A few weeks ago, I highlighted the plight of Geldy Kyarizov, a former horse trainer turned political prisoner in Turkmenistan. Amnesty International has just released an Urgent Action alert on his deteriorating condition:
Amnesty International has received credible reports that Geldy Kyarizov is currently suffering from serious heart illness, enlarged liver and high blood pressure, as well as gallbladder and gastric problems and needs access to urgent specialist medical treatment. Amnesty International fears that if he does not access the necessary specialist medical treatment soon, his life may be in danger. Reportedly, such specialist medical treatment is not available to him in Turkmenistan. In similar cases Turkmenistani residents seek medical treatment abroad. However, he and his family members are believed to be on a ‘black list’ and therefore unable to leave the country. His wife, sister-in-law and daughter attempted to leave Turkmenistan in 2006, 2008 and 2010 respectively but were denied exit. Amnesty International is also concerned that Geldy Kyarizov and his family continue to be harassed by the authorities: they are currently under surveillance; his wife and sister-in-law have been unable to find employment apparently because of being related to him.
It should come as no surprise that Turkmenistan is an abhorrent regime that also happens to enjoy warm relations with the U.S. as well as the global energy industry. Alas, their abuses never seen to generate as much heat as Uzbekistan, though I’d argue they’re possibly worse in many ways (and there is less visibility into how the country functions as well). For example, even taking pictures of the public banners used to promote the upcoming fraudulent election is a dangerous act of defiance — something that is not true of the other countries of Central Asia.
As another example, Turkmenistan has made a habit of treating dissidents as if they were dangerous psychopaths, sentencing them to psychiatric prisons as if Brezhnev’s reign in the 1970s never ended. While the tactic in Uzbekistan resulted in lots of media attention — relatively, since this is Central Asia and few in the West care about it — in Turkmenistan such actions merit barely a peep, even though international involvement in the country is far greater. There are also bizarre and upsetting actions like sending decapitated horse heads to the homes of dissidents that get little more than shrugs here.
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there for the moment. Geldy at least has some Europeans who try to reach out for help in publicizing his case (several of them have contacted me, and I’m happy to help them spread the word). But there are many other activists in Turkmenistan who languish in obscurity and irrelevance. That’s a real shame, but at least in this case maybe shining some sunlight can result in his getting the medical help he clearly needs.