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TITLE:  TURKMENISTAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                          TURKMENISTAN


Turkmenistan, a one-party state dominated by the President and 
his closest advisers, made little progress in 1994 in moving 
from a Soviet-era authoritarian style of government to a 
democratic system.  A national referendum held on January 15 
extended until 2002 the term of office of Saparmurad Niyazov, 
head of the Communist Party from 1985 to its dissolution and 
President since October 1990 when the post was created.  The 
Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the old Communist Party under 
a new name, retained its monopoly on power; the Government 
registered no opposition parties in 1994 and by its actions 
continued to inhibit opposition political activities.  Only 
government-approved candidates were permitted to contest the 
December 11 parliamentary elections, in which all 50 candidates 
ran unopposed.  Emphasizing stability over reform, the 
President's nationbuilding efforts continued to focus on 
renewing Turkmen nationalism, a feature of which has been a 
personality cult around the President.

The Committee on National Security (KNB) has the 
responsibilities formerly held by the Soviet Committee for 
State Security (KGB), with membership and operations 
essentially unchanged.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs 
directs the criminal police, which works closely with the KNB 
on matters of national security.  These agencies have been 
responsible for human rights abuses in enforcing the 
Government's policy of repressing political opposition.

Turkmenistan remained a centrally planned economy, although the 
Government continued to take small steps to reduce state 
intervention, e.g., by phasing out the state order system.  
Turkmenistan is the world's fourth largest producer of natural 
gas and is heavily dependent on revenue from natural gas 
exports.  Payment problems by its major customers in the former 
Soviet Union have led it to consider construction of new gas 
pipelines to or through neighboring Iran.  Agriculture, 
particularly cotton cultivation, accounts for nearly half of 
total employment.

Turkmen authorities continued severely to restrict political 
and civil liberties and maintain tight controls over opposition 
political organizations.  They completely controlled the media, 
censoring all newspapers and rarely permitting criticism of 
government policy or officials.  All trade unions are 
government controlled.  The Government generally gave favored 
treatment to ethnic Turkmen over minorities and to men over 
women.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.

     b.  Disappearance

Political activist and underground journalist Durdymurad 
Khojamukhamed disappeared in mid-July.  On June 26, six 
assailants believed to be linked to the security apparatus beat 
him severely (see Section 2.a.).  It is not known if he is in 
custody, has fled abroad, or is in hiding.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The 1992 Constitution prohibits torture or other cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment.  While systematic torture was 
not known to have occurred in 1994, criminal suspects, 
prisoners, and witnesses are routinely beaten both before and 
after trial processes.  Agents of the security apparatus have 
also used force to suppress political opposition (see Section 
2.a.).

Turkmen prisons are unsanitary, overcrowded, and unsafe.  Food 
is poor and facilities for prisoner rehabilitation and 
recreation are extremely limited.  In August an outbreak of 
cholera reportedly struck the Bairam Aly prison facility.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

In several cases, government agents detained or arrested 
persons associated with the Moscow-based opposition and warned 
them not to engage in political activities.

On October 29, several days after the President called for the 
extradition to Turkmenistan of several Turkmen dissidents, 
authorities in Uzbekistan arrested two individuals associated 
with the Turkmen opposition, Mukhammad Aimuradov and Khoshali 
Garaev, and deported them to Turkmenistan.  Although the two 
men, both Russian citizens, were originally charged only with 
the illegal transfer of money from Turkmenistan, the Government 
eventually announced its intention to try them in connection 
with an alleged plot to assassinate the President.  At year's 
end, security organs were holding them pending trial.

On October 20, security authorities took journalist Iusup 
Kuliev from his home and detained him for over 2 weeks, 
apparently without formal charges.  They reportedly beat him 
while in custody and subjected him to pyschotropic drugs.  At 
year's end, he was under house arrest in his home in Ashgabat.

The authorities detained at least three other people--
Khudaiverdy Khally, Akhmukhammed Zapirov, and Mukhammed 
Garachishiev--for several days, apparently without formal 
charges, around the time of the October 27 Independence Day 
celebration.

In January 1994, the authorities temporarily exiled political 
activist Durdymurad Khojamukhamed to Baku, Azerbaijan, without 
either his consent or due process.  Almost all prominent 
political opponents of the present Government have chosen to 
move to Moscow for reasons of personal safety.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution theoretically established judicial 
independence; however, the President's power regarding the 
selection and dismissal of judges effectively subordinates the 
judiciary to the presidency.  The court system has not been 
reformed since Soviet days.  It consists of a Supreme Court,
6 provincial courts (including 1 for the capital city of 
Ashgabat only), and at the lowest level, 61 district and city 
courts.  There are also military courts, which handle crimes 
involving military discipline, criminal cases concerning 
military personnel, and crimes by civilians against military 
personnel; and a Supreme Economic Court, which hears cases 
involving disputes between state economic enterprises and 
ministries.

The President appoints all judges for a term of 5 years without 
legislative review, except for the Chairman (chief justice) of 
the Supreme Court, and he has the sole authority to remove them 
from the bench before the completion of their terms.

Turkmen law provides for the rights of due process for 
defendants, including a public trial, the right to a defense 
attorney, access to accusatory material, and the right to call 
witnesses to testify on behalf of the accused.  The accused has 
the right to select counsel, but there are no independent 
lawyers, with the exception of a few retired legal officials.  
When a person cannot afford the services of a lawyer, the court 
appoints one.  A person may represent himself in court.

Decisions of the lower courts may be appealed to higher courts, 
and in the case of the death penalty the defendant may petition 
the President for clemency.  In practice, adherence to due 
process rights is not uniform, particularly in the lower courts 
in rural areas.  Even when due process rights are observed, the 
authority of the prosecutor vis-a-vis the defense attorney is 
so great that it is almost impossible for the defendant to 
receive a fair trial.

Mukhammad Aimuradov and Khoshali Garaev (see Section 1.d.), who 
were to be tried on charges connected to an alleged 
assassination plot, were arrested and held on charges that 
appeared to be politically motivated.  There are no other known 
political prisoners.  Some opponents of the Government have 
charged that the authorities occasionally prosecute political 
opponents for economic crimes they did not commit.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution provides that a citizen has the right to 
protection from arbitrary interference in his or her personal 
life.  However, there are no legal means to regulate the 
conduct of surveillance by the state security apparatus, which 
regularly monitors the activities of opponents and critics of 
the Government.  Security officials use physical surveillance, 
telephone tapping, electronic eavesdropping, and recruit 
informers.  Critics of the Government and other citizens report 
credibly that their mail is intercepted before delivery.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the right to hold personal 
convictions and to express them freely.  In practice, however, 
freedom of speech is severely restricted, and there is no 
freedom of the press.  The Government completely controls radio 
and television.  Its budget funds all print media.  The 
Government censors all newspapers; the Committee for the 
Protection of State Secrets must approve all prepublication 
galleys.  In September the President publicly called for the 
punishment of those who spread "rumors."

The Government prohibits the media from reporting the views of 
opposition political leaders and critics, and it rarely allows 
the mildest form of criticism in print.  The Government press 
has condemned the foreign media, including Radio Liberty, for 
broadcasting or publishing opposing views, and the Government 
has subjected those involved in critical foreign press items to 
threats and harassment.

The Government restricts academic freedom.  It does not 
tolerate criticism of government policy or the President in 
academic circles, and it discourages research into areas it 
considers politically sensitive.  In the past the 
government-controlled Union of Writers has expelled members who 
criticized government policy; libraries have removed their 
works.  Critics of the Government in all fields were frequently 
reminded that continued criticism could have many 
repercussions, including the loss of employment and 
opportunities for advancement for themselves and their 
families.  In at least one case, the authorities dismissed a 
child from school because of public statements made by the 
father.  In another case, a woman was removed from her job 
because of her exiled father's political activities.

On rare occasions the authorities resorted to stronger methods 
to silence their critics.  During the January 15 national 
referendum on extending the presidential term of office, they 
arrested Valentin Nikolaevich Kopusov immediately after he tore 
up his ballot in the presence of election officials.  Kopusov, 
who has a history of erratic behavior, was placed in a 
psychiatric hospital pending determination of his mental 
health.  After several months Kopusov was declared mentally ill 
and transferred to another hospital.

On the night of June 26, six assailants, believed to be 
connected to the security apparatus, broke into the home of 
political activist and underground journalist Durdymurad 
Khojamukhamed.  They abducted him, severely beat him, and left 
him in a ditch at the side of a road see Section 1.b.).

On November 24, Russian authorities in Moscow, reportedly at 
the request of the Government of Turkmenistan, took into 
custody Murad Essenov and Khalmurad Suyunov, two journalists 
associated with the Moscow-based Turkmen opposition.  Although 
no charges were known to have been filed against the two, the 
Government reportedly sought their extradition in connection 
with the same alleged assassination plot for which two others 
were arrested in Ashgabat (see Section 1.d.).  Russian 
authorities released Essenov and Suyunov on December 21.  In 
October six or seven men had accosted Essenov on a Moscow 
street and beaten him.  Opposition leaders claimed the 
assailants were linked to Turkmen security organs.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government restricts the freedom of peaceful assembly.  
Unregistered organizations, including those with a political 
agenda, are not allowed to hold demonstrations or meetings.  No 
political groups critical of government policy have been able 
to meet the requirements for registration (see Section 3).

Social and cultural organizations without political aims may 
normally register and hold meetings without difficulty.  
However, the authorities often refuse registration to those 
with an ethnic or religious orientation under constitutional 
provisions that prohibit political parties based on nationality 
or religion.

Theoretically, citizens have the freedom to associate with 
whomever they please.  However, supporters of opposition 
movements have been fired from their jobs for political 
activities and removed from professional societies or 
threatened with dismissal or with the loss of their homes or 
work space.  On numerous occasions in 1994, the Director of the 
KNB and a deputy chairman of the Cabinet summoned political 
opponents and warned them not to meet with foreigners or give 
press interviews.  The Government also discourages the access 
of foreigners to Islamic leaders, often by insisting that a 
government official sit in on any meetings.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Turkmen are overwhelmingly Muslim, but Islam does not play a 
dominating role in society, in part due to the 70 years of 
repression under Soviet rule.  The Constitution provides for 
freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion.  
Official harassment of religious groups has largely ended, and 
the State generally respects religious freedom.

A modest revival of Islam has occurred since independence.  The 
Government has incorporated some aspects of Muslim tradition 
into its efforts to define a Turkmen identity, and it gives 
some financial and other support to the Council on Religious 
Affairs, which plays an intermediary role between the 
government bureaucracy and religious organizations.

Religious congregations are technically required to register 
with the Government, but there were no reports that the 
Government enforced this requirement or denied registration to 
any religious group.

There is no law specifically addressing religious 
proselytizing.  The authorities, however, did cut short the 
planned stay of two American citizens, apparently because of 
their proselytizing activities.  Also, the Government would 
have to grant permission for any mass meetings or 
demonstrations for this purpose and would not do so for 
nonregistered groups.  The Government does not restrict the 
travel of clergy or members of religious groups to 
Turkmenistan.  Islamic religious literature, largely donated 
from abroad, is distributed through the mosques.  Eastern (or 
Russian) Orthodox churches also offer a variety of Christian 
religious literature.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation.

The Government generally does not restrict movement within the 
country, although it tightly controls travel to the border 
zones.  Turkmen citizens still carry internal passports which 
are used more as a form of identification than a means of 
controlling movement.  Residence permits are not required, 
although place of residence is registered and noted in 
passports.

The Government uses its power to issue passports and exit visas 
as a means of restricting international travel for its critics, 
and most ordinary travelers find the process to be difficult.  
Many allege that officials, including some on the presidential 
staff, solicit bribes in exchange for permission to travel 
abroad.  Although legally the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is 
responsible for issuing passport and exit visas, the 
International Department of the Presidency and the security 
services must also signify their approval.

Citizens are generally permitted to emigrate without undue 
restriction.  In December Turkmen authorities denied journalist 
Mamedniyaz Sakhatov and his family the passports and exit visas 
they needed to emigrate to the United States.  Some ethnic 
Russians and other non-Turkmen residents left for other former 
Soviet republics during 1994.

The government-funded Council of World Turkmen provides 
assistance to ethnic Turkmen abroad who wish to return to 
Turkmenistan and apply for citizenship.  The Government, 
however, has not permitted many ethnic Turkmen from Iran, 
Afghanistan, and other countries to resettle in Turkmenistan.

Authorities discouraged the influx of non-Turkmen workers from 
other areas of the former Soviet Union.  In mid-March, Turkmen 
police detained and immediately expelled as many as several 
thousand nonresident workers from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, 
Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Ukraine.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The 1992 Constitution declares Turkmenistan to be a secular 
democracy in the form of a presidential republic.  In practice, 
it remains a one-party State dominated by the President and his 
closest advisers within the Cabinet.  Citizens have no real 
ability peacefully to change the Government and have little 
influence on government policy or decisionmaking.  In the 1992 
presidential election, the sole candidate was Saparmurad 
Niyazov, the incumbent and nominee of the Democratic (formerly 
Communist) Party.  The Government announced the election barely 
a month before voting day, giving opposition groups 
insufficient time to organize and qualify to submit a candidate.

On January 25, a national referendum extended Niyazov's term in 
office until 2002, obviating the need for a presidential 
election in 1997.  The referendum was announced only on 
December 28, 1993, again allowing insufficient time for any 
opposition to organize.  According to the official results, 
99.9 percent of those voting cast their ballots to extend 
Niyazov's term.  On December 11, 1994, elections were held for 
a reconstituted Mejlis (parliament).  Again, no opposition 
participation was permitted.  Candidates for the 50 seats were 
all approved by the ruling party, and all ran unopposed.  The 
Government claimed that 99.8 percent of eligible voters 
participated.

The Constitution calls for the separation of powers between the 
various branches, with concomitant checks and balances.  
However, it vests a disproportionate share of power in the 
Presidency, particularly at the expense of the judiciary.  In 
practice, the Presidency in concert with the Cabinet of 
Ministers makes all policy decisions, appoints government 
officials down to the level of city mayors, and decides which 
legislation the Mejlis will consider.  The Mejlis has no 
genuinely independent authority.

Government officials state that their goal is political 
pluralism and the establishment of a multiparty system, perhaps 
as soon as 1996.  However, there were few indications in 1994 
that the present leadership will permit any meaningful 
opposition to develop.

In addition to its almost total control over the flow of 
information, the Government also uses laws on the registration 
of political parties to curb the emergence of would-be 
opposition groups.  At present the only registered party is the 
Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the successor to the 
Communist Party.  The policy of the Democratic Party, according 
to its leadership, is to implement the policy of the President.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no local human rights monitoring groups, and 
government restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and 
association would preclude any effort to investigate and 
criticize publicly the Government's human rights policies.  
Several independent journalists report on these issues in the 
Russian press in Russia and have contact with international 
human rights organizations.  On numerous occasions in the past, 
the Government has warned its critics against speaking with 
visiting journalists or other foreigners wishing to discuss 
human rights issues.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

The Constitution provides for full equality for women.  In 
practice, however, women are greatly underrepresented in the 
upper levels of government and state economic enterprises and 
are concentrated in health care, education, and service 
industries.  Women are also restricted from working in some 
dangerous and ecologically unsafe jobs.  In traditional Turkmen 
society, the woman's primary role is as homemaker and mother, 
and family pressure often limits opportunities for women to 
enter outside careers or advance their education.  The law 
protects women from discrimination in inheritance and marriage 
rights.  Religious authorities, when proffering advice to 
practicing Muslims on matters concerning inheritance and 
property rights, often favor men over women.

The Women's Council of Turkmenistan, a carryover from the 
Soviet system, addresses issues of concern to women, and a 
professional businesswomen's organization has recently been 
founded.  While no reliable statistics on domestic violence 
against women are available, women's groups and medical 
personnel assert that it is not a major problem.  The 
Government has no program specifically aimed at rectifying the 
disadvantaged position of women in Turkmen society because it 
does not believe that women suffer discrimination.

     Children

Turkmenistan's social welfare umbrella adequately covers the 
welfare needs of children.  The Government has not, however, 
taken effective steps to address the severe environmental and 
health hazards that have resulted in a high rate of infant and 
maternal mortality, particularly in the Aral Sea area.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution provides for equal rights and freedoms to all 
citizens.  Turkmen comprise 72 percent of the population of 
about 4 million, Russians 9.5 percent, and Uzbeks 9 percent.  
There are smaller numbers of Kazakhs, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, 
and many other ethnic groups.  In 1994 Turkmenistan was spared 
the ethnic turmoil that afflicted many other parts of the 
former Soviet Union.

As part of its nationbuilding efforts, the Government has 
attempted to foster Turkmen national pride, in part through its 
language policy.  The Constitution designates Turkmen the 
official language, and it is a mandatory subject in school, 
although not necessarily the language of instruction.

The Constitution also guarantees speakers of other languages 
the right to use them.  Russian remains in common usage in 
government and commerce.  The Government insists that it will 
not tolerate discrimination against Russian speakers.  However, 
efforts to reverse past policies that favored Russians work to 
the benefit of Turkmen at the expense of the other ethnic 
groups, not solely ethnic Russians.  Non-Turkmen fear that the 
designation of Turkmen as the official language will put their 
children at a disadvantage educationally and economically.  
They complain that some avenues for promotion and job 
advancement are no longer open to them.  Only a handful of 
non-Turkmen occupy high-echelon jobs in the ministries, and 
minority government employees from other ethnic groups are 
sometimes assigned lesser positions than their experience and 
qualifications would warrant.

     People with Disabilities

Government subsidies and pensions are available to those with 
disabilities, and those capable of working are generally 
provided with jobs under still-valid preindependence policies 
that virtually guarantee employment to all.  According to 
existing legislation, facilities for access by the disabled 
must be included in new construction projects.  Compliance is 
not complete, however, and most older buildings are not so 
equipped.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Turkmenistan has inherited the Soviet system of government-
associated trade unions.  The Federation of Trade Unions claims 
a membership of some 1.6 million and is divided along both 
sectoral and regional lines.  Turkmenistan joined the 
International Labor Organization in late 1993.

While no law specifically prohibits the establishment of 
independent unions, there are no such unions.  No attempts were 
made to register an independent trade union in 1994.  The 
state-sponsored unions control key social benefits such as sick 
leave, health care, maternal and childcare benefits, and 
funeral expenses.  Deductions from payrolls to cover these 
benefits are transferred directly to the Federation.

The law does not prohibit strikes, but no strikes are known to 
have occurred in 1994.  Disputes over work conditions or other 
grievances were resolved through negotiation among the trade 
union, government, and management (which represents, 
invariably, a government enterprise).

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Turkmen law does not protect the right to collective 
bargaining.  The Ministry of Economics and Finance prepares 
general guidelines for wages and sets wages in health care, 
culture, and some other areas.  In other sectors, it allows for 
some leeway at the enterprise level, taking into account local 
factors.  Annual negotiations between the trade union and 
management determine specific wage and benefit packages for 
each factory or enterprise.  In practice, in the predominantly 
state-controlled economy, the close association of both the 
trade union and the enterprise with the Government seriously 
limits the workers' ability to bargain effectively.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits forced labor.  Despite 
claims that several years ago the Government abandoned its 
policy of requiring students to pick cotton at minimal rates of 
pay during the annual harvest, thousands of high school 
students were forced to work in the cotton fields in 1994.  No 
other incidents of compulsory labor were reported in 1994.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment of children is 16; in a few 
heavy industries it is 18.  The law prohibits children aged 16 
through l8 from working more than 6 hours per day (the normal 
workday is 8 hours).  Fifteen-year-old children may work only 
with the permission of the trade union and parents; this rarely 
is granted.  Such children are permitted to work only 4 to 6 
hours per day.  Violations of child labor laws occur in rural 
areas during the cotton harvesting season, when teenagers work 
in the fields and children less than 10 years of age sometimes 
help with the harvest.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets the national minimum wage quarterly, based 
on a market basket of commodities reviewed by the Ministry of 
Economics and Finance.  On July 1, the Government increased the 
minimum wage to $3.33 (250 manats) per month and increased it 
again to $4.55 (1,000 manats) on December 21.  This figure 
falls far short of the amount required to meet the needs of an 
average family.  Most households are multigenerational, with 
several members receiving salaries, stipends, or pensions.  
Even so, many people lack the resources to purchase an adequate 
diet, and meat is a luxury for most of them.

The standard legal workweek is 40 hours and provides at least 
one 24-hour rest period.  Turkmenistan inherited an economic 
system with substandard working conditions from the Soviet era, 
when productivity took precedence over the health and safety of 
workers.  Industrial workers often labor in an unsafe 
environment and are not provided proper protective equipment.  
Some agricultural workers are subjected to ecological health 
hazards.  The Government recognizes that these problems exist 
and has taken some steps to deal with them but has not set 
comprehensive standards for occupational health and safety.


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[end of document]

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