Tin-pot dynasty: Turkmenistan’s horse-loving dictator grooming his heir


Though Turkmenistan’s government propagandists try their best to present the country as a land of plenty, the country’s citizens are all too aware of the real state of the economy, the Economist reports. State television shows shops with overflowing shelves, but “in reality people go at 4-5am to queue at state food shops,” says Farid Tukhbatullin, who heads the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR), an advocacy group based in Vienna. Most citizens dare not complain “because they fear the person next to them could be an informer”, he tells the paper:

  • People who do question the official line are harassed by security men. Soltan Achilova, a 72-year-old journalist in Ashgabat, the capital, who earlier this year publicly criticised the government for shortages of flour and cooking oil, which are subsidised, has faced threats, attacks and arrest as a result of her reports to Chronicles of Turkmenistan, TIHR’s news website.
  • Last year a young man named Nurgeldi Halykov was jailed after sharing with Turkmen.news, an independent news outlet based in the Netherlands, a photo on Instagram that drew attention to a visiting delegation from the UN’s World Health Organisation.

YouTube this week blocked a channel affiliated with the U.S.-based website Eurasianet at Turkmenistan’s request, RFE/RL reports. The takedown followed a complaint filed the official television channel of Turkmenistan’s State Committee on Television, Radio Broadcasting, and Cinematography, said Eurasianet.

David Trilling, Eurasianet’s managing editor, said his organization has been looking for someone at YouTube in order to appeal the decision. Not only is their website and YouTube channel cut off in Turkmenistan, but so is YouTube itself. “It’s ironic given that [YouTube] is blocked in Turkmenistan … just like every other social-media company,” he told RFE/RL.

Based at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, Eurasianet is funded by grants from the Open Society Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the British Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

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