Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Turkmenistan

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Turkmenistan, 11 March 2008, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
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.

Hopes that Turkmenistan's human rights record would improve after the demise last year of the country's autocratic president of 21 years, Saparmurat Niyazov, did not materialize in 2007. Local activists claim that emphasis on Turkmen national identity and persecution of minority religious groups persisted through 2007. Turkmenistan's 15 per cent minority population, including Kazakhs, Russians and Uzbeks, face wide-ranging discrimination from authorities – including being forced to study in Turkmen language, adopt Turkmen national clothing – thus marginalizing minorities and indirectly forcing them to give up their own ethnic roots.

Turkmenistan also has a worrying record of persecuting religious minorities. In September and October 2007, four prisoners of conscience were released on amnesty. A senior Islamic religious head, Nazrullah ibn Ibadullah, who was serving a 22-year sentence on publicly unknown charges, was among a group of prisoners released on presidential amnesty. Despite these releases, according to Forum 18, a Norwegian human rights organization working on issues of religious freedom, a 49-year-old Baptist pastor Vyacheslav Kalataevsky remains in police custody, amidst growing concerns he may be deported. According to the Forum 18 news site another Baptist pastor arrested with Kalataevsky, Russian citizen Yevgeny Potolov, was expelled from Turkmenistan in early July. Several Jehovah's Witness followers have also been given prison sentences in Turkmenistan for refusing military service on grounds of religious conscience.

In May 2007 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Turkmenistan as part of a visit to Central Asia with the aim of setting up a regional office there. During the visit she welcomed Turkmenistan's ratification of the main human rights instruments and the submission of reports to treaty bodies, including the one monitoring racism. She welcomed educational reform initiatives in Turkmenistan and encouraged the government to engage in political, civil, social and cultural data aggregation to ensure that human rights in these areas are better protected.

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