August 18, 2022

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This nation claims it hasn’t had a single Covid-19 case. Activists say that is a lie


Or not less than, that is what the central Asian nation’s secretive, authoritarian authorities claims.

But unbiased organizations and journalists and activists exterior Turkmenistan say there’s proof the nation is battling a 3rd wave which is overwhelming hospitals and killing dozens of individuals — and warn the President is enjoying down the specter of the lethal virus in a bid to take care of his public picture.

Ruslan Myatiev, an exile from Turkmenistan and editor of the Netherlands-based unbiased information group Turkmen News, stated he has personally assembled the names of more than 60 people who he claimed have died of Covid-19 contained in the nation, together with academics, artists and docs.

Myatiev stated he has verified all of the recorded deaths with well being information and X-rays, revealing extreme lung injury and medical therapy per coronavirus victims.

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

The Turkmenistan authorities didn’t reply to CNN’s requests for remark.

How it unfolded

As Covid-19 unfold around the globe in the beginning of 2020, Turkmenistan insisted it had no instances, at the same time as bordering nations reported skyrocketing outbreaks.

Iran, with which Turkmenistan shares an extended land border, has reported one of many world’s largest Covid-19 outbreaks with practically 5.5 million complete instances, in keeping with the World Health Organization (WHO).

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

According to the web sites of the British and Australian international ministries, all flights into Turkmenistan are presently suspended and solely Turkmen residents are allowed to enter the nation.
Myatiev stated his sources in Turkmenistan started contacting him about instances in round May 2020 — about the identical time Covid-19 was spreading around the world. He stated the primary messages he obtained talked a couple of “weird lung disease, flu-like” which was affecting many individuals.

“It was at least 40 degrees Celsius outside (104 degrees Fahrenheit) — not a usual flu season,” he stated.

In June 2020, the US embassy within the capital, Ashgabat, issued a heath alert warning of “reports of local citizens with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 undergoing Covid-19 testing,” and being positioned in quarantine for as much as 14 days.
The Turkmenistan authorities instantly referred to as the assertion “fake news.”
A WHO mission to Turkmenistan in July 2020 didn’t affirm any coronavirus infections contained in the nation however did say it was involved about “elevated numbers of instances of acute respiratory infection and pneumonia.”
One WHO official stated Turkmenistan ought to act “as if Covid-19 was circulating.”

By then, the scenario was uncontrolled, in keeping with Myatiev. The authorities suggested residents to take weird public well being measures, equivalent to consuming a selected sort of spicy soup.

In January this yr, Turkmenistan introduced it had authorized Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to be used within the nation. Then in June, the World Bank agreed to lend $20 million to the Turkmenistan authorities, principally for well being amenities and development, as a part of a program to “prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by Covid-19.”

As not too long ago as Tuesday, President Berdymukhamedov stated the efforts of the worldwide neighborhood in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic had been “insufficient,” though he didn’t point out the scenario inside his personal nation.

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

‘Turkmenistan is burning’

Despite Berdymukhamedov’s claims that his nation his Covid-free, the fact inside Turkmenistan is starkly completely different, in keeping with unbiased journalists and activists.

Diana Serebryannik, director of Europe-based exiles group Rights and Freedoms of Turkmenistan Citizens, stated her group had heard from contacts within the nation that hospitals there are presently struggling to cope with the inflow of instances.

Serebryannik stated Turkmen docs from her group who had been now dwelling abroad had been in contact with their former colleagues within the nation, permitting them to search out out the actual scenario and supply recommendation.

She stated docs inside Turkmenistan had instructed her each oxygen and ventilators had been laborious to return by within the nation, therapy was costly and deaths from the virus might be within the 1000’s.

“Turkmenistan is burning, it’s burning with Covid … Sometimes they do not even accept patients to the hospital, they just send them home,” she stated.

A hermit nation ruled by an egomaniac: Is Turkmenistan on the brink of collapse?

According to Serebryannik, the official explanation for loss of life in these instances is just not listed as Covid-19 and even pneumonia — as a substitute medical certificates file a separate situation, equivalent to a coronary heart assault, she stated.

When well being employees have tried to talk up in regards to the actuality on the bottom, they’ve been pressured into silence, according to non-profit Human Rights Watch.
Inside the nation, freedom of the press and unbiased scrutiny is just not allowed — Turkmenistan was ranked 178 out of 180 countries and territories on Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index, simply above North Korea and Eritrea.
Turkmen residents who peacefully criticize the federal government have confronted extreme punishments, in keeping with Human Rights Watch, together with reviews of torture and disappearances.
Foreign residents have additionally been affected by the Turkmenistan authorities’s coronavirus denials. In July 2020, Turkish diplomat Kemal Uchkun was admitted to hospital in Ashgabat with Covid-like signs however was refused permission to evacuate to his house nation, in keeping with the journal of Asian Affairs.
According to the BBC, X-rays despatched to Turkish hospitals by Uchkun’s spouse had been confirmed to indicate evidence of Covid-19.

The journal of Asian Affairs stated Uchkun died on July 7. His official explanation for loss of life was coronary heart failure.

Most not too long ago, Myatiev stated he had confirmed the loss of life of a 61-year-old Russian language and literature instructor, who had been in hospital since August, according to Turkmen News.

Undermining the rosy image

Multiple authoritarian governments around the globe have introduced their Covid-19 outbreaks and obtained worldwide help, together with China, the earliest nation affected.

So why is Turkmenistan so insistent that it has nonetheless not seen a single case?

Both Myatiev and Serebryannik stated it was right down to President Berdymukhamedov who, as a dentist by career and former well being minister, had positioned nice emphasis on successfully governing the well-being of his folks — not less than in precept.

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

Serebryannik stated Berdymukhamedov, 64, wished to seem like a savior to the nation, and a powerful world chief, by retaining Covid-19 out.

“Turkmenistan is a country where everything in the garden looks rosy … you have those marble, state of the art (health facilities) equipped with German, French, Japanese, whatever, equipment,” journalist Myatiev stated.

Admitting the presence of a lethal virus would undermine the idealized picture the President has created and go away Berdymukhamedov open to criticism — and doubtlessly to being held to account.

“It would be someone’s failure, someone would have to bear responsibility for that and who has the ultimate word for that? The President,” Myatiev stated.

There has been no indication but that Turkmenistan is making ready to reverse its place and admit to having Covid-19 instances contained in the nation, however Serebryannik stated she believed the federal government must ultimately.

She stated there had simply been “too much death.”

Human Rights Watch’s Denber stated worldwide organizations interacting with Turkmenistan, together with WHO, had an obligation to be trustworthy with the world in regards to the scenario contained in the nation.

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

Denber stated in a worldwide pandemic, with many outbreaks linked throughout worldwide borders, nations had an obligation to supply correct testing and proper public info.

“We’re all interconnected,” she stated. “When one of us fails, we all fail.”



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