Children in Turkmenistan are “hostages” of the official propaganda of “happy childhood”

Turkmenistan, being one of the most closed countries in the world, is known for its strict authoritarian regime and control over all aspects of the lives of citizens. Recently, special attention has been drawn to the situation with children who become “hostages” of official propaganda about a “happy childhood.” The authorities actively use the image of a happy and prosperous childhood for propaganda purposes, hiding the real problems faced by young residents of the country.

On June 1, the world celebrated Children’s Day, and we, together with independent media, decided to write about the realities of Turkmen children.

Turkmenistan’s official media regularly broadcast images of happy children playing in parks, attending modern schools and receiving quality medical care. State television channels often show reports of various children’s events organized by the authorities, such as sports competitions, festivals and concerts. The country’s president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, often mentions in his speeches the “state’s care for children,” emphasizing the importance of creating better conditions for them. And other high-ranking officials regularly make statements about how the state takes care of its youngest citizens, creating for them all the conditions for a happy childhood.

However, behind the façade of official propaganda lies serious problems. Turkmenistan faces shortages of basic goods, shortages of medicines and a worsening economic situation. Schools often lack textbooks and other necessary materials. Medical care leaves much to be desired, especially in rural areas where access to qualified care is extremely limited.

Children also face numerous problems in the education system of Turkmenistan. School curricula are overloaded with ideological content, and much attention is paid to the study of the works of the president and state symbols. Teachers and school administrators often put pressure on students and their parents to participate in public events, demonstrations and other propaganda activities.

Children are forced to start working early due to economic difficulties and high levels of poverty, forcing families to seek any source of income, including child labor. High levels of unemployment among adults also contribute to this phenomenon, as parents are often unable to find stable work. Moreover, in rural areas, traditions and cultural norms often require children to participate in the family economy, further exacerbating the problem.

And remember also our material about how some families who have a little more money are forced to give up their children in order to obtain registration for them in Ashgabat. Registration in the capital gives access to better social services, education and job opportunities, but strict housing rules and economic hardships have left families taking desperate measures. As a result, children end up in government institutions or foster care, leading to serious social and psychological consequences for all involved. But the authorities are not particularly upset or worried about this.

Meanwhile, international human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed concern about the situation with children’s rights in Turkmenistan. They call on Turkmen authorities to improve living conditions for children, provide access to quality education and health care, and stop using children for propaganda purposes. However, so far no significant changes have been observed in this area.

Children in Turkmenistan are indeed becoming hostages of the official “happy childhood” propaganda, which hides the real problems and difficulties they face. In the context of strict government control and a deteriorating economic situation, improving the lives of children requires comprehensive and long-term efforts aimed at solving basic social and economic problems.