3 June 2001
NATIONAL AND REGIONAL NEWS
Turkmen Deputy Wants President To Be Named A Hero -- Again
1 June 2001
A Turkmen deputy wants to see her country's authoritarian president, Saparmurat Niyazov, declared a hero -- for the fourth time, official reports said on 1 June.
Parliamentary deputy Ogulgurban Ezimova said "it would be just" to award Niyazov, the "founder and wise teacher of independence and neutrality," another Golden Star Hero of Turkmenistan.
According to her article in the "Neutralny Turkmenistan" newspaper, Ezimova said the most fitting occasion would be the 10th anniversary of the Central Asian country's independence later this year.
Niyazov, who is known as Turkmenbashi, or Father of All Turkmen, has already received the award three times, including for services to the neutrality of this mostly desert nation.
President for life in this former Soviet state, the Turkmen leader has already been praised this month as a prophet and named "Beik President" or "Great President."
Streets, cities, a refinery and an aftershave are just some of the items named after Niyazov while his portrait adorns newspapers, the national currency, and hangs from every public building. (AFP)
Turkmen Coast Guard Gets U.S. Cutter For Caspian
1 June 2001
A coast guard cutter of the well-known Point Jackson type moored at Turkmenistan's Caspian port [Turkmenbashi] on 1 June. The cutter has been put at the disposal of the special division of coast guard vessels of Turkmenistan's border troops, and now will serve to defend the maritime borders of independent and neutral Turkmenistan. After technical servicing the cutter will patrol the country's maritime border.
This event is the result of the implementation of the joint plan for military cooperation between the Turkmen armed forces and the U.S. Defense Department Central Command. As part of this program Turkmen personnel and the cutter crew underwent special training in U.S. state of Florida. At the end of April they took over the cutter at the Turkish port of Izmir and the ship then sailed back to the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi under the state flag of Turkmenistan, as is right and proper. (Turkmen TV)
Turkmen Kick Off National Campaign Against Smoking And Drugs
31 May 2001
"Let us free Turkmenistan from smoking and drugs" -- this is the motto of a broad campaign that began on 31 May. It was timed to coincide with the international day to quit smoking, which is marked on 31 May and was established by the UN's World Health Organization. The campaign was organized by the National Health Center of the Ministry of Health Care and Pharmaceutical Industry of Turkmenistan.
The campaign will end on 26 June, the international day of fighting drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking. (Turkmen State News Service)
Turkmenistan To Launch Lubricating Oil Plant
31 May 2001
A lubricating oil production plant is to be launched in Turkmenistan in the near future, as a division of Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery, a source in the republic's Oil and Gas Ministry told Interfax.
Specialists from France's Tecnip Group have already completed construction and have started testing the plant, the source said.
The plant will have a capacity for half a million tons of fuel oil per annum. With the launch of the plant, Turkmenistan will for the first time produce the main types of lubricating oil -- industrial and transmission oil and oil for diesel and carburetor engines, which will mean that the republic will not only be able to stop importing these products, but will start exporting. (Interfax)
China To Supply Oil Well Equipment To Turkmenistan
31 May 2001
Turkmenistan is to buy equipment to repair oil wells worth some 61.1 million yuan ($7.37 million), from Chinese companies. This decision is set down in a resolution from Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on supplies of equipment for the repair of oil wells, from 30 May. (Interfax)
Turkey's Polimex To Build $8.5 Million Worth Of Fountains In Ashgabat
31 May 2001
Turkey's Polimex is to sign a contract with the state concern Turkmenneftegazstroi to design and build $8.5 million worth of fountains in Ashgabat in the near future.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a resolution on the construction of fountains in the National Park of Turkmenistan's Independence in Ashgabat. (Interfax)
Shortage Of Water In Turkmenistan Continues
31 May 2001
Independent sources in Turkmenistan reported that in the Gokdepe region in the suburbs of Ashgabat the water in the Sekizyab spring dries up. The local people have no natural water supply and have to buy very expensive water from the special trucks with water tanks. This technical water costs 70,000 manat ($13.46) per one truck.
The water of the Altiyab spring has disappeared and seems to have "turned back to mountains" like in old Turkmen fairy tales. Official authorities issue no comment on those cases.
In the Dashoguz region, one bucket of water is reported to cost 40,000 manat. The population there is not supplied with drinking water. People soon will have to drink dirty and salty water from the old wells.
The situation with the water shortages has caused the first cases of dysentery and jaundice. The threat of epidemics is reportedly getting serious. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)
Turkmen Delegation At CIS Summit In Minsk
31 May 2001
A Turkmen delegation led by Rejep Saparov, deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture, attended the CIS summit in Minsk from 31 May to 1 June. President Saparmurat Niyazov was the only president absent from the summit, perhaps because the main issues on the agenda, such as the setting up of a free-trade zone and an anti-terrorism center, did not require the Turkmen leader's active participation, because Ashgabat would not be involved in either project.
Saparov represented Turkmenistan at a meeting of government heads and at a meeting of the heads of state.
The Turkmen delegation included Foreign Minister Batyr Berdiev, who took part in a meeting of the Council of the CIS Foreign Ministers. (RFE/RL)
Turkmen President Visits The Central Akhal And The Balkan Regions
30 May 2001
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 29 and 30 May visited military units located on the banks of the Caspian Sea. He examined the training of personnel. In talks, the president thanked soldiers and commanders "for being in perfect command of military skills and exemplary service to the beloved country."
On 28 May, Niyazov visited two districts to take part in launching the wheat harvest, Turkmen TV reported, showing the president himself mowing wheat while visiting the central Akhal Region.
In remarks at a meeting in the Gorjav village, Niyazov spoke about plans to avoid a shortage of water in dry years. "There is a hollow near Archabil and Gokdere [areas in central Turkmenistan] and we will store the Turkmen's drinking water there in 10-15 pools. And during dry years this water will be delivered to this area and we will not feel a shortage of water. And for irrigation, wells are being drilled in the mountains, in line with my order. There are beautiful underground waters there. It will also be supplied to villages as drinking water. And for irrigation let us use water from the canal [presumably the Garagum canal], which will be brought here by pipe," he said.
During a visit to the western Bereket district, Niyazov fined local officials for paying too little to the students of agricultural colleges working on farms. "The work of young people must be valued correctly," he said.
The Turkmen president also visited an oil and gas site on the Hazar peninsula and inaugurated a drilling unit called Bentek-2000, which will be used for drilling deep wells.
On 29 May, during a trip over the western locale of the Cheleken peninsula, Niyazov became familiar with activity of a Turkmen-Austrian consortium busy in the development of local oil-and-gas deposits.
The large-scale project is timed for 25 years and was started in the summer of last year. As the operator of the agreement on the division of production on contractual territory known as "Khazar," the Turkmenneft concern is acting. A factory called "Khazarneft" is also to be built. Turkmen oil industry workers have undertaken to extract up to 10 million tons of oil from the subsoil, while the Austrian partner provides financing for the project: in all, about $300 million will be invested.
Niyazov participated in an opening ceremony for the project, which included the use of the German-made, Bentek drilling rig designed for drilling wells up to 7 kilometers and more. (Turkmenistan.ru, Turkmen TV)
U.S. Ambassador Urges Turkmen Government To Reject 'Soviet-Type Economy'
30 May 2001
The U.S. ambassador in Ashgabat, Stephen Mann, has invoked the government of Turkmenistan "to refuse the economic and political systems "of the Soviet type, which no doubt will cause the crash of the national economy," "The Washington Times" reported. The diplomat has simultaneously declared the necessity of strictly adhering to the supremacy of the rule of law. "Supremacy of the law is extremely important for economic growth, and not just from the point of view of democracy and human rights," Mann said in the statement on the account of the ending of his diplomatic mission as ambassador in Turkmenistan. Henceforth, Mann will serve as the U.S. adviser on problems of the Caspian, first of all on the energy projects in this locale.
Although Turkmenistan has extensive reserves of powerful resources, it still adheres to a rigid centralized economy which has almost resulted in a crash of its currency on international markets, the newspaper writes. Shortcomings in the Turkmen economy threaten plans to export natural gas to Russia and to construct a gas pipeline to Turkey, the writer concludes. ("Washington Times," GazetaSNG.ru, CNA)
ITERA To Transport Turkmen Gas To Ukraine
28 May 2001
The Ukrainian ambassador to Turkmenistan, Vadim Chuprun, announced in Ashgabat that the Ukrainian-Turkmen agreement on long-term gas supplies was not confirmed by agreements on gas transit through Russia. The presidents of Ukraine and Turkmenistan confirmed the long-term nature of their cooperation by signing an agreement on the supply of 250 billion cubic meters of gas between 2002 and 2006.
Admitting the dependence of this agreement relies on certain conditions and the good will of transit countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, Chuprun emphasized that in 2001 the international energy corporation ITERA undertook to solve all of the problems in gas transport from Turkmenistan to the Ukrainian border. For these services, Ukraine, in the form of the national stock company Neftegaz Ukrainy, will pay ITERA with part of its purchases.
The contract for gas supply in 2002 retained the condition of a weekly advance payment for gas. This condition fully substitutes for the guarantees of international banks which Turkmenistan had demanded, stressed the Ukrainian ambassador. (Agency WPS, rusenergy.com)
Water Flow Control Station Put Into Operation In Turkmenistan
28 May 2001
A complex of hydrometric and hydrochemical equipment for the automatic control of water flow speed, its quality and quantity, has been installed in the Darganata hydro-engineering system on the Amudarya River in northeastern Turkmenistan.
The project for monitoring water resources in the Aral Sea basin, under which these hydro-engineering stations are put in to operation, will help control the quality and quantity of interstate waters. (Turkmen State News Service )
Ukraine Implements Projects Worth $420 Million In Turkmenistan
25 May 2001
Turkmenistan has ignored an international conference on the Caspian Sea, the inaugural oil-and-gas forum "Caspian Sea XXI: from Policy to Business."
The CNA correspondent has been informed that negotiations with Turkmen officials were held, but ended inconclusively. None of the Turkmen representatives ended up participating in the forum.
As is already known, recently relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have fallen to a low level because of Ashgabat claims on three oil-and-gas bearing deposits developed by Azerbaijan (Azeri, Chirag, Kiapaz). Representatives of the Azerbaijani party at the forum have denounced the Turkmen position on this problem. (GazetaSNG.ru)
FEATURES AND ANALYSIS
CIS Summit Long On Ceremony, Short On Substance
1 June 2001
By Jeremy Bransten
The CIS heads of state, minus the leaders of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, ended their Minsk summit this afternoon with a final news conference during which they summed up their discussions.
As with the meeting of CIS foreign ministers yesterday, Russia occupied the most prominent place, with President Vladimir Putin seated center stage on the podium and fielding most of the journalists' questions.
With this summit clearly short on big decisions, the CIS leaders emphasized the symbolic value of their meeting and they took pains to stress the usefulness of keeping channels of communication open. Several leaders noted the advantage of being able to hold several bilateral and trilateral meetings while attending the summit and within a short period of time.
This gathering once again made it clear that while the CIS is likely to continue existing as a framework organization, it is indeed on the bilateral and trilateral level that real issues are likely be discussed and resolved. As the old saying goes, "too many cooks spoil the broth."
President Putin expressed optimism that efforts to establish a free-trade zone across the CIS would soon come to fruition.
Putin said: "I think a free-trade zone practically has almost been formed. The Russian Federation has signed bilateral agreements with all CIS states. The question remains unresolved only with Ukraine. We approach the problems, which face us in this negotiation phase with understanding. And I hope that during June, all outstanding issues which have up to now been controversial will be finally resolved."
A significant amount of time at the summit was devoted to problems facing the Caucasus region, with Putin meeting with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and Georgia yesterday, within the framework of the newly established "Caucasus Four" grouping. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, speaking at the closing news conference today, expressed newfound enthusiasm for Russia's role in the region.
Aliyev said: "We Azerbaijanis are very impressed and heartened by the fact that Russia, after the election of Vladimir Putin as president, is actively and very sincerely devoting its energies to this issue, both as co-chairman of the OSCE's Minsk Group, along with the United States and France, and by itself."
Both President Putin and Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze downplayed the sometimes difficult relations between their two countries, expressing the hope that problems could soon be resolved. Nevertheless, despite his diplomatic language, Putin gave no indication that Russia will abolish its newly-imposed visa regime with Georgia, saying this will only happen when the reasons for imposing the visa requirement are eliminated.
Putin said: "The elimination of the causes which led to the introduction of the visa regime will create conditions that will allow us to abolish this visa requirement. We would very much like to resolve this issue within the framework of an agreement we are now preparing. As you know, the agreement is being prepared at the initiative of the Georgian president. We appreciate this and would like relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia to develop positively on all fronts."
To sum up, no new ground was broken at the Minsk summit. The announcement of the creation of a five-nation Eurasian Economic Community had been widely expected and only time will tell whether the new body proves more effective than the current customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus.
The Minsk gathering proved long on ceremony, with leaders holding their most important negotiations in small sub-groups, behind closed doors. The administration of host President Alyaksandr Lukashenka proved both efficient and seemingly glad to keep the journalists a safe distance away. (RFE/RL)
Amnesty International Releases 2001 Annual Report
30 May 2001
It is forty years since Amnesty International was founded in London, United Kingdom. On 30 May the organization published its Annual Report highlighting the state of human rights in the world.
The Annual Report outlines human rights violations in 149 countries, and provides regional analysis of the challenges facing human rights protection in the 21st Century. The report also sets out the facts about Amnesty International's work and research around the world.
Turkmenistan has been described in the report as follows.
A prominent opposition activist was sentenced to imprisonment. Members of unregistered religious denominations and their families continued to report frequent harassment by the authorities, including deportation and internal exile. There was concern for the health of political prisoners.
Prisoner Of Conscience
In February, Nurberdi Nurmamedov, co-chair of the opposition movement Agzybirlik and one of the few opposition figures to openly criticize President Niyazov's policies, was sentenced to five years in jail. At the same trial, Nurmamedov's 25-year-old son, Murad, was sentenced to a suspended two-year prison sentence and confined to live in Ashgabat for five years. Despite an official invitation to send trial observers, representatives of foreign embassies and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were refused access to the court. AI believes that the charges of "hooliganism" brought against Nurberdi Nurmamedov were fabricated, that he was imprisoned for his peaceful opposition activities, and that his son was put on trial in order to put pressure on him.
Appeals against their sentences were turned down in March. The two lawyers representing Nurberdi Nurmamedov at the appeal reportedly left the courtroom before the end of the hearing in protest at violations of international fair trial standards. At the end of March, Nurberdi Nurmamedov was reportedly forced to publicly confess his guilt on television. In September unofficial sources reported that Nurberdi Nurmamedov had been transferred from Turkmenbashi maximum security prison to a prison near Kyzylkaya in the south of Turkmenistan. As a result of poor prison conditions his health had apparently deteriorated sharply and he was reported to be suffering from an acute stomach ulcer. Nurmamedov was released on 23 December under a presidential amnesty. Earlier in December he reportedly had to repent on state television and swear an oath of loyalty to President Niyazov.
Following an official visit in May, the OSCE chairman-in-office said he was deeply disappointed at Niyazov's unwillingness to release political prisoners, as requested by the OSCE.
There was concern that the lives of political prisoners Mukhametkuli Aymuradov and Pirimkuli Tangrykuliev were in danger following reports that their health had deteriorated sharply as a result of poor prison conditions and the absence of medical care. According to reports, Pirimkuli Tangrykuliev was beaten repeatedly by prison guards. He was released under the December presidential amnesty. He was reportedly forced to repent on state television and swear an oath of loyalty to President Niyazov.
Repression of Religious Minorities
Human rights violations by law enforcement officials against religious believers continued to be reported. Peaceful religious meetings in private homes were broken up and the participants fined or detained for short periods; religious materials were confiscated and places of worship destroyed; religious believers were physically and verbally abused and some were imprisoned because of their religion. A number of foreign missionaries were deported.
Some religious activists had their freedom of movement within Turkmenistan restricted through the use of residence permits.
Artygul Atakova, the wife of Shagildy Atakov, and the couple's five children, were deported to the village of Kaakhka in February and put under "village arrest." Shagildy Atakov, an ethnic Turkmen member of a Baptist congregation in Turkmenbashi, continued to serve a four-year prison sentence in a corrective labor camp. His supporters believed that the true reason for his imprisonment was his religious affiliation. Shagildy Atakov's brother, Chariyar, was administratively detained for 15 days; the reason for his detention was not clear. In February a younger brother of Atakov was found hanged. The circumstances surrounding his death remained unclear.
In February, 72-year-old Khodzha Akhmed Orazgylych, a Muslim cleric, was arrested and charged with "swindling." In a radio interview, he had reportedly criticized an invitation by President Niyazov at the end of 1999 for children to celebrate the new year by dancing around a Christmas tree chanting a prayer to the president. Around a month later Khodzha Akhmed Orazgylych was said to have been among a group of prisoners taken to meet Niyazov. The cleric reportedly asked for forgiveness, and Niyazov replaced a possible prison term with internal exile in a village in Khodzha Akhmed Orazgylych's home region.
Information came to light that conscientious objectors Roman Sidelnikov, Oleg Voronin, and Roman Karimov had been released under a presidential amnesty in 1999. However, conscientious objectors to military service continued to be sentenced to prison terms.
Two Jehovah's Witnesses were imprisoned for their conscientious objection to military service. Nuryagdy Gairov was serving a one-year prison sentence, imposed in January, in the Tedzhen corrective labor colony. He reportedly did not benefit from the 1999 amnesty because he refused to swear the oath of allegiance to the president. Igor Nazarov, who was also detained in the Tedzhen corrective labor colony, was serving a second prison term imposed in March; he had previously been sentenced to a suspended two-year term. (Amnesty International)
IHF Says Human Right Violations Increasing In Central Asia
25 May 2001
Human rights violations increased substantially in Central Asia in 2000 and continued unabated in Chechnya, according to a report by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) published on 25 May.
"An escalation of violations was reported in almost all fields of human rights" in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the IHF said.
The increase in abuses there combined with a growing centralization of power in the hands of presidents and their administrations, the IHF said.
"Massive abuses continued in Chechnya and the international community failed to put effective pressure on Russia to halt violations of humanitarian law by Russian forces," it added.
The IHF report documents violations of rights during 2000 in the 55 countries of the Organization of Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) -- Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and North America.
The report said democratic structures in the former Soviet republics were sorely lacking. It noted restrictions on freedom of expression and religion, abusive electoral and judicial proceedings, and the quasi-unlimited powers of the presidents of Belarus and Ukraine.
It said elections in eight new democracies -- Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan -- violated international standards.
In Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbaev extended his powers in 2000, abuse of human rights became "alarming," with torture by police "a widespread practice" and "massive restrictions" on the right to peaceful assembly, the IHF said.
The IHF said Kyrgyzstan had become "an authoritarian militia state" where the "most basic human rights were violated."
In Tajikistan, allies of President Imomali Rakhmonov "retained nearly all important government posts and the presidential People's Democratic Party (PDP) dominated the parliament."
And while the IHF praised Turkmenistan for being the first Central Asian republic to abolish the death penalty, in December 1999, it criticized "president for life" Saparmurat Niyazov for encouraging a personality cult and spending most of the state budget on monuments in his own honor.
The IHF report also identified abuse of police powers in Western Europe and the United States, said politicians in Austria had tried to pervert the cause of justice, and criticized Greece for press censorship.
The report attacked the U.S. for continuing use of the death penalty and child labor, racial discrimination, and prison conditions.
On the latter topic, it said "holding juvenile delinquents in conditions totally unsuitable to them led to self-mutilation in Kazakhstan and suicides in Latvia." Overcrowding, abuse by prison guards, and poor conditions led to riots in Italy and Turkey.
Meanwhile, asylum laws applied by EU states were extended to many East and Central European states, despite the fact these same laws had been frequently criticized by human rights organizations, the IHF said.
The IHF was set up in 1983 to coordinate the work of human rights committees in 40 countries. (AFP)
Letter From A Listener -- "Imprisoned Satire"
2 June 2001
"Many people in Turkmenistan remember the famous humorist Tore Annaberdiev, the host of the popular TV program "Once."
I have heard in two separate places the story that he had been imprisoned: in Mary and in the Balkan velayat. Later I met with the person who used to meet Annaberdiev in the Tejen prison.
Annaberdiev's name was not among the people, released under the amnesty in the end of 2000. He seems to be still imprisoned.
Why was he put in jail? For what crime?
He once walked on the "Serdar's health path" with some people. Being a heavy person, it was very hard for him to walk on that path. And when he stopped for a rest, breathing heavily, he said: "It's not the 'Health path,' it's the 'Death path.'"
Somebody informed the "proper" organs about Annaberdiev's comment. After that he was detained and later imprisoned. I just wonder what crime Annaberdiev had committed and which article of the criminal code he had violated? His words are hard to be converted into a political crime. A 36-kilometer long "Health path" is really hard to overcome. You either have to walk it all through or reach some point [rest] and [continue on]... anyway. No taxi or bus can transport you back.
Many political prisoners in Turkmenistan are widely known inside and outside the country. With this letter I just want human rights organizations to pay attention to the destiny of Tore Annaberdiev. His name has never been mentioned thus far. I ask human rights organizations to help investigate his case and free him."
This information is being published for the first time and is neither confirmed nor denied by Turkmen authorities. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)