Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned an attack on the family home of an exiled Turkmen human rights activist in the Central Asian nation's northern city of Dashoguz, where his 76-year-old mother lives alone.
In a statement on November 6, HRW urged Turkmen officials to publicly condemn and thoroughly investigate the attack.
According to the statement, unknown assailants threw stones early on October 28 at the apartment of Khalida Izbastinova, the mother of Farid Tukhbatullin, who is the leader of a prominent exiled human rights group called the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.
The assailants broke the apartment windows and Izbastinova's telephone landline was cut off. Izbastinova was not injured, but emergency medical workers called to the scene by neighbors found that she had elevated blood pressure.
"This attack is almost certainly not random," said Rachel Denber, HRW's deputy Europe and Central Asia director.
"It falls at a time when the government has been keeping activists under especially tight surveillance. The authorities can’t get to Tukhbatullin, so it’s possible they’re looking for other ways to put him on notice," Denber said.
Tukhbatullin was expelled from Turkmenistan in 2003 after spending four months in prison on politically motivated charges and received refugee status in Austria later that year.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has ruled with an iron hand, tolerating little dissent since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.