21 June 2004
Another Monument To Turkmen President Unveiled
A monument to Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov was unveiled on 21 June on the occasion of the 12th anniversary of his being elected president, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The bronze monument, which features Niyazov saying his oath at his inauguration on 21 June 1992, has been erected in front of the parliament building.
The cabinet of ministers, members of parliament, and representatives of the national movement Galkynysh attended the unveiling ceremony. Niyazov was absent. (ITAR-TASS)
Ombudsman Wants Rights Of Russians In Turkmenistan Protected
Russian Human-Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin has urged the authorities to help protect the rights of expatriate Russians living in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 16 June.
It is impermissible to strip expatriate Russians in Turkmenistan of the Russian citizenship they received when the dual citizenship treaty was in force, Lukin said.
"There was a process of Turkmenization of Russians in Turkmenistan. But if the dual citizenship treaty is no longer effective, those who received Russian citizenship should not be stripped of it, because the law is not retroactive. This contradicts any law anywhere, with the exception of some peculiar places," Lukin said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry held consultations with Turkmenistan on the issue, but they yielded no results, he said. "We know this country suggested a new round of consultations, and that is absolutely correct, but it is not clear when they are going to begin," Lukin said.
He said it is not clear how many people in Turkmenistan have dual citizenship. "The Turkmen say there are 30,000 of them, even though just recently there were hundreds of thousands," he said. (Interfax)
OSCE Envoy Praises Turkmenistan
Martti Ahtisaari, the envoy in Central Asia for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has praised the Turkmen government for broadening its contacts with international organizations, AP reported on 15 June.
The former Finnish president made the comments -- which were broadcast on 15 June on Turkmen state TV -- following talks the previous day with Turkmen President Niyazov.
Niyazov, who has been in power since 1985, has been criticized for building a vast cult of personality around himself while resisting democratic reforms and isolating his country internationally.
Under international pressure, Niyazov last month said he will allow international inspections of the country's prisons for the first time. He also recently lifted exit-visa requirements imposed after an alleged assassination attempt against him in 2002 and slightly relaxed rules on registering minority religious groups. (AP)
Talks On Gazprom's Participation In Oil, Gas Projects In Turkmenistan
Gazprom has given a positive assessment of current state and prospects of cooperation development with Turkmenistan, Gazprom's Executive Board Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ryazanov said at a briefing in the corporation's headquarters in Moscow on 15 June, turkmenistan.ru reported the next day. Commenting on the partnership with Turkmenistan, Ryazanov pointed out that implementation of a 25-year bilateral agreement, signed last year, started this year. He said the implementation of the agreement is going well. "In real terms, we will be able to purchase 4.25 trillion cubic meters of Turkmen gas this year. In view of the fact that this amount is to be raised by 70 billion cubic meters by 2007, we have to be swift at solving issues related to increasing the throughput of the Central Asia...Center gas transportation system," Gazprom's representative said. According to Ryazanov, a feasibility study of a project modernizing this system is being prepared, and there is a good chance to increase the throughput to 50 billion cubic meters of gas from the present 40 billion cubic meters by the end of this year. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Uzbek Family Finds Itself Suddenly Straddling Border With Turkmenistan
18 June 2004
By Bruce Pannier
Brothers Hayitbai and Arabai Almuratov have lived on the same plot of land now for many years. The land is owned by the family -- one brother on one side of a courtyard and the other brother on the other side.
Now they cannot even approach each other, as soldiers take up residence on what was once their property, dividing one family from the other. The two Uzbek brothers and their homes have not moved, the Turkmen-Uzbek border has -- right through the middle of their property.
Hayitbai, now a resident of Turkmenistan, describes the situation to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service: "Now, there is a section of barbed-wire between us. If we try to cross the border, the Turkmen guards say they will shoot us."
There are, of course, Uzbek border guards on the other side of the courtyard.
The joint Turkmen-Uzbek commission for delimitation of the common border recently agreed to return some 18,000 hectares of land to Turkmenistan. None of Central Asia's borders, arbitrarily drawn up by Soviet planners in the 1920s and 1930s, are fully demarcated nearly 13 years after independence. The land in question was technically used by Uzbekistan, according to Soviet plans. Ownership was never really clear, but since both were republics of the Soviet Union, it didn't matter.
Early in June, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov toured Turkmenistan's northeastern "Balkan" province, which has grown in size as a result of the demarcation. He had a message for the people of what is now indisputably Turkmenistan: "If you want, go to Uzbekistan. If you want, get Turkmen citizenship and stay here. Of course they will stay here. We have free gas, free electricity. People are happy here."
Neither side of the border is a particularly appealing choice. To the east, in Uzbekistan, is the Karakalpak Autonomous Region, one of the poorest areas of Central Asia. The drying Aral Sea to the north has left alkaline soil flying in the strong winds. The Amu-Darya River, which passes through the area, carries with it an abundance of poisonous fertilizer residue, pesticides, and other chemicals.
Allayar Jumaboev, a 76-year-old man, says he wants to stay in the Karakalpak region, but he says he's likely to take Turkmen citizenship: "We would stay in Karakalpakiya. If the Uzbek government gives us a good pension, we will stay. If not, we will go to Turkmenistan. They would give us $50 a month [for a pension]. Can Uzbekistan give that? No. Where would they give us that kind of money?"
Yoldash Ata is Jumaboev's neighbor. He too says life in Turkmenistan is preferable: "How much land there is [in Turkmenistan], and you can grow what you want without paying taxes. Free gas, free electricity, no taxes of your herds...it's great! You get millions and millions [of Turkmen manta] as a pension! There are beggars in Karakalpakiya -- no bread, no money -- many beggars. Tashkent and Kazakhstan are full of beggars who came from Karakalpakiya."
For pensioners the situation may look more attractive in Turkmenistan, but for younger people the thought of living in politically restrictive Turkmenistan may have less appeal.
Bilateral relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are poor. The Turkmen government has hinted it suspects that the Uzbek government aided in the apparent assassination attempt made on Niyazov in November 2002.
Some Uzbek residents living near the new border say they fear they could even be deported as other ethnic Uzbek families have been in recent months. Hayitbai says an ultimatum has already been delivered to his family: "Five officers, without showing any identification or authorization, just came in and started surveying our home. They told us we must move within five days."
Muhabbat Apa is Hayitbai's wife. She described just how difficult and under what conditions the family must now try to move to a new location: "How much can we move in five days. If we don't move in five days the soldiers said they would come and throw us and our bed into Uzbekistan. Where can we go? We have four children. We have grandchildren also. Where can we go? What kind of life is this that we cannot go to weddings and visit relatives? How can we stay in Turkmenistan? They said move to the Amudarinsk region [in Uzbekistan], to the Kirbazar district, there will be new homes built there, but people said they have no money there, no material for building anything. We would be hunting for salt and bread. We just built a new home here and we have no money to build a new one."
Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry said the issue is still open and in any event people would not have to decide on the matter so quickly. (RFE/RL)