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Turkmenistan's Human Rights Violations - de jure vs. de facto

Turkmenistan has endured many catastrophic changes in the last 50 years, from the death gasps of Soviet communism to 20 years of imposed worship of the autocratic Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy to what exists now as a hybrid of restricted “democracy.” A 46 year old married man from Askabad, Turkmenistan has witnessed these cataclysmic changes. He has studied in law and has a keen interest in his own infringed upon freedoms.  If he had a chance to study in the U.S., he would pursue the human rights issue of “reformatting colonies and liberty of conscience” as well as the freedoms we as Americans take so much for granted: “freedom of assembly, speech, religion and press.” 

A married female who was born 28 years ago in the former city of Buzmeyin, now called Abadan, also has studied law and confirmed there are many Human Rights violations happening in Turkmenistan.  She wrote in her application for the Muskie grant that nobody thinks about the daily life of human beings especially in “post Soviet Union territory, many people aren’t aware of their rights and legislation.” She further revealed “in most cases government just press people to stop the conflict instead of analyzing it to find out the underlying causes.”  

Apparently, the Turkmen government is ill equipped for conflict resolution or looking in depth at the newly acquired democratic policies in the country.  This female lawyer added:  “I realize that in Turkmenistan all of the positive laws that exist are really not implemented in the real life.  In Turkmenistan there is a huge gap between de jure and de facto; differences between existing legislation and its implementation.   

[A disclaimer – I asked an American trained, seasoned lawyer about these Latin terms of de jure and de facto as it relates to Turkmenistan.  He wrote: “they are assuming that the Rule of Law exists already and is being ignored…They are dealing here with a conflict between the newly established legal environment and the old, long established culture of the society.  Unless carefully handled, culture will prevail.”] 

The insightful 28 year old female wrote further, “It is true that the Democracy level in Turkmenistan is on the very low level.  There are many reasons for this and according to my personal opinion, one of them is in history; it can be also understandable if we will take into account the dictatorship over the 70 years of Soviet time.

What human rights are being violated in Turkmenistan?  Another 28 year old male law student also from Ashgabad reiterated: “Although Turkmenistan signed the relevant protocol to the United Nations Convention, there is no separate Law against trafficking in human beings…In other words, law enforcement needs to be improved and one of the reasons is lack of legal competences, legal analytical work and international experience.”  He further explained the human rights problem in Turkmenistan as a tragic combination of “Legacies of the past, limited political will and current circumstances.”  

Understandably, the same female lawyer cited that women are violated against the most in Turkmenistan: In many cultures, if a woman has been raped, families will ostracize the women or worse…”  Apparently for Turkmen women, advocacy is difficult to come by while combating “the anti-democratic and isolationist tendencies of the Turkmen governmental policiesdue to the Turkmen government’s complete and blanket denial of the existence of human rights violation and gender discrimination in the country.  Government officials regularly state that domestic violence does not exist.”  The 28 year old female lawyer further observed that “Attempting to discuss cultural and traditional practices with Turkmen citizens often triggers anger and a defensive response…many former Soviet republics have experienced the creation of a society in which citizens have very limited opportunity to earn an income.  This has led to extreme poverty and high unemployment rates.  If you combine these factors with the lack of a social welfare system and the cultural expectation that women should rely on their husbands for support, women have been increasingly vulnerable to trafficking.” 

Corruption is rife in Turkmenistan according to this female lawyer: “Moreover, the ongoing efforts of Central Asian countries to transition from communism to some form of quasi-democratic society, plus the weakness of the new forms of government and their structures, have created an environment that is susceptible to organized crime and corruption.  Extreme levels of corruption are instrumental in aiding traffickers with illegal activities, especially given the fact that trafficking in Central Asia commonly involves highly organized and well-connected criminal syndicates. 

After reading these Turmenistan applications, it made me all the more appreciative of the laws we have in place in the U.S. that protect us as citizens and especially of the rights we enjoy as women.  How pathetic that some western women think that the most important right they should have is the right to abort their own babies.  That is another form of human rights abuse that we have not even come to grips with and I won’t go into with this blog.  Sad to say that currently Turkmen women continue to be sold as slaves or domestic abuse continues in their own homes or they are raped without any laws to protect them.   


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