Last Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015, 12:04 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Turkmenistan

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 4 March 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Turkmenistan, 4 March 2007, available at: [accessed 28 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Turkmenistan's notorious president Saparmurat Niyazov died at the end of December 2006, after 21 years of authoritarian rule of the Central Asian republic. This country is one of the most despotic of the region, with the tyrannical regime tolerating no opposition or freedom of the media. The one-party state was completely under the tight control of President Niyazov, who not only declared himself 'Turkmenbashi' (the father of all Turkmen), but was also made 'president-for-life' by the People's Council in 2003. His book on spirituality and morality – the Rukhnama ('Book of the Soul') – is compulsory reading in schools and workplaces, and is intended to help displace the Koran as the primary Turkmen religious guide (Turkmenistan is 90 per cent Muslim).

President Niyazov is reported to have called for the enhancement of the 'purity' of the Turkmen and for the removal of those who dilute Turkmenistan's 'blood'. While verifiable statistics and data are hard to come by given that NGOs – both domestic and international – cannot be based or operate in the country, anecdotal information and reports from observers confirm the continuing extensive exclusion of minorities (Russians and Uzbeks) from most areas of employment and participation in public life. Senior officials must be able to trace their Turkmen ancestry for several generations and it is reported that members of ethnic minorities are excluded from positions in the judicial system, law enforcement and military organizations.

Although the interim leader has pledged stability, Turkmenistan, which has large gas reserves, now faces an uncertain future with rival groups and outside powers scrambling for influence.

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