Sunday, September 8, 2019

Hundreds of ‘Disappearances’ have Occurred in Turkmenistan Since 2002

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 4 – “Disappearances,” where governments or their allies arrange for their enemies to simply disappear either by being murdered or kept in prisons or detained without anyone knowing where they are attracted international attention when this horrific phenomenon spread in Latin America several decades ago.

            But the problem has not gone away or been confined to Latin America. Instead, it has continued right up to this day and spread to countries far removed geographically and politically from those where the practice first was identified. One place where the problem is currently especially severe is Turkmenistan. 

            According to the international “Show Them Alive!” campaign, “there have been hundreds of forced disappearances” in that Central Asian country. The campaign has released a list of more than 120, 27 of whom it says died while in detention and many others of whom have simply “disappeared” (

            “In the course of many years,” the campaign says, “the Turkmenistan authorities have reacted to international pressure on this issue with vague promises and incomplete information and have avoided any real steps.” Last year, international pressure intensified, and for a brief time, it appeared that Ashgabat had changed its approach.

            The Turkmenistan government provided family members of more than ten of the disappeared with information on their cases, said it was prepared to allow a visit by the UN official who oversees this issue, and formally adopted many of the recommendations international bodies have made on how to deal with the problem.

            These actions led the international community to end its harsh criticism and instead engage in softer diplomatic discussions; but as soon as that happened, Ashgabat reversed course and in certain respects made things even worse by announcing that it would not necessarily release those who had competed their sentences “’for their own security.’”

            The international appeal for an end to disappearances calls on the international community to resume its pressure n Ashgabat. Only if that happens, it says, is there any hope that the massive wave of disappearances there will finally end.

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