For the first time in more than a decade, Turkmenistan is participating in a major human rights and democracy conference. But the outcome has not been positive.
As reported by EurasiaNet, an official delegation is attending the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting being held in Warsaw. The annual event, which is being hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ends on October 2.
On September 30, Turkmenistan’s foreign ministry issued a press release to complain about “certain people [at the conference] indulging in a range of subjective, provocative attacks and biased comments about Turkmenistan with the clear aim of putting psychological pressure on members of the Turkmen delegation”.
According to EurasiaNet, the ministry’s statement may be in reference to remarks made at a September 22 meeting by an exiled Turkmen activist, who insisted on referring to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov as a dictator.
Turkmenistan’s Radio Azattyk said the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev countered the exiled activist by stressing that freedom of speech is respected in Turkmenistan and that internet access was on the increase. He also denied reports in the media that residents in the capital city are being required to take down their satellite dishes.
“We continue to provide various social benefits, like free gas, water and electricity,” Hajiyev was quoted as saying by Radio Azattyk. “A dictator doesn’t do these things. This is all done for the people.”
According to EurasiaNet, in the narrative that Turkmenistan is drawing for itself, the government in Ashgabat is embarking on extensive work to reform and improve their legislation while “taking into account the generally recognized norms of international law”.
However, the progress that Turkmenistan’s government likes to trumpet is hard to see from outside the country, where most curious reporters are confined by Ashgabat’s aversion to open information.