Thursday 6 April 2006

The EU and the Turkmen "Prophet"

I wrote this piece together with Tanya Cox of Human Rights Watch. It was published in the European Voice on 6 April 2006.


For years, it has been pretty hard to find anyone with anything nice to say about Turkmenistan's leadership. A widespread consensus developed that the country's leader, president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov - who styles himself 'Turkmenbashi', or father of all Turkmen - is an autocratic ruler, wrecking his country and oppressing his people.

Criticism of his authoritarian government is not restricted to non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group. The United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have regularly criticised the country's appalling human rights record and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has suspended all public sector engagement with Turkmenistan over such concerns. What everyone seem to agree on is that Turkmenistan is one of the world's most repressive states.

It thus comes as a huge shock that the European Union is moving to break ranks and cosy up to the pariah government.