It’s no secret that Turkmenistan, a modern-day hermit khanate with one of the most repressive governments on earth, has an abundance of political prisoners. But until now, few details were known about how enemies of the state spent their time behind bars.
These days, Turkmenistan’s strongman, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, would prefer it if Ukraine didn't exist. But try as he might, his government can't keep Turkmen citizens completely in the dark about Ukrainian events.
In 2004 and 2005, Turkmenistan's first post-Soviet president, Saparmurat Niyazov, sacked 15,000 medical workers and closed down all regional hospitals in the country, calling them unnecessary luxuries. Anyone who needed medical treatment, he said, could just come to the capital, Ashgabat.
Two of the most despotic leaders in the world sit atop the governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to rights groups. But in sharp contrast to the way they regard their respective peoples, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov seem to treat each other with courtesy and respect when they get together.
Turkmenistan is the Central Asian nation most associated with vast deserts. It’s also a place that is dealing with the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster. But these facts aren’t deterring Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov from moving ahead with a scheme to create a giant artificial lake in the middle of nowhere.
Turkmenistan has long sought to limit outside cultural influences, going so far as to ban opera and ballet for a few years. Now, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov wants to choke off the influx of foreign money into the Central Asian state.
Turkmenistan’s leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has tried to give the Central Asian country a modern gloss by touting the Internet’s ability to make life simpler. The initiative, however, has become the butt of jokes and derision among Ashgabat residents.
Boasting of Turkmenistan’s attempts to increase its presence in the international arena, following years of isolation under past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, enumerated the number of high level inter