After the March presidential elections (and the “castling” between Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and his son Serdar), the regime even more actively continued to “imitate violent activity” in front of the West to develop democracy and improve the human rights situation in Turkmenistan. The country has been and remains one of the most repressive and isolated in the world.
For the sake of retaining unlimited power, the Turkmen dictatorship is trying to mimic, demonstrating its “human face” and readiness for change. For her, this becomes vital in the context of accelerating geopolitical changes in Central Asia as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Among other things, the Berdymukhamedov regime would like to use the tendency to intensify the dialogue of the West with the countries of the region for personal geo-economic interests. In particular, to use Europe’s current problems with energy supplies, after it refuses to purchase gas from the Russian Federation.
Turkmenistan regularly hosts meetings of local officials with UN and EU delegations. The “fake” annual reports of the Turkmen Ombudsman for Human Rights are being seriously discussed inside the country. OSCE trainings are being held for law students, etc., etc. For example, on July 21, Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hadjiev met in Ashgabat with the regional representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for Central Asia, Richard Komenda, at which they discussed Turkmenistan’s “efforts” to comply with human rights conventions signed by Turkmen dictators. And on November 25, representatives of the European Union visited Ashgabat to participate in the “14th round of the dialogue on human rights between the EU and Turkmenistan”.
Of course, it cannot be said that foreign guests were so naive. Moreover, on the eve of the above-mentioned meeting, the international human rights campaign “Show them alive” called on the OSCE countries to develop mechanisms to stop enforced disappearances that continue in Turkmenistan
And the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIPH) handed over to the European Union a list of persons who were arrested for criticizing the country’s authorities. And they presented an overview document on key human rights issues in Turkmenistan, which should be discussed in Ashgabat.
The list of them is huge :
from prison sentences for citizens in fabricated cases for peaceful and legitimate civil or journalistic activities — to the practice of enforced disappearances against political convicts that have been going on since the time of President Niyazov. From the tightening of Internet censorship to the intimidation of citizens and the persecution of specialists who install applications to bypass blocking. The campaign to “strengthen traditional values” has intensified with the introduction of large-scale restrictions on the appearance and behavior of women.
As a result, at the meeting with the Turkmen side, the EU delegation raised the issues of restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and also expressed concern about torture, ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances of people in places of detention, the use of forced labor in cotton fields and problems in the field of gender equality.
The Europeans noted that official Ashgabat should demonstrate its readiness to solve problems related to holding free and transparent elections. And they called on him to cooperate with the UN monitoring bodies and special procedures to ensure an independent assessment of the progress made in the field of human rights, recalling the universal periodic review that Turkmenistan is due to submit in 2023.
All this, of course, is correct. However, it is highly doubtful that the next concerns, recommendations, and appeals will radically change the situation. Human rights defenders continue to note the lack of practical actions on the part of the Turkmen authorities, while they state that they are taking measures to improve national legislation by international human rights standards.
The unwillingness and inability of President Serdar Berdimuhamedov to move away from the repressive legacy of his father, which originates from the first president of the country Saparmurat Niyazov, is no longer in doubt. Without diplomatic, political, and economic pressure from the international community, the human rights situation in Turkmenistan cannot be reversed.