Turkmenistan’s Presidential Playground
By: Shwetang Desai
Turkmenistan is a country that has been at the crossroads of civilization over the course of history. Located in Central Asia, Turkmenistan has a rich and prideful history, with the city of Merv even being considered a crucial stop on the Silk Road. Despite the rich culture and extensive history, Turkmenistan faces economic hardship and an undemocratic government. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has consistently won two multi-candidate elections, securing over 97% of the vote, confirming that he has compromised the integrity of democracy in Turkmenistan. President Berdymukhamedov’s authoritarian policies and his corrupt obsession with expensive glamour have led to economic hardships for the struggling nation of 5.8 million people.
On Tuesday, Turkmenistan’s President revealed a giant statue of a dog in the capital of Ashgabat. The gold canine is an Alabai, a Central Asian shepherd dog bred by the Turkmen. The Alabai is regarded as a national symbol of pride and the President’s “favourite” dog breed. The statue is approximately 19 ft tall, and it is safe to assume that it cost a hefty sum for a nation suffering from hyper-inflation and food shortages.
The statue of the Alabai is not the first time that Berdymukhamedov has indulged in his corrupt obsession. Berdymukhamedovhas’s growing collection also includes a monument of him riding a horse mounted on a marble cliff. The President’s obsession with glamour has led him to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a building spree in Ashgabat that includes giant statues, marble buildings, and even golden domes. The capital city holds the world record for the highest density of white marble-clad buildings! Many of these exorbitant buildings even have his portrait on them, showing his authoritarianism and corruption. His other projects involve spending $7.3 billion on a bird shaped airport and an “Olympic Village”.
This corrupt obsession and irresponsible spending has transformed the capital city into the President’s personal playground, where he spends Turkmenistan’s money unopposed, as he desires. Turkmenistan’s economy with its reliance on gas reserves, faces imminent collapse due to low gas prices and falling exports. Experts estimate that over 60% of the country’s workforce is unemployed or underemployed, with local people being forced to wait hours in line for subsidized food.
The President’s exorbitant spending and corrupt obsession with transforming the capital into his personal playground shows an utter denial of the nation’s economic struggles. Turkmenistan’s population faces oppression, unemployment, corruption, and food shortages. With no light at the end of the tunnel, it is up to the rest of the world to rescue the 5.8 million innocent citizens of Turkmenistan. How long can western nations watch the citizens of Turkmenistan suffer? When will the “progressive” and influential governments of North America and Europe recognize the human rights issue in Turkmenistan and intervene? When will the western world, obsessed with democracy, protect the integrity of Turkmenistan’s democracy? When will we take action against President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov? The innocent citizens of Turkmenistan deserve an answer.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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