President Niyazov has stated his support for the democratic
ideal of a multiparty system and of protection of human rights,
with the caveat that such rights protect stability, order, and
social harmony. While acknowledging that his cult of personality
resembles that of Soviet dictator Joseph V. Stalin, Niyazov claims
that a strong leader is needed to guide the republic through its
transition from communism to a democratic form of government.
Although the Niyazov government has received consistent criticism
from foreign governments and international organizations such
as Helsinki Watch for its restrictive policies toward opposition
groups, in general the government has not taken extreme steps
against its political opposition. In 1993 no political prisoners,
political executions, or instances of torture or other inhumane
treatment were reported. The government has made conscious efforts
to protect equal rights and opportunities for groups of citizens
it considers benign. Such measures have been applied especially
in safeguarding the security of Russian residents, who receive
special attention because they offer a considerable body of technical
and professional expertise.
Nevertheless, government control of the media has been quite
effective in suppressing domestic criticism of the Niyazov regime.
In addition, members of opposition groups suffer harassment in
the form of dismissal from jobs, evictions, unwarranted detentions,
and denial of travel papers. Their rights to privacy are violated
through telephone tapping, electronic eavesdropping, reading of
mail, and surveillance. United States officials have protested
human rights violations by refusing to sign aid agreements with
Turkmenistan and by advising against economic aid and cooperation.
Data as of March 1996