Risks in Ashgabat’s religious suppression

Source: Asia Times.

By Charles Recknagel and Muhammad Tahir

Few people in Turkmenistan dare to speak about the pressure the government puts upon those suspected of Islamist leanings. But Merdan, who gives only his first name, wants to be heard. He claims his family was subjected to threats when he began studying for a master’s degree in Islamic studies two years ago in Saudi Arabia. “Once I left Turkmenistan, [the authorities] came to my father, telling him ‘bring your son back’ and putting my relatives under pressure, such as calling them in for questioning,” he says. “That’s what we went through.”

He told RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service that in the end he decided not to go back to Turkmenistan and is now seeking UN refugee status. The reason: to avoid the imprisonment that he says his brother suffered upon returning home from studying in Saudi Arabia in 2009.

Merdan’s experiences and the jailing of his brother cannot be independently confirmed. But others going abroad have also reportedly suffered various degrees of harassment.

Maysa, who would not give her last name, tells the story of a Turkmen friend of hers returned from Turkey last summer with a body-covering coat that observant Turkish women wear for modesty packed in her bag.

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Categories: Asia

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