The Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan uses taxi drivers in the capital as informants

The Ministry of National Security (MNS) of Turkmenistan, known for its strict system of population control, has introduced new surveillance tactics. In Ashgabat, taxi drivers are forced to cooperate by using them as informants. Radio Azatlyk correspondents reported this.
This practice in the country causes serious concern among human rights defenders and creates an atmosphere of fear among citizens.

Taxi drivers are required to provide information about their passengers, sources said. They must report suspicious conversations, routes, personal meetings and other activities of passengers. MNS staff regularly meet with taxi drivers to instruct them on information collection and reporting. Drivers must also transmit recordings from dashcams and audio devices installed in their vehicles.

Moreover, refusal to cooperate with the MNS entails serious consequences. Drivers who do not want to participate in surveillance risk losing their licenses and livelihoods. In some cases, those who refused to cooperate were arrested or subjected to other forms of harassment. This creates double pressure on taxi drivers: on the one hand, they have to do their job, and on the other hand, they are afraid of being the target of surveillance or punishment.

A similar situation has developed in ministries. The Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan forces ministers to report everything, including detailed meetings, conversations, topics, etc. These secretaries also cannot refuse cooperation.

Violation of human rights as a “tradition”

The use of taxi drivers as informants is a gross violation of human rights. This practice undermines the right to privacy and creates an atmosphere of mistrust and fear among citizens. People are afraid to speak frankly, even in taxis, for fear that their conversations will be reported to the authorities.

At the same time, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sharply condemned such actions by the Turkmen authorities. In their statements, they emphasize that such control methods are unacceptable and contrary to fundamental human rights. Human rights activists call on the international community to put pressure on Turkmenistan to stop these practices and protect the rights of citizens.

Sanctions, diplomatic initiatives and other forms of influence from the international community can help change the situation and stop human rights violations in Turkmenistan. Particular attention should be paid to protecting those already victims of repression and ensuring their safety.

Moreover, these repressive measures undermine citizens’ trust in government institutions and create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. People begin to avoid conversations on socially significant topics, which leads to further restrictions on freedom of speech and self-expression. As a result, not only the personal freedom of citizens suffers, but also the opportunity for social change and progress. It is not surprising that Turkmens dream of leaving the country and moving permanently to freer countries, where they will not end up behind bars for participating in a street rally or criticizing the actions of the authorities.

We would like to add that the corrupt and repressive methods used by the authorities of Turkmenistan constantly undermine the basic principles of human rights and democratic norms. The use of taxi drivers as informants is just a small part of many practices that violate the rights and freedoms of citizens.

The Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan regularly carries out arbitrary detentions of citizens, accusing them of undermining state security or political activity. Detainees are often held in isolation and subjected to severe torture to extract confessions. Many remain in detention without formal charges or trial, violating basic principles of a fair trial.
And in general, any form of dissent in Turkmenistan is suppressed cruelly and mercilessly. Opposition politicians, journalists and human rights activists are being targeted by the MNS. They are arrested, threatened and silenced under threat of reprisals. As a result, most opposition forces are forced to operate in exile or underground, which limits their options.