EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The dangers of leading opposition to dictator Putin in Turkmenistan – Kyiv Post

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Immediately before Kyiv Post met Mr. Murad Kurbanov in person at an Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Warsaw, Poland, Mr. Kurbanov’s safety had already been threatened. . Appearing uninvited, a man, apparently a diplomat from the Turkmenistan Embassy, ​​attempted to enter the lobby of the conference hotel while shouting threats at Mr Kurbanov, in front of several high-ranking international attendees. level, stating that Mr. Kurbanov was “not even safe in Europe. Mr. Kurbanov is, in the eyes of the Turkmen Government, a clear threat.

Could you say a few words about yourself?

My name is Murad Kurbanov. I am 57 years old and have four children. I graduated from the Turkmen Polytechnic Institute with a degree in civil engineering, then graduated from the Dutch Business School with a master’s degree in business administration, where I studied economics and management. I then graduated from Mirai University in France, where I obtained a diploma as a French teacher.

Murad Kurbanov. (Photo credit: Murad Kurbanov)

In Poland, shortly before our meeting, someone from the Turkmenistan Embassy approached you and started shouting threats at you. Does this happen to you often?

They threaten me everywhere. But they also crush our families in Turkmenistan: parents, brothers, sisters, their children, etc. I had 80 crushed loved ones including cousins ​​and cousins ​​of cousins.

Twice a week they [Turkmen authorities] come to see my mother, who is 84, to put pressure on her. They come for me because they are afraid that I will come to Turkmenistan.

Who is behind this targeted harassment against you?

All this is done by Turkmen national security agents. The 3rd Secretary of the Embassy of Turkmenistan in France particularly endeavors to follow me. They found out where my kids live and what cars they drive, and they found out all about me.

This is the standard pressure system. With all opposition activists and activists etc.

But, with me, they exert the most pressure: because I present the greatest threat to create regime change in Turkmenistan.

I don’t think people who don’t know the area know how similar Turkmenistan is to North Korea. I heard that there is something else that Turkmenistan has in common with North Korea: no one has ever contracted the coronavirus there.

Yes, because President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov decided that there was only a “kind of dust disease” in Turkmenistan, and there was no coronavirus in Turkmenistan – and therefore, by his decision, the coronavirus has been defeated, forever. Even the World Health Organization has confirmed that there is no coronavirus in Turkmenistan!

Even though thousands of people died from the coronavirus in Turkmenistan each month in August and September 2021, the presence of the coronavirus in Turkmenistan has not been confirmed by anyone. Memorial events for the dead held during this period and satellite images of cemeteries across Turkmenistan confirm these figures.

There are reports in the mass media that Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the dictator of Turkmenistan, is both strange and cruel. Are there any proven examples you could share?

  • The predecessor of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the former President of Turkmenistan [Saparmurat] Niyazov, nicknamed Turkmenbashi, built a prison for deputy prime ministers and his ministers in his recreation palace in the village of Firyuza. Every day, going to work and returning from work, he walked through this prison and laughed at the prisoners.
  • Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov continued this tradition. He built an aquarium for crocodiles and sharks in the Firyuza Recreation Palace. He throws the guilty officials inside. Before the 2022 presidential election in Turkmenistan, the nephews of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and his son Serdar, the current president, systematically raped young girls and then killed them to hide the evidence. All these cases were closed without investigation. Even Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s beloved grandson, Kerim, who was to become the country’s leader after Serdar, raped a 16-year-old girl, who was later placed in a psychiatric hospital. All relatives of murdered and raped girls are intimidated by the National Security Service and the prosecutor’s office.
  • The import and use of cars of any color except white is prohibited in Turkmenistan. All cars in other colors and factory colored parts (black bumpers, black side protection plastic on doors, black engine undertray) should be repainted white.

What other similarities do you see between Turkmenistan and North Korea?

Turkmenistan aspires to maximum isolation and does not allow tourists, journalists or human rights defenders to enter the country. The only people who can come to the country are employees of diplomatic missions, the UN, OSCE, UNICEF and UNESCO. They are always accompanied and monitored so that they do not “interfere” too much in the life of the country.

Any Turkmen who invites a guest into the country assumes full responsibility for this guest. The guest cannot be a journalist, blogger, politician or any other public figure. The guest is prohibited from posting photos, videos or any other evidence of real Turkmen life. In addition, it is forbidden to photograph public places in Turkmenistan. National security or police officers can seize a photo or phone from you at any time.

For example, not so long ago a person was sentenced to four years in prison for sending photos from a social network to a journalist for electronic publication. There is an iron curtain in Turkmenistan which restricts and controls all information. All the mass media belong to the State: television, newspapers, magazines… Internet speed is very low, so it is not possible to watch a video or send a photo. The internet is strictly controlled and 65% of Internet service providers and websites in Turkmenistan are closed. Even if you pay for high-speed Internet services, you cannot download videos or visit social networks. Getting caught with a VPN results in 15 days in jail.

Who recognizes you as the legitimate leader of the opposition?

In 2020, I was elected leader of the popular movement Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan, which is registered in France. The Democratic Opposition Platform of Turkmenistan was also created, which included the main opposition movements, groups, bloggers and civil activists. At one of the meetings, I was elected leader of the Democratic Platform and candidate for the post of President of Turkmenistan. In April 2022, I won the first open electronic presidential election held in Turkmenistan. (https://t.me/saylawlar2022_bot and https://saylawlar2022.org /).

Murad Kurbanov (middle back row) and members of the Turkmen opposition. (Photo credit: Murad Kurbanov)

How much pressure is there and how realistic is it to overthrow the Turkmen leader at this stage?

There is no possibility to organize a peaceful demonstration, action or peaceful demonstration against the current regime in Turkmenistan. All opponents are imprisoned or are abroad. Everything is strictly controlled inside. Even though all the gatherings take place abroad, people are brutally persecuted by the authorities, as strong pressure is exerted on relatives inside Turkmenistan.

What do Turkmenistans think of Russia’s war against Ukraine?

Since the citizens of Turkmenistan are isolated from real information and have access only to Russian propaganda channels, most of them support the special program [military] operation and Putin. The democratic opposition tries to explain to the citizens of Turkmenistan that Putin has started a war of aggression and that there are no Nazis in Ukraine. Although the country is isolated, our people are slowly waking up.

Why do you think we see the favorable reaction in some post-Soviet countries to Russia’s war in Ukraine?

This war shows that many people in the former USSR support Putin’s aggression. These people see Putin as a person capable of realizing their idea of ​​recreating the USSR. Because they haven’t lived happily ever since the collapse of the USSR, there is no reason to complain about their (local) dictators. Because the local dictators have already trapped them.

What does the war in Ukraine mean to you?

I believe that the war of aggression that Putin unleashed by attacking Ukraine is the struggle led by the Ukrainian people for their freedom and statehood! This is the struggle of the Ukrainian people for their right to exist! It is the struggle of good against evil, it is the struggle of democratic and free countries against a rogue state, tyranny and imperialism!

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