Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkmen Report: September 11, 2001

11 September 2001
Children Missing In Turkmenistan

8 September 2001

According to independent sources in Ashgabat, there have been a number of children's disappearances recently in the Turkmen capital. On 4 September two children -- pupils of the school No. 20, named after Saparmurat Niyazov -- disappeared. The 8-year-old boy and the 12-year-old girl were missing till 5 September.

On 5 September some children, playing near the Orthodox church of Ashgabat, found a new bicycle in the trash yard. Under the bike there were the children�s legs and arms, as well as bodies with many burnings. The shocked children, who discovered the human corps, ran away from the spot and told the parents about the terrible discovery. The police was immediately called. The criminal experts have officially confirmed the fact of finding the fragments of the bodies and organs.

On 8 September another disappearance has been reported. The schoolboy of the school No. 7 in Ashgabat went to school and did not show up so far. The police and his parents keep searching for him hardly.

The parents try to accompany their children on their ways to schools and back.

Some parents of the school children were questioned. They suppose that the children were kidnapped for getting the internal organs and selling them abroad. (RFE/RL Turkmen service)

Georgia Repairing Turkmen Military Aircraft To Pay Off Gas Debt

6 September 2001

The overhaul of two more Turkmen Su-25 attack aircraft will be completed in a few days at the Tbilaviastroy [Tbilisi aircraft building] joint-stock company, Gocha Goguadze, the company�s chief engineer, told journalists.

Goguadze said Turkmenistan is to overhaul all its 46 attack aircraft in Georgia. Tbilaviastroy has overhauled 22 Turkmen aircraft so far.

Gocha Goguadze said the cost of overhauling each attack aircraft was about $ 1m, and added that the Turkmen order was "not only profitable for Georgia, but also raised the prestige of Tbilaviastroy, which gives a new life to aircraft".

According to Turkmen sources, Georgia is repairing the aircraft in part payment of its debt for earlier Turkmen gas supplies. Georgia owes Turkmenistan a total of about $ 340m. (

Turkmen Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Refuses Mass-Media Reports On Restriction Of Foreign Citizens Entry

5 September 2001

On 4 September some news agencies have distributed reports that beginning from 5 September Turkmenistan decided to restrict the foreign citizens� entry into the country in connection with realization of celebrations dedicated to 10th anniversary of the state's independence.

In department of the foreign-policy information of the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs the correspondent of, who tried to find out about what countries� citizens will be restricted for entrance, have been told, that information spread on the eve does not conform to reality.

"Just to the opposite, -- the department of the foreign-policy information official said, -- in connection with forthcoming celebration of 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence the increase of amount of people arriving into our country is expected. It's supposed to see the arrival of thousands visitors to celebrations connected with anniversary, and also to the preceding international oil-and-gas exhibition. It's only possible to talk about increased amount of work for our consular offices abroad during these forthcoming two months, and it is possible, that only physically they will fail to so satisfy demands of everyone, who wants to visit Turkmenistan these significant days. But as a whole our foreign representatives are acting in strict correspondence with laws of Turkmenistan, regulating the visa problems, and they don't need any additional instructions at this regard."

The independent sources in Turkmenistan confirm that this restriction had been issued by the Turkmen ministry of foreign affairs and is still valid. (, RFE/RL Turkmen service)

Turkmenistan Becomes A Member Of International Road Transport Network

5 September 2001

The Turkmen International Road Transport Association has been permitted into the cargo transportation network under the International Road Transport Convention. This decision by the board of directors of the International Road Transport Union has been sent to the Turkmen government as well as to all members of this body, which lists over 50 countries in the world. (Neitralny Turkmenistan)

Telephone Link Installed In Eastern Turkmenistan

5 September 2001

An IKM-30 telephone unit [digital multiplex system, produced by Lithuanian joint stock-company ELSIS] was installed in Serdarabat [in eastern Turkmenistan] by Lebaptelekom specialists. The potential of the local communication system has been expanded and the communication service to people has been improved thanks to the unit. Now 500 families can talk to every corner of the world from their own telephone. (Turkmen TV)

Further Raid On Greater Grace Meeting

4 September 2001

On 15 August ten officials from the police, the district administration and the National Security Committee (KNB, the former KGB secret police) burst into a private flat in the Kopetdag district of Ashgabat, where around 20 members of the Greater Grace Protestant church had gathered for prayer, Protestant sources in Turkmenistan have told Keston News Service.

All the church members present were taken to the Second Police Department of Kopetdag district, where KNB officers interrogated each one separately, recording where the church members worked and warning them that they were not allowed to meet for prayer as their church was unregistered. After five hours the church members were released. (Keston News Service)

Life Expectancy And Population Rising In Turkmenistan

4 September 2001

As of 1 August 2001, the population of Turkmenistan was 5,478,900 people according to the National Institute of State Statistics and Information. The country's population increased by 109,500 people in comparison with the beginning of the current year.

In a breakdown of the demographic situation, experts from the Turkmenmillihasabat [National Institute for State Statistics and Information] say that the urban population as of 1 August 2001 was 2,514,500 people, or 46 per cent of the entire population of Turkmenistan. The rural population is 2,964,400 people, or 54 per cent of the population.

The population of the Turkmen capital Ashgabat is increasing. It has grown by 19,000 people since the start of the year and totaled 695,300 on 1 August; this is 13 per cent of the entire population of the country.

The most populated Region is Mary [in southern Turkmenistan]; 1,251,300 people live here, which is 23 per cent of the population. The number of Turkmens living in Dashoguz Region [in the north] is 1,165,000 (21 per cent), the population of Lebap Region [in the east] is 130,700 people (21 per cent), in Akhal Region [central Turkmenistan] 767,700 people (14 per cent) and in Balkan Region [in western Turkmenistan] 468,900 people (8 per cent).

During the first half of the year 40,200 infants were born in Turkmenistan. Specialists note a trend as regards decreasing mortality and increasing life expectancy in the country. So, according to the statistics, average life expectancy in Turkmenistan in 2000 increased to 68.3 years, as against 64.7 years in 1995. (, Turkmen State News Service)

Ukraine And Turkmenistan Agreed On Terms of covering Ukrainian debts for gas delivery

4 September 2001

Official Ashgabat confirmed its readiness to consider the delivery of goods from Ukraine and participation of the Ukrainian enterprises in implementation of innovation projects on its territory as a partial covering of the Ukrainian debt for delivery of Turkmen gas. On 4 September, news and analysis channel informed that such a statement was made as a result of last week negotiations in Ashgabat on covering the gas debts of the Ukraine to Turkmenistan. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, the Vice Prime Minister of the Ukraine Oleh Dubyna and the head of the Ukrainian Neftegaz company Vadim Kopylov took part in talks, during which Oleh Dubyna stated about the readiness of Kiev to take active part in various investment projects in Turkmenistan. The Vice Prime Minister promised that next year the Ukrainian companies will start construction of a dock in Turkmen port Turkmenbashi. Moreover, Dubyna did not exclude possible participation of the Ukrainian specialists in reconstruction of this port, as well as construction of metallurgical and aluminum plants.

While commenting the results of Ashgabat consultations Prime Minister of the Ukraine Anatoly Kinakh stressed that "tangible results are reached as a result of negotiations": the sides approved the terms of delivery of Turkmen natural gas to the Ukraine in 2002. 40 billion cubic meters of gas at USD 42 for 1,000 cubic meters will be delivered. One part of the sum has to be paid in hard currency, the other by products. (

Turkmen foreign minister leaves for Moscow to meet CIS counterparts

4 September 2001

The head of the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, Rashid Meredov, will represent Turkmenistan at a meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers due to begin on 5 September in Moscow. (

Azerbaijani President Proposes To Resolve Caspian Problem In Stages

3 September 2001

The legal status of the Caspian should be decided in stages: first we should reach an agreement on the seabed, and then on the general body of water, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev said at a meeting with Russian special presidential representative for the Caspian Victor Kalyuzhny in Baku on 31 August.

Kalyuzhny said in turn that the resolving of the problems of the legal status of the Caspian is dragging out. He did not rule out that an upcoming visit to Iran by Aliyev in September would give an added stimulus to this process.

The Russian diplomat noted that Baku should reach an agreement with Teheran on the Caspian, based on compromise. He proposed that working groups from both countries should jointly work on this issue.

Kalyuzhny noted that there are practically no differences in the positions of Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, therefore Baku "should work with its southern neighbor."

In response Aliyev noted that the legal status should not be decided by Baku and Teheran separately -- but by all five littoral states.

"To assume that Baku will make some compromise on the issue of the Caspian status -- on the issue of its marine borders, would not be realistic," Aliyev said.

Kalyuzhny described the position of Turkmenistan as "unconstructive." During a discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov noted that if the status of the Caspian is not regulated, then work under a contract for the Azeri (Khazar in Turkmenistan), Chirag (Osman) and Gyuneshli deposits may "fall into doubt." "However, Russia does not support this approach," Kalyuzhny said.

Officially Ashgabat has demanded that Baku and Western companies halt work at these deposits.

"In general I consider that Turkmenistan has "taken cover" and has adopted an insufficiently flexible position in the negotiation process for the legal regulation of the Caspian status," Kalyuzhny said.

In turn, Aliyev noted the importance of holding a summit of Caspian states. "If we are not able to reach an agreement, at least we will clarify many issues and will be able to work further," the Azerbaijani president said.

The venue for the summit is not of principal importance, Aliyev said. However, he expressed regret about a Turkmenistan's decision, which "first of all called for a summit in Ashgabat and them cancelled it."

"We can accept this sort of thing, but not indefinitely," Aliyev said. Aliyev also expressed certainty that a lot depends on the Russian position regarding the settlement of the legal status of the Caspian. (Interfax)

New Gas Field Found In Eastern Turkmenistan

3 September 2001

A new gas field has been opened on the right bank of the Amudarya river [in eastern Turkmenistan].

A fountain of natural gas started to gush out from a 3,000-metre depth in the Yashul-depe field during the drilling of an exploratory well. This confirms specialists� forecast about the presence of huge hydrocarbon reserves in the area. (Turkmen State News Service)

US Company President Gives Tractor And Plough To Niyazov

3 September 2001

The president of an American company gave a tractor and a plough as a present to Saparmurat Niyazov, president of Turkmenistan. The present was handed over to the Turkmen president in a ceremony, which followed the official reception of a delegation from Case Company in the atrium of the presidential palace.

American company president Jean-Pierre Rosso reported to the Turkmen president on the completion of the fulfilment of a contract for the delivery of 100 tractors with ploughs to this Central Asian republic.

The American company president told Itar-Tass after the reception that his company has delivered over 1,200 different vehicles to Turkmenistan during seven years of cooperation which began in 1994. The vehicles are already used in the republic's agricultural and land amelioration projects.

Last year, Turkmenistan received 2,000 tractors manufactured at the Minsk tractor factory. (Itar-Tass)

Turkmen Leader Lays Foundation Stones Of Two Plants

3 September 2001

On 3 September the Turkmen president Niyazov attended ceremonies of laying the foundation stones of a new carbamide plant in Tejen District and a pulp-and-paper industrial complex in Gavers District in central Turkmenistan.

At the ceremony in central Akhal Region, the president criticized the local authorities: "In the afternoon they [officials] are absent at their work places. They want to eat hot soup at farmers'. You go to farmers at least three times a week. Don 't you see the poor condition of cotton fields?"

Speaking about the cotton-picking campaign, he said: "Men do not pick cotton in Akhal Region, only children do. Sometimes I think what are men doing?"

Niyazov said about the carbamide plant: "The total cost of the plant is $ 150m. The plant will be built in three years by a well-known Turkish company together with German partners, using sophisticated German equipment. Today is 3 September, and we just have agreed [with the Turkish company] that on 3 September 2004 the plant will start to produce fertilizers."

At the ceremony of launching the construction of a pulp-and-paper factory in the Yaslyk village of Gavers District, Niyazov made a remark on religious issues: "We must serve to one God and to one nation. We must not divide people into tribes. This is an unnecessary thing. The Turkmens must be one nation." (Turkmen TV)

Ukraine To Buy 40 bln Cubic Meters Of Turkmen Gas In 2002

1 September 2001

Ukraine is to buy 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistan next year under an agreement between the two countries, Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh said on 1 September.

Ukraine will be paying half the cost of the gas with money and half with goods under the deal, Kinakh said.

A Ukrainian delegation led by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna, during a visit to Ashgabat, discussed with the Turkmen leadership terms for restructuring Ukrainian payment arrears of $287.7 million for Turkmen gas supplied in 1993 and 1994.

Dubyna said after meeting Niyazov that Ukraine would draw up a restructuring plan before February 28, 2002. He said the date was the deadline set by creditors of Ukraine that are members of the Paris Club of creditors.

Turkmenistan has committed itself to exporting 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine in 2001 at a price of $40 per 1,000 cubic meters. Ukraine promised to pay with money for half the gas and with goods and investment for the rest.

Kinakh, who was speaking during a visit to a village in the Cherkasy region, said he and his first deputy would give a detailed report about the Ashgabat trip to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. (Interfax-Ukraine)

Turkmenistan Adds Another Boeing To Its Fleet

1 September 2001

Another Boeing 717 aircraft, arrived from the USA, made a landing at the Ashgabat international airport on 31 August.

The aircraft has been put under the charge of the Turkmen Airways [Turkmenhovayollary] company and has become part of the most advanced air fleet of Turkmen aviators.

A source at the Turkmen Airways national directorate said that this is the second of three aircraft of this model, which were purchased last year from the well-known Boeing company for the needs of Turkmen civil aviation. The first of them arrived in Ashgabat at the beginning of August, and a few days later was sent to Russia to take part in the international aerospace show MAKS-2001 in Zhoukovski.

Many of Turkmenistan's residents have already assessed the advantages of this aircraft. The first Boeing 717 is carrying out regular passenger flights between Ashgabat and Turkmenbashi, spending less than one hour on this route.

The third Boeing 717 is due to arrive in Turkmenistan very soon. All will be used mostly on the domestic routes to link the Turkmen capital with regional centers. There will be also several routes to CIS countries.

The new Boeing will be added to the fleet of this model of aircraft already used by the Turkmen Airways company.

There will be 10 Boeing aircraft at the disposal of the Turkmen Airways. (Turkmen State News Service)

Turkmen Head Sacks District Official For Alcohol, Drug Abuse

31 August 2001

In line with the Turkmen president�s resolution, Bairam Bekdurdyev was relieved of the duties of deputy governor of Yoloten District of [the southern] Mary Region for grave shortcomings in his work and for failure to perform the duties entrusted to him.

According to the governor of Mary Region, [Chary] Kuliev, the deputy governor of Yoloten District, Bairam Bekdurdyev, has been working at his position since 1992. Kuliev said he was negligent in his official duties, let down his guard and has been abusing alcohol drinks and using drugs. (Turkmen TV)

Turkmen Bashed Mothers
President Turkmenbashi's reforms and traditional values are forcing women into subjugation, destitution and prostitution

By Polina Mikhailova

6 September 2001

Turkmen President Saparmurat, aka Turkmenbashi, Father of all Turkmen, is full of praise for the country�s women, but they hardly get their just desserts.

"While bringing up 'deserving' sons and daughters, mothers of the Turkmen nation represent wonderful examples of bravery, patience, beauty and moral purity," is typical of Turkmenbashi's paeans to motherhood.

At the same time, however, their benefits have been slashed, their access to education and employment limited and domestic abuse has been tolerated.

As part of an economy drive, child benefits and paid maternity leave have been drastically reduced. Single mothers get no benefits at all. The latter suffer from the mores of a traditional society which frowns on illegitimacy and often has a misplaced belief that unwedded mothers have sugar-daddies relieving them of the need of state help.

But even those who are entitled to state support, struggle to get hold of it. "Three years ago, I gave birth to my son," said Enejan Ataeva in Ashgabat. "I had completed all of the necessary paper work, but was told that I was not eligible for child benefit."

The law, which eroded the state support network and radically changed the lives of Turkmen women, came into force three years ago. Though local NGO's complained that the female deputies, who hold around a fifth of the seats in parliament, were doing nothing to lobby against this, they had to admit that even if women held 99 per cent of the seats, they were powerless. After all it's Turkmenbashi who wields ultimate authority.

One of the apparent consequences of the reduction in benefits is that abortions are now skyrocketing. Rural families typically used to have up to eight children, but now have only two on average. Those in the city are opting for just the one child. "My husband and I both work, but it will be a while until we decide to have a second child," said Djennet Allamuradova in Ashgabat. "It is very hard to provide even for one child if you want it to have a full, healthy life."

Since Turkmenbashi is keen to see the birthrate rise, he has banned abortion. Those wishing to terminate their pregnancies go to backstreet clinics, where they pay far more that the 10-17 US dollars they would have done in state facilities.

Women also feel the brunt of legislative changes which have been dragged in by the Turkmen government as part of an attempt at market reform.

Layoffs in sectors, which have traditionally employed females, such as education and healthcare, have also taken their toll, with the workforce halved. Left without state jobs, women have taken to shuttling goods to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iran. "After completing high school in our country, it is virtually impossible to get into a university if you don�t have money," said Gulistan Alieva. " Only children from wealthy families can afford it." Alieva was lucky enough to complete a management course but struggled finding a job. It was only through her father�s connections that she managed to get a place as an office manager. Less fortunate women graduate from high school into prostitution. They used to flock to Schevchenko street, the main red-light district in Ashgabat, but now that Turkmenbashi has outlawed prostitution they have been forced underground. All of which rather goes against the grain of the Turkmen constitution which accords equal rights to men and women.

Life in the countryside is even more difficult. With no jobs, women make a pittance selling homemade wares at local market. Working from home they are increasingly the victims of abuse from their husbands. Studies suggest that many suffer in silence, realizing that they could cause family rifts and divorce if they open their mouths.

"I know that my husband has a mistress and has fathered a child," said a mother of five in Mary province, who preferred not to be named. " But I can�t say anything as he will beat me up. Once I contracted a sexual disease from him but what could I do. I had to suffer."

Maths teacher Gulijen Annamuradova from Ashgabat calls her husband (and cousin) a good man. "But I was forced to marry him. I knew that my parents would not allow me to wed a guy from the neighboring village who had proposed to me. I gave in to their will like many of our women do. I had no choice," she said.

There are not many places women can turn to get support. The Union of Women, Gorbansultan-eje, named after Turkmenbashi's mother is a pro-government organization run under the auspices of the education ministry, and hardly offers any real help to women.

It coordinates a network of 30 NGOs throughout Turkmenistan, but its aim is purely propagandistic. Among independent women's groups -- most of whom are unregistered and thus are limited in their activities -- it is regarded as a tool for the authorities to channel international funds into government controlled NGOs. (Institute for War & Peace)

Russian Criticism of Turkmenistan: To Please Azerbaijan?

5 September 2001

By Michael Lelyveld

Russia�s Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhny has raised new doubts about negotiating a solution to the region�s border disputes with a strong criticism of Turkmenistan.

Speaking Friday in Baku after talks with President Heidar Aliev, Russia's deputy foreign minister said Ashgabat�s claims in the Caspian came close to ridiculing them.

Kalyuzhny called Turkmenistan's stance on the Caspian "unconstructive and negative," saying it had "dug its heels in and adopted a position which is not sufficiently flexible," Agence France Presse reported.

Russia�s representative for the Caspian also said Turkmenistan's claim to two oilfields already under development by Azerbaijan was "not serious."

Kalyuzhny spoke in support of Azerbaijan, which has been at odds with Iran since July 23, when an Iranian gunboat expelled two Azerbaijani survey ships from waters claimed by both sides.

But his remarks were aimed instead at Turkmenistan, which has been seen as taking Iran's side in opposing Russia's formula for splitting the Caspian seabed into sectors along a median line.

It was not immediately clear whether Kalyuzhny's criticism would hurt efforts to reach a Caspian settlement, but there seemed little chance that it would lead to a breakthrough.

Turkmenistan has been feuding with Azerbaijan since 1997 over another oilfield in the center of the Caspian, helping to create a many-sided argument over the division of resources among the five-shoreline states.

Kalyuzhny's comments also came one day after he arrived in Baku and declared that a Caspian summit meeting would take place in Turkmenistan as planned, even though President Saparmurat Niyazov had announced a postponement of the October meeting on national television earlier in the week.

Kalyuzhny said, "I think the summit will go ahead this autumn." He added, "The dates at the moment are being finalized."

The confusion over the summit was reminiscent of an incident last April, when Niyazov and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to call off the meeting while Kalyuzhny was shuttling between Baku and Tehran. Then as now, the Caspian envoy seemed to be in the dark about what was going on.

But despite his possible miscues, Kalyuzhny�s criticism of Turkmenistan remained open to a series of interpretations. If he did speak for the Kremlin, Kalyuzhny may have voiced a frustration with Niyazov, which has been largely concealed until now.

Putin and Niyazov were last reported to have discussed the Caspian situation and other bilateral matters on 13 August without any similar suggestion of tension.

Russia and Turkmenistan have been working on a 10-year intergovernmental agreement for cooperation in the gas sphere, which is due to be signed by the end of this month, according to the website

Last January during a visit to Baku, Putin also hinted that he would soon win Niyazov over to Russia's side on the division formula, which has been backed by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Iran has opposed the median line principle, which would give it about 12 percent of the Caspian instead of the 20 percent share that it claims.

Turkmenistan has taken an ambiguous position on the formula, but it has been seen as standing by Iran to prevent its isolation.

Last month, Niyazov found common ground with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami as the two leaders called for suspending all work in disputed areas of the Caspian, a stand that served the interests of both countries against Azerbaijan. But another possible interpretation of Kalyuzhny's outburst against Ashgabat is that it may have served as a proxy for criticism that Russia would otherwise aim at Tehran.

Iran has been no more flexible in opposing the Russian formula, but Kalyuzhny could hardly afford to show impatience with Moscow's "strategic partner." Kalyuzhny used the term to describe Iran during his visit to Tehran last week, just before flying on to Baku.

Yet another possible interpretation of Kalyuzhny's comments is that Russia did not wish to be outdone by Turkey in showing support for Azerbaijan following the demonstration by Turkish jets in Baku last month.

Russia tried to find its own common ground with Iran during Kalyuzhny's visit to Tehran last week. After meeting with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Kalyuzhny said the United States and Turkey "are looking for (a) pretext to interfere with the affairs of the Caspian Sea," the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

But Kalyuzhny did not repeat the criticism in Baku, which received political support from Ankara and Washington after the July 23 incident with Iran.

By changing his targets, Kalyuzhny made an obvious effort to please his hosts at each stop. But it is unlikely that he calmed tensions in the Caspian, and his mission may only have made the situation worse. (RFE/RL)

Everything Comes Down To Oil In The End
Caspian states vie for riches under the sea

4 September 2001

By Ahmad Taher

Black clouds are gathering over the Caspian Sea as tensions around the world's largest lake rise. Diplomatic skirmishes flare daily and as the main players in the new conflict, Azerbaijan and mighty Iran, rattle their sabres.

The hostilities between David and Goliath began on 23 uly when an Iranian gunboat and a fighter-bomber forced two Azeri-registered ships in the Caspian Sea to turn back to the capital, Baku. The Iranian version of events claims that they had penetrated Iranian oilfields on behalf of British oil giant BP.

More threats on the high seas followed, with sources in the Azeri capital reporting that Iranian bombers were repeatedly violating the Caucasus republic's airspace. President Haidar Aliev, a man reputedly with an eye for such incidents, contented himself with condemning the military threat and said he intended to raise the problem in Tehran on 17 September.

Relations between Tehran and Baku have always been strained. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new masters in Baku feared that the credo of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini could gain ground in the ideological vacuum among Azeris. They, like the Iranians, are overwhelmingly Shia Muslims. So Azerbaijan distanced itself from the Islamic Republic and turned increasingly to the secular state founded by Ataturk. In Turkey, the Azeris saw the gateway to western markets for their oil riches. The Turks, conversely, saw themselves from then on as the Azeris' protectors. They share closely related languages and origins.

No one expected that Turkey would leave its little brother on the Caspian Sea alone in its hour of need. Ankara was adamant that Tehran's gunboat diplomacy had to be answered appropriately and so ten of its F-16s to Baku several days ago. As President Aliyev looked on, Turkish planes swooped in over the Azeri capital's Freedom Square. The squadron was accompanied on its trip by Hussein Kivrikoglu, chief of the Turkish armed forces.

Tehran got the message. Iranian newspapers began talking of "Turkey's provocation." The demonstration of Turkey's ability to put up a fight, retorted Ankara, had been planned months before as nothing more than "a guest appearance at a flying show" and in no way connected to the latest developments on the Caspian Sea.

But Vali Kucuk, a retired Turkish general, writing in an Azeri newspaper, termed the "air show" a "response to Iranian threats." "We are a nation with two states," he wrote with soldierly frankness. "Azerbaijan's suffering is our suffering and thus unacceptable." At the root of the spat between the neighbours, which has all the potential of developing into a dangerous regional conflict, is the division of rich natural resource deposits under the Caspian Sea, an area where borders are constantly in flux. After the Persian Gulf and Siberia, the Caspian Sea is the third-largest oilfield in the world; its reserves of black gold are estimated at total 40 billion barrels.

At current prices, that amounts to roughly a trillion US dollars. Each of the five nations bordering the sea -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran -- would like as large as possible a slice of the cake for themselves. But that depends on how the borders between the states are drawn in the Caspian Sea.

The Iranian leadership regards the Caspian Sea as a lake which ought to be divided up equally between all the states by surface area and treasures. In support of this stance, it refers to treaties between Tehran and Moscow from 1921 and 1940 which forbid the Caspian nations from unilaterally exploiting its resources. Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, in contrast, consider the Caspian an open sea complete with national waters. The Azeris believe that Iran is only entitled to 12.5 per cent of its surface waters.

Turkmenistan, meanwhile, is keeping its thoughts to itself. The desert kingdom, rich in oil and natural gas reserves, has already secured its share of the oil in the Caspian Sea. But President Saparmurad Niyazov tends to take sides with Tehran, its regional ally. Iran�s President Muhammad Khatami recently telephoned his Turkmen opposite number to tell him he hoped that the meeting of the Caspian Sea states would achieve an "important step" towards mutual resolution. Latest reports, however, reveal that the meeting, planned for October in the Turkmen capital, has been cancelled. It seems that Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan would prefer to preserve the status quo and retain the existing de-facto division of the Caspian Sea into national zones. (Frankfurter Rundschau/The German Newspaper News Service)

Horrors Of Taliban: Story Of Refugees

4 September 2001

Our correspondent Arcady Dubnov has just returned from Afghanistan. He visited Khodzhabakhauddin, the main military headquarters of Ahmad Shakh-Masud, the leader of Northern Alliance. This town is located in the Pandzhsher valley, one of the best natural fortresses in the world.

Absolutely nearby, 20 kilometers to the south from here, there is a front line with Taliban. 20 kilometers from a front line there is an administrative center of Takhor province -- city of Talukan. One year ago, on 6 September, Taliban grasped this strategic transit point, through which Masud�s forces received ammunition and equipment from Tajikistan. The front in Takhor, perhaps, is for today the major for maintenance of further strategic plans of Masud.

Khodzhabakhauddin itself is a hot and dusty place, burnt by the sun. Here is a huge camp of refugees from central and northern provinces of Afghanistan, mostly from Talukan. Conditions in camp are horrifying: there is a lack of tents, the temperature in a shadow reaches 40 degrees Celsius. There is not enough food and drinking water, people are sick, and many of them die.

When you talk to Taliban people, including their bosses, it seems that they are clever persons, but when you hear stories of refugees with their eyes full of tears, with a storm of emotions, with a shiver in a voice, telling how Taliban, more precisely speaking -- this "Islamic radical international" -- murdered their families, neighbors, their children -- you get astonished.

The phrase "to cut people as rams," seems for a long time to be perceived by us as some literary stamp. And physically it appears absolutely real thing. Refugees describe how Talibs take the person, raising him a head, two fingers put in a nostril -- one raises thus a head, and another cuts a throat. So did the Arabs who are at war on the Taliban side -- a traditional way of execution which Arabs practice. Pushtuns, struggling on the side of Taliban as refugees say, for example, -- they just simply shoot...

Therefore a question -- whether it is possible to negotiate with Taliban today, -- seems anyway partly rhetorical. Neither party today is categorically not ready for negotiations, and this opportunity can appear only when one of the parties will shake the today�s status quo. It is impossible, for example, for Northern Alliance to negotiate, because they have lost many people and left many territories and cities. They do not presume to negotiate with Talibs while they have not returned even a part of these territories. Also it is impossible for Talibs because they today try hard to occupy the last province Badakhshan, completely controlled by the Northern Alliance. And from the political point of view they will try to achieve this purpose. So everything will be finally solved up to the end of winter on the battlefields. And only after the fights within the next few months between Talibs and the Northern Alliance, it will be possible to speak about returning to a peace stage of the conflict, an opportunity of negotiations.

In the middle of Pandzhsher valley in the place Dakhab there is one of the newest sights -- the prison. It is not difficult to visit it. Prison is an indispensable item of the journalists� coming here. In the gorge on a small height at the channel of the river the big pise-walled courtyard is located, on which there are cells 4 on 10 meters perimeter each. In total there are now 335 prisoners, the majority are prisoners of war, mostly Afghan Pushtuns, and some Tajiks from the suburbs of Kabul, whom Talibs have forced to take the weapon in hands. There are "political" prisoners, too. These are Talibs, who were spying in northern provinces, controlled by Masud, or terrorists. For example, the 23 years old dwarf-Pushtun, who attempted an assassination on the outstanding field commander Khadzhi Abdul Kadyr, an ally of Ahmad Shakh-Masud.

Among the prisoners there are 16 foreigners, fought on the Taliban side. There are ten Pakistanis, one Arab from Yemen, two Uighurs from China, three men from Burma. Soon three Arabs from Iraq will join them. Uighurs told to us that they were captured the next morning after arrival to the front, as well as volunteers from Burma -- they were sent to Afghanistan by the teacher of the religious school from Pakistan, where they had come to study Islam.

The captured Pushtuns from Pakistan look much more aggressive. One of them -- the 27-year -old master of divinity Salakheddin Khayed, captured 5 years ago, had joined Talibs to be at war for the idea "to establish everywhere the correct Islamic order". As Salakheddin considers, when Talibs establish it over all Afghanistan, they will come to help the coreligionists to Pakistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen service)

Niyazov Anti-Corruption Drive

By Sasha Rokot

31 August 2001

In the Oriental fairy tale, "A Thousand and One Nights", Kharun ar-Rashid, the ruler of Baghdad, dresses in disguise and walks the streets of his capital to find out whether his officials are abusing their power over ordinary people.

Today's ruler of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, 61, may be called a president, but in many respects he has much more in common with the ruler in that fairy tale than a modern head of state.

Styled Turkmenbashi (leader of the Turkmen), the president-for-life wields all the power of an old Oriental pasha. After 15 years in office, Turkmenbashi decides virtually everything. He combines the posts of president, prime minister and commander-in-chief, chairs the Security Council and heads the Democratic (formerly Communist) party, which is the only political party. The constitution entitles him to appoint and remove leaders of all public bodies and have a say on all major industrial contracts.

Like the ruler of Baghdad, Turkmenbashi also likes to don a false moustache and beard and tour his country undercover to find out how his governors behave. After concluding that many behave very badly, he likes to dress them down in public. Most weeks, TV viewers can see this spectacle for themselves. There, on the screen, they can watch their stern-faced president attacking officials who "only care for their own well-being" and then doling out the appropriate punishment.

After publicly savaging "treasury thieves", or corrupt officials who have amassed luxurious palaces, Niyazov removes them from office and forces them to return their state apartments or other land "acquired through unlawful means". "After reading the complaints," the president said on one of these occasions, "one can't help concluding that you should all be put behind bars."

As part of his strategy, Niyazov has introduced the practice of appointing managers on six-month "probation" contracts, saying, "If an individual has talent, without doubt he will reveal it in six months. If he can't, then we will have to part."

The principle of appointing "Khalifs (rulers) for an hour", as they are nicknamed, has become a rule, reiterated in several presidential decrees, with the stipulation that "in case of unsatisfactory performance, they are to be removed from office". The result is a rapid turnover of officials, ranging from deputy premiers, ministers, their deputies, directors and bankers.

Turkmenbashi prefers public condemnation to criminal prosecution. There are no open trials of corrupt officials. After former agriculture minister Tagandurdi Nuriev was caught using state money to buy 60 vehicles in Iran and distributing them to his friends, Niyazov did not put him in jail. "We told him to go to his native village," he said, "and work hard on the land, paying for his guilt with honest toil."

When the former chairman of the Central Bank was discovered siphoning $60 million into Russian banks and using some of it to pay for the renovation of his mistress�s house, the president merely ordered him to return the money to the state. On that occasion, his clemency served him badly. The treasury thief defected abroad with all the money he had stolen.

As a result of endless reshuffles, the country�s leadership has changed so many times that ordinary people joke they will all have chance to sit in an official�s chair.

As part of the war on corruption, Niyazov has also begun stopping the salaries of officials convicted of "irregularities" in work, and transferring the money to the budget. Dozens of officials have suffered this penalty over the last few months, including the head of the meteorological service -- for making an inaccurate weather forecast -- and the president's own press secretary -- for smoking in a public area.

In another attempt to improve the caliber of public officials, Niyazov has begun to personally conduct in-depth interviews with candidates for top positions, ordering the winners to work in the lower levels of their departments before taking up their posts. When Annaguli Jumagildijonov was made a deputy energy minister for six months recently, Niyazov typically ordered him to spend the first three as a factory foreman. Only after "having widened his knowledge about the principles of work in the entire complex," as he put it, was the incumbent allowed to start work as deputy minister.

Niyazov even inspects the family trees of candidates for state positions, searching for ancestors with criminal convictions. "Since many traits are family ones, and everybody brings up their children like themselves, I need to find out who their parents were, to see if they had thieves in the family," he said.

The president intends to give these inspections legal sanction. According to a draft resolution of the Mejlis (parliament), a law on state service incorporating "the fundamental ideas of Turkmenbashi about further improvement of the work of the state apparatus", will be discussed at the next session of the assembly next month. (Institute for War & Peace)