Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkmen President Extends Penchant For White To Car Detailing

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (right) with then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Turkmenbashi in August 2019

ASHGABAT -- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's penchant for white is well known among drivers in the Central Asian nation.

For years exporters have been told to ship white automobiles only, while those who already had cars that weren't white were told to paint them in the color that has long been a feature of the carefully constructed personality cult of Berdymukhammedov.

Now, RFE/RL correspondents say, Berdymukhammedov wants all detailing on cars -- including radiator grilles and light frames -- in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation to be painted white as well.

The correspondents said that local authorities in the eastern Lebap region began demanding the new requirement a week ago, prompting locals to complain that the changes have given traffic police yet another reason to demand bribes.

Under Berdymukhammedov's rule, the isolated nation's capital, Ashgabat, has been draped in white marble. He is often seen in public or shown on television riding white stallions, dressed in white amid white carpets, holding white doves or white flowers.

The official explanation for the request, however, is that dark colors attract and absorb more sun and heat in Turkmenistan's subtropical desert climate.

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the secretive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

Like his late predecessor, Berdymukhammedov has relied on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.

According to Human Rights Watch, Berdymukhammedov, "his relatives and their associates control all aspects of public life, and the authorities encroach on private life."