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The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Turkmenistan

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 4 July 2012
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Turkmenistan, 4 July 2012, available at: [accessed 20 November 2017]
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.

Population: 5,200,000
Capital: Ashgabat

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: All the candidates who registered in 2011 for Turkmenistan's February 2012 presidential election were members of the ruling party, and the tightly controlled process was widely expected to result in a new term for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. Also during the year, the authorities sought to silence independent reports of massive explosions at an arms depot in July, and they took greater repressive measures against human rights activists inside and outside the country.

Political Rights: Turkmenistan is not an electoral democracy. The late president Saparmurat Niyazov wielded almost absolute power until his death. None of the country's elections – including the February 2007 vote that gave Berdymukhammedov, Niyazov's successor, a five-year term in office – have been free or fair. Berdymukhammedov has maintained all the means and patterns of repression established by Niyazov. Under a new constitution approved in 2008, the Mejlis (National Assembly) became the sole legislative body and expanded from 50 to 125 seats, with members serving five-year terms. The new charter also gave citizens the right to form political parties, though only the ruling party is officially registered. Berdymukhammedov made several references to the possibility of forming new political parties in 2010 and 2011, but no actual changes had taken place by the end of 2011. Local elections held in July 2009 and December 2010 mimicked the country's previous stage-managed polls amid reports of low voter turnout. Corruption is widespread, with public officials often forced to bribe their way into their positions. The government's lack of transparency affects a variety of public services, including medical care. An April 2010 report by Doctors Without Borders alleged that Turkmen authorities are concealing "a dangerous public health situation."

Civil Liberties: Freedoms of speech and the press are severely restricted by the government, which controls all broadcast and print media. The authorities remain hostile to foreign news services, harassing the few local correspondents. A state-run service provider controls access to the internet and reportedly blocks undesirable websites. The government restricts freedom of religion, and independent groups face persecution. Practicing an unregistered religion remains illegal, with violators subject to fines. The government places significant restrictions on academic freedom, and Niyazov's writings are still used in the school system, although their prominence appears to be declining gradually. The constitution guarantees freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but these rights are severely restricted in practice. While not technically illegal, nongovernmental organizations are tightly controlled, and Turkmenistan has no civil society sector to speak of. There are no legal guarantees protecting workers' rights to form unions and strike, though the constitution does not specifically prohibit such activities. The judicial system is subservient to the president, who appoints and removes judges without legislative review. The authorities frequently deny rights of due process, including public trials and access to defense attorneys. Prisons suffer from overcrowding and inadequate nutrition and medical care, and international organizations are not permitted to visit prisoners. Employment and educational opportunities for ethnic minorities are limited by the government's promotion of Turkmen national identity. Freedom of movement is restricted, with a reported blacklist preventing some individuals from leaving the country. Traditional social and religious norms, inadequate education, and poor economic conditions limit professional opportunities for women, and anecdotal reports suggest that domestic violence is common.

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