In one of his boldest moves since his swearing-in three months ago, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has sacked a top security official who helped build the oppressive regime of the late Saparmurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov. Official media announced that Akmurad Rejepov, head of the presidential security service, is being transferred to “another job,” which was not specified. Nor was a replacement announced. Analysts cautiously view this as evidence of a post-Niyazov political opening.
“[This could be] an attempt by the present leadership—namely the president, the defense minister, and the interior minister—to protect themselves against any surprises from [Akmurad] Rejepov,” says regional expert Artem Ulunyan, who is a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Universal History. “And his transfer [to a different post] could be, not so much a promotion, but in fact a demotion to an insignificant and purely pompous post, as is customary in authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.”
Rejepov served Niyazov loyally for most of his 21 years in office, during which Niyazov built up a bizarre personality cult and ran the country as a tightly closed autocracy. Rejepov’s power is said to have reached well beyond his official position as head of a 2,000-strong presidential bodyguard service, with some observers calling him the real brains of the entire security apparatus. (EurasiaNet, May 16)