New passports may soon appear in Turkmenistan: what is known about them

In Turkmenistan, the authorities are planning to issue and introduce new samples of citizen’s passports soon. For this purpose, on 21 October 2023 at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov approved a new version and description of the passport of a citizen of Turkmenistan, the procedure for its registration and issuance, as well as the rules of use. It is planned that the new “books” will remove the column “nationality”, which refers to a person to any ethnic group. This is reported in the material of Radio Azatlyk regarding an informed source in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Representatives of national minorities have previously expressed the opinion that the indication of nationality in the Turkmen passport “binds” the holder to an ethnic group, which subsequently becomes an instrument of unspoken discrimination. Therefore, the column “citizenship” in the passport is sufficient to define “nationality”.

It is noteworthy that the plans to introduce a new passport sample into circulation have never been announced. The curtain was lifted only after this decision was made. What caused the need to introduce new samples and what their modified format will look like is also not clear. This is not the first time that the authorities do not see the need to consider the opinion of citizens, take into account the interests of the population, or inform them about their upcoming plans.

Independent media have previously raised the issue of the problems of ethnic minorities in Turkmenistan: how difficult it is to obtain passports, get a job, enter an educational institution… Turkmenistan claimed that it “condemns racial discrimination and constantly pursues a policy of mutual understanding between peoples”, but at the same time has systematically pursued a policy of “Turkmenisation”, forcing members of ethnic minorities to indicate in their documents that they are “Turkmen”.

Turkmenistan is now home to such nationalities as Baluchis, Tatars, Russians, Armenians, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks. According to the Turkmen delegation in its report on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the session at the UN headquarters in Geneva on 21-22 August, 14% of the population (a total number of more than 7 million people) are members of ethnic minorities, which exceeds 936,000 people. Many of them, against the background of falling living standards amid a protracted economic crisis and restrictions on their freedoms, are leaving Turkmenistan and continuing to go to their homeland.

It should be recalled that human rights defender Mansur Mingelov paid for his active position in defense of the Baluchi ethnic minority. In 2012, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison on many charges, which he and his supporters called politically motivated. Mingelov’s elderly parents and other family members of the human rights defender, who is in serious condition due to illness, are being evicted from their home.