A tough economic situation while President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s relatives live the highlife with Versace-themed parties; shortages of essential foodstuffs while the president’s nephews scatter money like trash at their celebrations; banking restrictions, bans on leaving the country, no jobs. What was life like in 2019 for the people of Turkmenistan, one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil and gas reserves?
A new film by turkmen.news answers this question.
We entitled the film “At least there’s no war.” This has become a cliché among the people of Turkmenistan, not because there is a real threat of war, but in an attempt to look on the bright side amidst all the difficulties of their lives. No work and no money for food? Oh, at least there’s no war. Low quality health care and education? We’ll get by! At least there’s no war! The local authorities ignore the needs of the population, while the president’s extended family robs the country blind? Never mind, we’ll manage somehow, at least there’s no war.
2019 was a tough year for ordinary people. Shortages of the most basic foodstuffs – bread, flour, vegetable oil, eggs, and sugar – coupled with a lack of steady work. Even amidst the gleaming white marble of Ashgabat people leave their homes early in the morning, as though setting off for work, and go from shop to shop looking for food at prices lower than at the bazar. This is without even mentioning life in the provinces. Even in the early 1990s the shortages of cotton seed oil and eggs weren’t so bad.
People are going abroad en masse, which can be seen in the statistical data of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. Even public sector employees have to leave the country, sometimes taking their families with them, as their salaries won’t stretch far enough and the authorities are always dreaming up new bans and restrictions. These include some utterly absurd prohibitions – on women drivers and on cars of any color other than white. Bans have stymied attempts to make even small sums on the difference in exchange rates – either it’s impossible to withdraw money or there is a ban on trips abroad with this purpose.
Our new film shows the realities of today’s Turkmenistan, where Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s relatives live without a care in the world. They receive billion-dollar state contracts, travel abroad, treat hard currency like trash, and hold closed parties with various themes.
They really don’t like it when someone finds out these details and makes them public, opening people’s eyes to the truth. We receive threats and demands to take down our publications about the president’s family and his close relatives, and to close (!) the turkmen.news project, and there are even attempts to buy us off. We had similar offers after the viral video clip about the million-dollar wristwatches belonging to the president’s sister’s son-in-law. But not everything in this world is measured in terms of money. Maybe it’s time to rein in appetites?
At least there’s no war… In fact this expression masks the inertia and everyday cowardice of the population. People are deprived of everything but come up with the same response – “At least there’s no war.” Is that really what’s most important? The absence of war?
P.S. Turkmen.news thanks its authors and sources for their commitment and invaluable work, often at great risk, in reporting on the daily problems and concerns of the residents of all regions of Turkmenistan, for showing life as it really is.