The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Turkmenistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#human_rights #turkmenistan #turkmenistan_human_rights

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index141st best
Life Expectancy69.26yrs (2017)2

Turkmenistan is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Turkmenistan does worse than average in terms of freethought3 (still low for Asia), speed of uptake of HR treaties4 and in LGBT equality5. And finally, it falls into the worst-performing 20 when it comes to commentary in Human Rights Watch reports6 and in supporting press freedom7 (one of the worst in Asia). Turkmenistan is one of the world´s most closed and oppressively governed countries; the government, led by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov controls all aspects of public life and "effectively bans all forms of religious and political expression not approved by authorities", tightly controls the media and disallows any human rights monitoring8. Anyone who questions or criticizes government policies (or even simply tells outsiders about them) faces a "constant threat of reprisal"8. Torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners is widespread and the justice system is so closed that the true scale of issues cannot be determined8.

1. Turkmenistan's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)9
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank9
1Hong Kong24.3
43Myanmar (Burma)128.5
Asia Avg99.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)9
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank9
155Central African Rep.121.0
157Papua New Guinea122.2
159=St Kitts & Nevis123.0
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark10. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu10.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe10, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia10.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Turkmenistan stated:

Serious human rights violations continued unabated across the board, including arbitrary detentions and politically motivated convictions of anyone daring to criticize or challenge official policy. The authorities continued to exercise strict control over the flow of information and all media. Turkmenistan failed to take meaningful action to address climate change. Women and girls saw their rights and freedoms, including bodily autonomy, restricted further. Abortion was effectively banned. Consensual sex between men remained a criminal offence.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)11

Torture and ill-treatment are widespread and continue with impunity. It is impossible to determine the exact number of people jailed on politically motivated grounds due to the complete lack of transparency in the justice system, closed trials, and severe repression that precludes independent monitoring of these cases.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)8

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better6
107=Central African Rep.-8
110Myanmar (Burma)-9
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
When it comes to commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, Turkmenistan ranks 9th-worst in the world.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better12
2=Costa Rica23
76=Timor-Leste (E. Timor)17
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
Turkmenistan ranks 75th in the world regarding its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better4
Avg Yrs/Treaty4
139Ivory Coast12.14
140Trinidad & Tobago12.26
144S. Africa12.51
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
Turkmenistan comes 141st in the world regarding speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better7
177N. Korea8390
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
Turkmenistan comes 3rd-worst in the world regarding supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index13

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.5. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims14
150Myanmar (Burma)1.10
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
When it comes to eliminating modern slavery, Turkmenistan ranks 17th-worst in the world.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory15. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends16. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life17. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves18.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery19. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity20. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.21. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi22, Eritrea22, Indonesia23) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery24.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality


3.1. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
29=St Lucia1924
34S. Africa1930
35=Sri Lanka1931
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
Turkmenistan ranks 32nd in the world with regard to the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

"Homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Turkmen law, punishable by a maximum two-year prison sentence"8. There is no chance that this needlessly discriminatory and unfair situation is likely to change any time soon.

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
169St Kitts & Nevis-25
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
Turkmenistan comes 166th in the world in terms of LGBT equality.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence25. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws26. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries25. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
132Solomon Islands3.5
133=Equatorial Guinea3.5
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
(still good for Asia)Turkmenistan comes 132nd in the world in terms of freethought.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights27. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish28. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era29 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted30. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief31. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands3,32 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia3,33.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed34. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief28, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion35 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"36 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#religion_in_turkmenistan #turkmenistan

The government "effectively bans all forms of religious and political expression not approved by authorities" and severely punishes any gathering or activity that seems religious in nature but is not pre-approved by the state8.