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Turkmen Activist Says 'Don't Be Afraid' As She Faces Deportation From Turkey, Risk Of Torture

Turkmen activist Dursoltan Taganova in Istanbul, Turkey. (file photo)
Turkmen activist Dursoltan Taganova in Istanbul, Turkey. (file photo)

A Turkmen activist and outspoken critic of the tightly controlled Central Asian nation's government who resides in Istanbul has been detained and faces possible deportation.

Dursoltan Taganova is being held in an Istanbul deportation center amid concerns she could face arbitrary arrest and torture if she is returned to Turkmenistan, the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center said on September 27.

Police reportedly arrived at her home early on September 26 while the activist was not there and handed a roommate an order for Taganova to come to the police station to “sign documents.”

When Taganova went the police station, she was detained and sent to a deportation center.

In a Turkish language video published on the Telegram channel, the activist said she had been detained and may be deported despite having done nothing illegal except posting social media videos on TikTok to demand greater freedoms in her homeland.

"This could be my last video. Whatever happens, keep fighting fellow citizens,” she said. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.”

In July 2020, Taganova and dozens of other Turkmen were detained when they tried to hold a rally in front of Turkmenistan’s Consulate in Istanbul to criticize authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s government.

Most of the detainees were released hours later, but Taganova was held in custody as Turkish authorities sought to deport her back to Turkmenistan.

She was released in October of that year after 11 human rights organizations urged Turkish authorities not deport her, saying she would face arbitrary arrest and torture if she was returned to Turkmenistan.

In April this year, Taganova said she had been summoned to Turkish immigration where the activists was warned she may face problems with her residency unless she stops her political activities.

"They told me: 'Stop your presentations on the Internet. That is what the Turkish government needs. We do not want you to have problems with your residency here'," Memorial cited Taganova as saying at the time.

Taganova also said that Turkish officials made it clear that they were monitoring her correspondence with other bloggers and their online presentations criticizing the Turkmen government.

Protests against Berdymukhammedov were staged for several months last year by Turkmen citizens residing in Turkey, the United States, and Northern Cyprus.

Memorial said there were also reports that other activists in the Turkmen protest movement may soon face deportation from Turkey. Some activists report increasing pressure on their relatives in Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan is one of the most repressive countries in the world, with Berdymukhammedov ruling with an iron fist and allowing little dissent since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

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