Night-time temperatures already fell below zero in the first 10 days of November. It’s cold during the day too, but people are still being sent from the cities to the cotton fields. This will continue until the capital gives the go-ahead for the end of the cotton season.
Instead of changing this long running practice in order to ease the pressure and criticism from the international community, the government of Turkmenistan is carrying on as it always does – using threats and blackmail to force people from different professions to take part in the cotton campaign.
President Berdimuhamedov, as commander-in-chief and protector of the country’s Constitution, should initiate an inspection in the Punishment Implementation Department and its activities throughout the country’s prison system, in an effort to stop the arbitrary harassment of ethnic minorities.
Oil and gas rich Turkmenistan is in the grip of a food and economic crisis. Long lines for basic foodstuffs have become the new normal in a country that once boasted free gasoline allowances and, more recently, free utilities.
Governor Tangryguly Atakhallyev treats local employees, directors of administrations and departments, like dirt. He insists that they are in the cotton fields day and night and get cotton out of nowhere. But what can they do if there’s no cotton?
Just one and a half years ago, the “fine” for being found in possession of a cell phone was 300 manats. Another 100 manats on top of that fee and the guards would give the phone back. Today, however, the violation alone would cost an inmate 1,300 manats.
In Turkmenistan, it is half-way through the cotton harvesting season. Despite the crop failure and empty cotton fields, local government officials hold daily meetings with chiefs of institutions and demand more people in the fields and more cotton to meet the state plan.
While his contribution as an engineer to “loving the Fatherland” could hardly be assessed, his lifestyle outside of work was publicly known: he sips expensive alcoholic drinks in Las Vegas casinos, strolls among the yachts in Monaco, and drives expensive cars around the world.
Dozens of people have been injured in a bus accident. The crash occurred on August 31st in the eastern city of Turkmenabat. The roughly 40 people on board were kindergarten and secondary school staff traveling to pick cotton.