Wednesday 31 January 2007

Teetering Turkmenistan?

From my Reuters AlertNet blog, 31 January 2007.


IWPR just published a good overview report on Turkmenistan as the country faces a presidential election and an uncertain future without the megalomaniacal Saparmurad Niazov, aka Turkmenbashi, at the helm. The death of "the father of all Turkmen" in December not only came as a shock to the Central Asian nation, it also left a gap for those in the international media and NGO world who follow the region.

Though Niazov's reign was unquestionably brutal, the absurd elements of his rule -- the gold statues; the calendars with months renamed after himself and his mother; the obligatory questions about his ludicrous book, the Ruhnama, on the exam for a driver's license -- at least provided freaky factoids to draw the outside world into the story. Without the lunacy, it's going to be a lot harder to sell Turkmenistan to editors. More than one human rights activist and journalist has commented to me in recent weeks, "In a strange way, we're going to miss him."