Turkmenbashi.

But the highly esteemed gentleman is no linguist or teacher. Neither is he a heavenly body to whom school prayers should be addressed. He is Saparmurat Niyazov, the former Communist leader of the Soviet republic of Turkmenia, now the president of sovereign Turkmenistan and the self-proclaimed "father of all Turkmen." Education in the republic, not to mention other spheres of public life, begins here. To a large extent, here is where it also ends.

"We don't have computers. We don't have textbooks. We don't have the international press. But we do have Turkmenbashi," says Ayna, a young woman from Ashgabat - and she knows the system firsthand. As a former history student at Ashgabat State University, she has seen a number of changes introduced in the education system since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, yet none for the better. In universities, hours of foreign language and world history studies have been cut, as has general mandatory attendance in secondary schools: what used to be an 11-year secondary education term is now only nine. This, in effect, prevents Turkmen children from gaining acceptance at Russian universities, which do not recognize diplomas that took less than 10 years to earn.

The duration of university education has also been cut, from four years to three. And the quality of this education is another, even more dismal story. "Rather than intensive, it is extensive - in the wrong direction, that is," Ayna says. Education in Turkmenistan is directed exclusively inwards; it locks on the country itself in a strange, narcissistic way. Many courses taught at universities deal with the politics of neutrality, and there is even a class on "market reforms" in Turkmenistan.

Ayna laughs, saying there is no such thing as market reforms in her country. In fact, it is notorious for corruption and extreme impoverishment of the population. Despite possessing the world's fourth-richest oil reserves, Turkmenistan has not been able to win favorable trade agreements with foreign clients and is instead caught in a Soviet-style economic culture mixed with feudal trade relations.

As a result, universities that offer classes on market economy have nothing to teach. With the absence of a subject matter or a textbook, Ayna says her professor simply gave all students a passing grade at the end of the term.

The professor of the politics of neutrality class shared similar teaching techniques. "No textbook, no politics," he told students at the beginning of the school year and freed everyone from attending the class - covertly, of course.

Still, the presence of textbooks would unlikely have made the course any more meaningful. International experts have long said that Turkmenistan's status as a neutral state, which it won from the United Nations in 1995, is none other than an open road to isolationism.

The few courses that deal with the world outside Turkmenistan also suffer from a lack of resources, textbooks, and qualified professors. For instance, the textbook for modern world history class failed to mention the collapse of the Berlin wall. No, Ayna explains, it's not that the course ignored this particular subject matter; "it's just that the textbook ended sometime in the 60s." Professors do little to fill in the gaps, and even if they tried, only a handful of them have knowledge worth sharing and the courage to speak out.

After the country's independence, many expected to see at least some liberalization in social norms and political attitudes in Turkmenistan. But, Ayna laments, reflecting on what she calls her people's indolence, "we have a saying, a verse: 'While the country is in uproar, the Turkmen sleeps.'"

Indeed, little has improved in Turkmenistan since Soviet times, and education remains largely a matter of fortitude. Another former student from Turkmenistan, Gozel, remembers that in her school days in the mid-1990s, students interested in aspects of Turkmenistan's domestic and foreign policy other than "patriotism" and "neutrality" ran the risk of being expelled for "undermining the country's national values." New textbooks written by Turkmen professors - and there were some - were subjected to such political scrutiny that none ended up being published. And in 1998, Niyazov ordered the elimination of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan for no apparent reason - at least no reason that was publicly discussed.

Students and teachers fear being expelled or fired for speaking out. Perhaps the most famous political prisoner in Turkmenistan, Nurberdy Nurmamedov, in the beginning of the 1990s headed a technology research institute until he was asked to resign because of "anti-government" activity. Turkmen officials monitor all movement in and out of the republic, confiscating foreign newspapers at the border and controlling all cyber-traffic on the Web. In fact, in May of this year, the Turkmen Communications Ministry revoked the operating licenses of all private Internet and electronic mail providers, confirming Turkmenistan's reputation - according to the French watchdog, Raporteurs Sans Frontiers - as a "black hole where information is concerned."

Student exchange programs are regulated by the government as well. On August 7, U.S. Ambassador to Ashgabat Steven Mann met with President Niyazov to discuss U.S.-Turkmen educational exchanges. A few days before their meeting, RFE/RL reported that 38 Turkmen students who had been selected to attend American universities were prevented from leaving the country. On August 9, the Turkmen press said the students were finally on their way to America. When TOL attempted to verify claims that the students had indeed left for the United States, telephone calls went unanswered.

In 1992, Ayna was among several hundred Turkmen students who applied to study at a university in Turkey. As a result of a tough selection process involving exams and interviews, more than a hundred boys and only eight girls gained admission. Ayna was one of them. Then came President Niyazov's decree forbidding the girls from leaving the country.

"We heard afterwards that it was because of prostitution in Turkey," Ayna says, shaking her head. "But girls from other Central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan - went. Absent were only the Turkmen girls."

Turkmenistan is a predominantly Muslim country, and the president's apparent concern about prostitution would have met fewer doubts if he was known as a religious believer himself. Yet, considering the number of mosques destroyed at his direct orders and the abundance of his own portraits covering the streets of Turkmenistan - Islam forbids worship of images, - that does not seem to be the case. What the Turkmen president is notorious for, however, is convoluted, circular rhetoric.

During his meeting with education officials in late July, Niyazov reproved them for their poor knowledge of the Turkmen language. As a remedy, he closed the Department of Turkmen Language and Literature at the Institute of World Languages in Ashgabat and insisted that languages should not be taught in secondary schools. To the Turkmenbashi, that logic made perfect sense: He said that since children, and officials, fail to learn languages at schools, language classes should be abandoned entirely. Instead, Niyazov proposed to create "self-financing, special language training centers" to accommodate anyone "[planning] to work in a foreign firm or [wanting] to teach foreign languages to his children." And, the president added, "if there is a family with a low income that cannot afford payment, the courses can be free for them."

An absolute majority of Turkmen families have little, or nonexistent, incomes. Some children do not attend school because of a lack of clothing. Many schools are run-down and demand renovation. Yet, any work in these areas must be done by teachers and students themselves - in most such cases, the government stays uninvolved and gives no assistance.

Meanwhile, nothing is free. According to sources in Turkmenistan, every year just prior to entrance exam dates, students seeking university admission face the same question: "how much?" This is what the locals call "a tuition fee" in a country that prides itself for providing its citizens with free education. In reality, young people pay thousands of dollars in bribes for a chance to study. "Official" rates vary depending on the program, the region where the applicant is from, and the year of studies. Moreover, the bribing starts long before students even get to the university doorsteps, as they must first "buy" results of school exams in order to graduate from secondary school.

Many in Turkmenistan fear that this year's "tuition fees" may skyrocket due to Niyazov's latest innovations in the education system. At the same meeting with the education officials in July, the president not only suggested revamping university curricula, clearing them of foreign language classes and other subjects "unrelated to a student's chosen profession;" he also announced that the government and individual ministries will now be able to recommend students for college or university admission. Moreover, all applicants will have to undergo a genealogical background check three generations back. According to Niyazov, "the criterion in competition for the title of a student should be such key factors as patriotism, general educational and cultural level, and psychological computability with the highest requirements of a chosen profession."

All of this appears to mean that the tuition fees will go up and the number of students will continue to decline. And despite Niyazov's assertions that the background check is not meant as a way of gathering compromising information about applicants, the government will have that information at its disposal. But Ayna, for one, says she is not surprised: In Turkmenistan, she says, "education is no education, it's politics."

Der Turkmenbaschi
Frankfurter Rundshau

September 4, 2000

Hand aufs Herz, liebe Leserin, lieber Leser, geben Sie es ruhig zu: Sie haben es nicht gemerkt. Und schauen Sie nur in den Stapel Altpapier, den Sie vielleicht ein Archiv nennen - ach, tun Sie's nicht. Wir n�mlich, wir nichtsnutzigen Journalisten, haben es auch nicht gemerkt. Aber es war sensationell, was am 18. August geschah und wor�ber uns der Staatliche Turkmenische Nachrichtendienst jetzt aufkl�rt.

Welche Sensation? Hat die Eintracht gewonnen? Hat Schr�der regiert? Ist Putin Demokrat geworden? Wurden die USA meistbietend versteigert?

Nein, um solche Bagatellen handelt es sich nicht, vielmehr, wir zitieren: "An diesem Tage, der in unseren Herzen auf der Ebene der Ahnungen und Gef�hle schon bestanden hatte, war es, als ob Zauberkraft uns auf eine h�here Ebene der Weisheit gehoben h�tte, Weisheit, die wie eine �ber diesem Land nie untergehende Sonne scheint, die uns das Licht des Verstehens schenkt, das Licht der guten Taten f�r die Welt."

Kurz, der Turkmenbaschi hat eine Rede gehalten. Turkmenbaschi, mit b�rgerlichem Namen Saparmurad Nijasow, f�llt in Turkmenistans die Rollen des Staatschefs, der Partei, der Justiz, der Bildung, kurz: des ganzen Volkes aus, was durch den bescheidenen Hinweis auf die guten Taten f�r die Welt ja auch dezent angedeutet wird. "Der Fortschritt der Menschheit", hat er gesagt, "wird durch eine Kombination von Ideen und Philosophien bestimmt."

Da bleibt glatt die Sonne stehen und scheint und scheint in unbarmherzigem Wohlwollen auf Gerechte sowie auch Ungerechte, so dass selbst am Pol das Eis schmilzt.

Das Eis schmilzt? Am Pol? Das haben wir, wie das W�hlen im Altpapier bzw. Archiv uns enth�llt, tats�chlich gemerkt und gemeldet. Wie haben wir uns bem�ht, die Ursachen herauszufinden. Globale Erw�rmung und �hnliche Katastrophen haben wir als letzten Grund daf�r beschrieben, aber auf deren gr�*ten sind wir nicht gekommen - den Turkmenbaschi.

Wunder geschehen, der Wohlt�ter erl�sst den Teppichkn�pfern die Schulden, weil "die Glorie des Teppichkn�pfens eine staatliche Priorit�t ist", und nebenan in Usbekistan gibt es unversehens keinen einzigen politischen Gefangenen mehr. Das verdanken wir dem hohen Bewusstsein des F�hrers aller Turkmenen. Es muss an der Sonne liegen, die �ber ihm zu scheinen nie aufh�rt.

Russian Deal For Turkmen Gas: Good For Both Sides
Michael Lelyveld, RFE/RL

September 6, 2000

A deal reached by Russia for additional gas supplies from Turkmenistan seems to show the practicality but also the weakness of President Vladimir Putin in meeting his country's energy needs.

On September 1, Russia agreed to buy 10,000 million cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan in addition to the 20,000 million cubic meters that is already covered by a contract for this year. Russia will pay 38 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters, which is more than the 36 dollars that Turkmenistan charges for current supplies.

For months, the Russian side insisted that it would pay only 32 dollars, while Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov floated demands for 40 dollars or more. In the end, Russia compromised by giving more ground than the Turkmen side and agreeing to pay a higher price than it bargained for in 1999.

The process was a waiting game for Niyazov, who seems to delight in endless negotiation. An agreement was to have been ready for Putin's trip to Ashgabat in May, but the deadline passed without a deal. Russia may have calculated that Turkmenistan would run out of cash, because its export options are few. Niyazov seems to have counted on Russia's need to meet its export commitments to Europe and its domestic demand. This time, Niyazov played the better hand.

Over the past month, Niyazov has shown his independence by disagreeing with Russia over a legal division of Caspian resources and voicing new interest in a trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which is backed by the United States.

Last week, Putin called Niyazov and committed Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev to settle the supply issue with a visit to Ashgabat. Instead, Gazprom's trading partner Itera concluded the agreement in what looks like a foregone conclusion to the deal.

While Niyazov has assured Turkmenistan of more income this year, Russia may also be getting a bargain, even at the higher price. As with earlier agreements, Russia will only have to pay 40 percent in cash with the remainder in goods. The latest agreement for 10,000 million cubic meters is for more than the 8,000 million that Gazprom said it wanted only two weeks ago.

The deal comes as Gazprom is selling more gas to Europe at higher rates, allowing it to make a substantial profit on Turkmen supplies.

According to the SKRIN Issuer news service, Gazprom's average price for gas in Europe rose to 90 dollars per thousand cubic meters in the first half of this year, up 32 percent from the comparable period in 1999. Gazprom's volume of exports to Europe also rose 2.5 percent in the first seven months of this year.

The profit from exports will help Russia cover the losses from subsidized domestic rates for gas. During a stop in the Russian Far East on Sunday, Putin noted that gas is being sold for as little as 12 dollars per thousand cubic meters at home, suggesting that rates may be raised. The situation may be a sign that Putin felt unable to maintain the upper hand with Turkmenistan for long. Without new Turkmen supplies, Gazprom might have been stretched thin by the combination of higher exports to Europe and winter needs in Russia, where prices are still low.

Putin may also have saved the hardest bargaining for last. Although the two sides previously discussed an increase in Turkmen deliveries to as much as 50,000 million cubic meters a year, no long-term agreement has been reached. Russia will soon have to open talks on winter gas to come after the end of this year.

The outcome could keep other countries guessing. Developers of the trans-Caspian pipeline from Turkmenistan to Turkey feared that a big long-term deal with Moscow would keep Ashgabat from supplying enough gas for the competitive project.

Ukraine has also been hoping to negotiate a deal for Turkmen gas that would ease its concerns over its debt to Russia and a possible cutoff this winter. Russia's agreement may ensure that Kyiv can only look to Moscow for supplies.

If nothing else, the deal maintains Russia's primary relationship with Turkmenistan and keeps it as a dependable supplier. That advantage alone may make it worthwhile for Russia to pay a few dollars more.

Islam, Extremism And Central Asia
Professor Nadir Devlet, Marmara University, Turkey

September 7, 2000

An expression "Islamic extremism" has become a household item in the western and Russian press. This fact annoys the majority of Muslim peoples, because the expression creates a negative attitude towards the Muslims among the non-Muslims.

Muslim peoples account for almost one fifth or one sixth of the earth population. There are more than twenty five Muslim states in the world and Muslim minorities in many other countries. If we consider all terrorist acts in which the Muslims have been involved as "Islamic terrorism," we could as well make an analogy and consider all terrorist acts involving Christians - in Northern Ireland, Spain, and France - as "Christian terrorism."

Certainly, there are cases when radical Muslim movements try to force their extremist will upon other peoples or governments. However, in general, when the local Muslims rise against the authorities, they do so seeking independence or greater social, economical, cultural or political rights. Such revolts occur especially where the authorities exercise political pressure and where people suffer from poverty and unemployment.

Nevertheless, the terms "Islamic extremism," "terrorism," and "insurgency" are being used today by the Central Asian leadership. Two countries, Russia and China, have encountered serious problems dealing with some of their Muslim population. The escalating violence, originating but not limited to Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan) and Chechnya (Ichkeria), provoked Russia's and China's fears of American and NATO support of separatist movements. As a result, China and Russia have been recently displaying stronger partnership, sponsoring establishment of the Shanghai-Five group to counter American influence in Asia.

Every regime, democratic or not - as in Central Asia, - would use all means to retain its political power. For example, the Turkish authorities suppress underground militant Islamic organizations in Turkey which have tried to establish an Islamic shariah (the Muslim code of religious law) system to the country. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem has recently offered Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan "financial and psychological assistance" in the battle against the Islamic extremists. Whether these countries will accept the Turkish offer is not clear yet. Uzbek-Turkish relations are on their lowest level yet. According to a September 5 Turkish press report, the Uzbek president Islam Karimov refused a breakfast invitation from the Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer at the UN Millennium summit in New York. Therefore, we can assume that Turkey's assistance in combating terrorism in Uzbekistan will not be welcomed by Karimov.

But given the rising poverty and dissatisfaction among the people, Central Asian countries need foreign aid. Tajik, Uzbek and Kyrgyz governments are fighting the Islamic militants, and they may not be able to tackle the problem by their own means.

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov told foreign ambassadors in Tashkent on August 31 that Uzbekistan had requested no military assistance from any country, and Colonel General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the Russian Army General Staff, denied that any of the Central Asian states has requested help from Moscow to combat the Islamist. Still, the Russian involvement should be expected.

The core of the problems in Central Asia lies in Afghanistan: it is believed the Taleban regime is supporting Islamic insurgents to overthrow the secular governments in former Soviet republics. Therefore, Moscow has established contacts with one of the Afghan opposition leaders, General Dostum.

Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov's "peace initiative" is another effort to find a solution. Boris Shikhmuradov, Turkmenistan's special envoy on Afghanistan, met on September 2 in Dushanbe with the Afghan opposition chief Ahmad Shah Masood. Shikhmuradov also met earlier in Kandahar with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban militia.

Turkey has backed up Turkmenistan's initiative. At the meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Batyr Berdyev in Ankara on September 1, Turkish FM Ismail Cem said Turkmenistan occupies a pivotal place in Central Asia and a very important place in Turkish foreign policy.

In the past, when the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan, anti-Soviet Muslim forces were called "freedom fighters" and received the necessary military equipment and financial support from the United States and Saudi Arabia. But when the Soviet forces retreated from Afghanistan in the end of 1989, the West lost interest in the Afghan people.

After several years of civil war in Afghanistan, the Taleban forces took control of almost 90 percent of the country. The Taleban regime believes in the extremist interpretation of Islamic law and is trying to introduce its version to its neighbors. However, the Central Asian governments are largely secular, using Islam only as a political tool, and given dissatisfaction among the people and its readiness to rise up against the local regimes, Central Asian rulers risk to lose power with the coming of Islam to their countries.

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