Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ten Things Ashgabat has Banned in Neo-Totalitarian Turkmenistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 15 – One of the most powerful descriptions of what authoritarian regimes with totalitarian aspirations do when they come to power is at the end of Costa-Gavras’ 1969 film Z when the screen goes blank after the colonels take power in Greece and ban everything from Plato to mini-skirts.

            While what has been happening in Turkmenistan seldom gets as much attention – it is after all the most closed off post-Soviet country about which what reporting there is often has been dismissed because there is not corroborating information – its record of bans is increasingly lengthy and disturbing.

            Russia’s Zen.Yandex Central Asia portal has provided a useful listing of ten of the most noteworthy of the bans that the government there has imposed both under the country’s former leader Saparmurat Niyazov and under its current one, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (zen.yandex.ru/media/centralasia/kakie-obychnye-vesci-zapresceny-v-turkmenistane-60266d59b498705a81de3528):


·         People in Turkmenistan cannot use newspapers containing a photograph of the president as toilet paper. Given that almost every issue does, that limits the supply of what is a critical sanitary option.


·         They cannot use air conditions despite the fact that the country experiences extremely high temperatures in the summertime. This ban is intended to prevent excessive demand on the country’s weak power grid.


·         People in that country cannot talk about politics on the telephone. Doing so would be unwise in any case given the monitoring the regime has put in place.


·         Visitors to Turkmenistan have to go into quarantine to prevent the spread of a disease which Ashgabat says does not exist there.


·         Turkmens are banned from using cosmetics or dressing in stylish clothes.


·         They are banned from taking photographs on the street.


·         No one is allowed to import a black-color car.


·         No Turkmen is permitted to leave the country without special permission as a means of ensuring there will be enough workers for the economy.


·         All social media are banned in Turkmenistan.


·         No one is allowed to compose or spread anything that might be considered erotic. Men who run afoul of this rule are punished, but women who do are punished far more severely.

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