President for life Saparmurat Niyazov, the self-styled Turkmenbashi, or “leader of all the Turkmen,” has made good on a pledge to order all hospitals outside the Turkmen capital Ashbagat shut.
This comes on the heels of his decision to close the country’s libraries. “No one goes to libraries and reads books anyway,” explained Niyazov. Opera, ballet and circuses, among many other things, were already banned in Turkmenistan. (IWPR, Apr. 21) Required study, at work, in schools, and in mosques, is Ruhknama, the spiritual treatise penned in Turkmenbashi’s own hand. Now, for all devotees of this Central Asian post-communist insect that preys upon the lives of his people, Rukhnama is available online in English.
The Turkmen State News Service released on March 29, 2002, a “critique” of Rukhnama (sometimes rendered without the K) in which Niyazov’s factotums and satraps quote “just some of the comments made by [unnamed] prominent public and political figures, historians, philosophers and experts:”
“The Ruhnama is a treasure of new ideas with historical and philosophical features”
“this is the first ever successful attempt to review the history in its inseparable links with the fate of the nation, country and other peoples”.
“The Ruhnama shows the logic of human civilisation’s progress and overcomes the confusions which leads scientific thought to a dead end”.
“The author has managed to reveal the great continuity of spiritual and cultural heritage and has thus demonstrated the eternal victory of life over evil and inertia”.
Turkmenbashi’s syncophants further wish to “remind you that these quotes come from [anonymous] representatives of the world intellectual elite.”
There had been questions on whether or not Rukhnama would be elevated to the same status as the Koran. The Rukhnama site ends this idle speculation with a bang:
A Golden book for a Golden Century!
Mankind has always turned to Asia for spiritual Guidance
The Bible, The Koran, and now… The most holy Ruhnama.
A book of spirituality of the Turkman people.
BTW, don’t forget to take the oath:
MY BELOVED MOTHERLAND,
MY BELOVED HOMELAND!
YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME
IN MY THOUGHTS AND IN MY HEART.
FOR THE SLIGHTEST EVIL AGAINST YOU
LET MY HAND BE LOST.
FOR THE SLIGHTEST SLANDER ABOUT YOU
LET MY TONGUE BE LOST.
AT THE MOMENT OF MY BETRAYAL
TO MY MOTHERLAND,
TO HER SACRED BANNER,
TO SAPARMURAT TÜRKMENBASY THE GREAT
LET MY BREATH STOP.
But Turkmenbashi himself professes to be a reluctant despot, and blames it on the people:
“If I was a worker and my president gave me all the things they have here in Turkmenistan, I would not only paint his picture, I would have his picture on my shoulder, or on my clothing,” says Turkmenbashi. “I’m personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets – but it’s what the people want.” (CBS, Jan. 5, 2004)
Turkmenistan, at 500,000 sq. km, is larger than Germany, and has the lowest life expectancy, 62, for all of Central Asia and Europe. Yet Niyazov has decided that the only hospitals in the country should be in Ashgabat, and last year fired 15,000 health care workers. “Why do we need such hospitals?” he said in a February meeting wth local officials. “If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat.” Critics say Turkmenbashi is taking money from much-needed services to be spent on enormous public works celebrating his cult of personality, including a gold statue of himself that rotates so that it is always facing the sun. (BBC,March 1; June 3)
For more on Turkmenistan, including the US role in supporting the Niyazov regime, see here.
A Turkmen opposition webpage.