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10/4/03 - PERSECUTION IN TURKMENISTAN - 2003-10-03

Sazak Begmedov was seized by internal security agents in the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabad, and forced onto a flight for Dashauz, a remote area near the border with Uzbekistan. On the way to the airport, security agents beat Mr. Begmedov before confiscating his passport. He was later hospitalized as a result of his injuries.

The seventy-seven-year-old Mr. Begmedov, is the father of Tajigul Begmedova, a Turkmen dissident now living in Bulgaria. She recently founded a human rights group called the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation. According to Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch, “This is a clear case of retaliation. The government [of Turkmenistan] is punishing the daughter by attacking the father.” Ms. Denber said, “Turkmenistan has one of the most repressive regimes in the world. This is only the latest example of how the government persecutes dissidents' families.”

The forced resettlement of dissidents is official Turkmenistan government policy. On November 18th, 2002, President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree on population relocations to Dashauz, Lebap, and Ahal provinces, ostensibly to develop these desert areas. But the order also marks for relocation “those people who,” according to the order, “have lost the respect of the nation, and who disturb the social tranquility with their bad behavior.”

The imposition of internal exile is a violation of Turkmenistan’s commitments as a member of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In April 2003, the U-N Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution on abuses in Turkmenistan that condemned forced displacement to “remote areas of the country.” The resolution calls on the government to end this practice.

The United States, the O-S-C-E, and human rights advocates will not remain silent as family members of Turkmen dissidents in exile suffer illegal arrest, physical mistreatment, and forced relocation. The Turkmenistan government should immediately release Sazak Begmedov and others like him.