Wednesday, 19 February 2003

TURKMEN PRESIDENT CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY; INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CALL FOR REPRESSIVE REGIME TO REMEDY ABUSES

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By empty (2/19/2003 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Turkmenistan celebrated the birthday Wednesday of President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov with a parade including the country\'s internationally renowned horses, while international human rights groups called for a day of protest. In the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, Niyazov — who turned 63 — presided over a parade of soldiers and prominent displays of the country\'s green flag striped with its five traditional clan designs. His birthday has been officially celebrated as Flag Day since 1995 and is a public holiday in this Central Asian nation.
Turkmenistan celebrated the birthday Wednesday of President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov with a parade including the country\'s internationally renowned horses, while international human rights groups called for a day of protest. In the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, Niyazov — who turned 63 — presided over a parade of soldiers and prominent displays of the country\'s green flag striped with its five traditional clan designs. His birthday has been officially celebrated as Flag Day since 1995 and is a public holiday in this Central Asian nation. Niyazov, who has ruled Turkmenistan since 1985, has built a cult of personality virtually unrivaled in the world and made himself the central element of independent Turkmen national culture. His image is inescapable in Ashgabat, with dozens of billboards and monuments to him adorning virtually every street corner. Since an alleged assassination attempt against Niyazov on Nov. 25, human rights groups say that the regime has ratcheted up its repression and abuses — staging Stalinist-style show trials without due process, allegedly torturing suspects and arresting and harassing relatives of the accused plotters. In a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Helsinki Federation, the International League for Human Rights and Memorial Human Rights Center called for Niyazov to mark his birthday with a commitment to human rights. The groups cited abuses ranging from lack of freedom of expression, religion and movement to persecution of ethnic minorities and cultural prohibitions. \"For the past decade President Niyazov has presided over a disastrous human rights situation,\" the statement said. In neighboring Uzbekistan, about 15 independent human rights activists gathered at the Turkmen Embassy for a protest with signs reading, \"Freedom for Political Prisoners\" and \"No to Repression.\" The group signed a letter addressed to Niyazov pleading he respect the rights and liberties of Turkmen people, but no one at the embassy would accept it because they said it was a holiday. (AP)
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