Disappointment following Turkmenistan's enactment of new laws further curtailing personal freedoms

New Turkmenistan President Sear Berdymukhamedov has implemented several measures that curtail the few freedoms citizens had. Hopes for change following the Father-Son power transition earlier this year have been dashed by the new laws focused on micromanaging the lives of those in Turkmenistan.

According to Turkmen News, a publication based in Amsterdam, women in the country have been the primary victim of the measures. Sitting in the front seats of cars is now banned, even though the wife of the President did so when voting on 22 February. Beauty Salons are also prohibited as they insert “foreign objects” into women's bodies. Law enforcement has reportedly fined those who offer Botox injections, and eyelash extensions, among other cosmetic procedures. An anonymous salon worker said that transgressors could face up to 15 days in jail.

Young people have also been targeted, especially those who wish to study abroad. The Vienna based Chronicles of Turkmenistan said that from mid-June onwards, those who seek an education in foreign countries will be questioned by the National Security Ministry and the office of the General Prosecutor. Furthermore, a $5,000 bribe is reportedly required to secure an education abroad. Calls of hypocrisy have been directed at the President whose family members, according to reports, are currently studying abroad or have studied abroad. Gaming, a popular pastime of the young, is also on the receiving end of the crackdown. The messaging app Discord no longer works without a VPN, and the Turkmenistan government is attempting to ban a significant number of IP networks that reduce the viability of VPNs.

The younger Berdymukhamedov had promised reforms to the constitution, and analysts of the region had thought that some positive changes would be implemented to increase the popularity of the new President, such as an end to bread rationing. Those changes have not transpired. People who leave with more than their bread ration can now expect 15 days in jail.

Turkmenistan ranks 161st out of 167 countries on the Economist’s Democracy Index continues unabated.

Sources: CommonSpace.eu with Eurasianet (New York), RFE/RL (Washington D.C.), Turkmen News (Amsterdam), Chronicles of Turkmenistan (Vienna), and other media agencies
Picture: Serdar Berdymukhamedov (Tartarstan Government Website)

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