This country claims that it does not have a single Kovid-19 case. Activists say it’s a lie


Or at least, that is the claim of the secret, authoritarian government of the Central Asian country.

But independent organizations and journalists and activists outside Turkmenistan say there is evidence the country is battling a third wave that is ravaging hospitals and killing dozens – and warn that the president will not allow his public To maintain the risk of deadly virus are minimizing. image.

Ruslan Turkmen, an exile from Turkmenistan and editor of the Netherlands-based independent news organization Turkmen News, said he personally collected the names. more than 60 people He claimed to have died of Covid-19 inside the country including teachers, artists and doctors.

Turkmen said they had verified all recorded deaths with health records and X-rays, which revealed severe lung damage and tailored medical treatment to coronavirus victims.

“Instead of accepting this and cooperating with the international community, Turkmenistan decided to stick its head in the sand,” Turkmenistan said.

The Turkmen government did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

how it came out

As Covid-19 spread around the world in early 2020, Turkmenistan insisted it had no cases, even as border countries reported skyrocketing outbreaks.

Iran, with which Turkmenistan shares a long land border, has reported nearly 5.5 million total cases, according to one of the world’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks. World Health Organization (WHO).

“You see what’s happening in other countries in the region and how different Turkmenistan can be?” Rachel Denber, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.

according to the websites of English And australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkmenistan All flights are currently suspended and only Turkmen nationals are allowed to enter the country.
Turkmenistan stated that their sources in Turkmenistan began contacting them about cases around May 2020 – around the same time Covid-19 was spreading around the world. He said the first message he received talked about a “strange lung disease, flu-like” that was affecting many people.

“It was at least 40 degrees Celsius outside (104 degrees Fahrenheit) – not the usual flu season,” he said.

In June 2020, the US Embassy in the capital Ashgabat issued a heath alert “Reports of local citizens with Covid-19 tests including Covid-19 tests,” and warnings of being placed in quarantine for 14 days.
The Turkmen government immediately called the statement “fake news
a WHO Mission In July 2020, Turkmenistan did not confirm any coronavirus infections inside the country, but said it was concerned about an “increasing number of cases”. acute respiratory infections and pneumonia.”
A WHO official said Turkmenistan should act “like covid-19” was moving.”

According to Turkmenistan, by then the situation was out of control. The government advised citizens to take bizarre public health measures, such as eating a special type of spicy soup.

In January this year, Turkmenistan announced that it had approved Russia’s Sputnik V Coronavirus vaccine for use in the country. Then in June, the World Bank agreed Lend $20 Million For the Turkmen government, mostly for health facilities and construction, “as part of a program to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19.”

As recently as Tuesday, President Berdymukhmedov said the efforts of the global community in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic were “inadequate”, although he did not mention the situation inside his country.

“The pandemic has exposed serious systemic failures in the international response to this challenge,” he said.

‘Turkmenistan is burning’

According to independent journalists and activists, the reality inside Turkmenistan is quite different, despite Berdymukhmedov’s claims that his country is Covid-free.

Diana Serebryanik, director of the Europe-based exile group Rights and Freedom of Turkmen Citizens, said her organization has heard from contacts in the country that hospitals there are currently struggling to cope with the influx of cases.

Serebryanik said his organization’s Turkmen doctors who are now living abroad were in contact with their former colleagues in the country, which allowed them to find out the real situation and provide advice.

She said doctors from inside Turkmenistan had told her that both oxygen and ventilators were hard to come by in the country, that treatment was expensive and deaths from the virus could run into the thousands.

“Turkmenistan is burning, it is burning with Covid… sometimes they don’t even admit patients to the hospital, they send them home,” she said.

A hermit nation ruled by an egoist: is Turkmenistan on the verge of collapse?

According to Serebrynik, the official cause of death in these cases is not listed as Covid-19 or even pneumonia – instead medical certificates record a different condition, such as a heart attack, she said. .

When the health workers tried to speak about the ground realities, they were pressured to remain silent. According For the non-profit Human Rights Watch.
Inside the country, freedom of the press and independent investigation are not allowed — Turkmenistan was ranked 178 out of 180 countries and the region on the Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index, just above North Korea and Eritrea.
Citizens of Turkmenistan who peacefully criticize the government face harsh punishment Human Rights Watch, including reports of torture and disappearances.
Foreign residents have also been affected by the Turkmenistan government’s coronavirus denial. In July 2020, Turkish diplomat Kemal Uchkun was admitted to a hospital in Ashgabat with COVID-like symptoms, but was denied permission to evacuate to his home country. Journal of Asian Affairs.
According to the BBC, X-rays sent to Turkish hospitals by Uchkun’s wife were confirmed Evidence of Covid-19.

The Journal of Asian Affairs said Uchkun died on July 7. The official cause of his death was cardiac arrest.

Recently, Turkmenistan said they had confirmed the death of a 61-year-old Russian language and literature teacher who had been in hospital since August. According to Turkmen News.

underestimating the pink picture

There are many authoritarian governments around the world Announced its COVID-19 outbreaks and received international aid, including the first affected country, including China.

So why is Turkmenistan so insistent that it hasn’t seen a single case yet?

Both Turkmen and Serebryanik said it was up to President Berdymukhamedov, who, as a dentist by profession and former health minister, had placed great emphasis on effectively controlling the well-being of his people – at least in theory.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly remotely in a pre-recorded message on September 21, 2021.

Serebryanik said that 64-year-old Berdymukhamedov wants to look like a savior for the country and an influential world leader by keeping Kovid-19 out.

Journalist Turkmen said, “Turkmenistan is a country where everything in the garden looks pink… you have marble, state-of-the-art (health facilities) equipped with German, French, Japanese, whatever equipment you have.”

Acknowledging the presence of a deadly virus would undermine the idealized image the president has created and leave Berdymukhamedov open to criticism – and potentially be held to account.

Turkmenistan said, “It will be someone’s failure, someone has to take responsibility for it and who has the last word for it? The president.”

There is no indication yet that Turkmenistan is preparing to reverse its position and admit to having Covid-19 cases inside the country, but Serebryanik said he believes the government will eventually Will have to do

She said there had been “too many deaths” right now.

Human Rights Watch’s Denbar said that international organizations negotiating with Turkmenistan, including the WHO, have a duty to be honest with the world about the situation inside the country.

“At a certain point you have to say, at what cost are you protecting that presence (in the country)? Are you taking measures to protect your relationship … undermining your core mission? ” he said.

Denbar said that in a global pandemic, with many outbreaks linked across international borders, nations had an obligation to provide accurate testing and accurate public information.

“We are all intertwined,” she said. “When one of us fails, we all fail.”

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