It really is quirky. Berdimuhamedow likes to be called The Protector. And like any president who is almost for life allergic to democracy, he likes to resort to elections to legitimize his power. In the past three years, he was satisfied with 97.67% of the vote, as if he wanted to show a glimmer of dissent that is tolerated in his kingdom when his country has even managed to do worse than North Korea in terms of press freedom. Just last year, it actually ranked last in the World Press Index, the global ranking put together by Reports Without Borders.
Repression of press freedom equals an angry personality cult. An example is the imposing 21-meter-high statue made of gold leaf, which was built in the capital, Ashgabat, four years ago, on horseback. A stately monument with so many names, to be taken for granted; “The Protector”, the chief knight. And not only.
In addition to his riding skills, Berdimuhamedow likes to be depicted as a CD, next to his nephew, or while handling weapons of different caliber, in special forces uniforms, repeatedly shooting at enemy targets, hitting them all from great distances. Or driving powerful cars at high speeds getting rid of fire pits. He did not even hesitate to lift a heavy gold ingot by interfering in a government session, which was filmed on television amid the panic of those present.
The international community is confused
In the eyes of a large part of the international community, things are different. Human Rights Watch has long described Turkmenistan as “one of the most isolated and repressive countries.” “President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his associates control all aspects of public life,” Human Rights Watch said.
That’s why, when the discussion revolves around the current pandemic, the bewilderment is perfectly legitimate. Turkmenistan is not known for its impermeable borders. Among its neighbors are tormented and deeply impoverished Afghanistan, with its crumbling health system, and Iran, one of the 10 countries hardest hit by the pandemic, where Covid 19 (officially, because numbers may be much higher) infected 92,000 people, killing nearly 6 Thousands (even in this case the number of real deaths would be much more).
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