Turkmenization is the set of domestic policies the Niyazov administration used in Turkmenistan from 1991 to December 2006 to force ethnic minorities to adopt Turkmen culture. Those who resisted the state-sponsored cultural transformation were often deported.
Antoine Blua of Radio Free Europe defined Turkmenization as the "policy of the Turkmen government targeting the education, employment, and religion of all of the country's non-Turkmen ethnic groups."
Shukrat Babajanov and Khurmat Babadjanov of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Uzbek Service say that since Turkmenistan gained independence, the Niyazov administration has fired most non-ethnic Turkmen civil servants. Officials must prove they have three generations of Turkmen heritage before they are hired. Informal social control is used to ensure citizens speak Turkmen and wear traditional Turkmen clothing. Uzbek women who try to marry Turkmen men are exiled to Uzbekistan with their children. Babajanov and Babadjanov say these policies have led to the emigration of Russians, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks.
In a few instances Uzbek children in Turkmen schools have been instructed to wear Turkmen clothing or be expelled from school.
Ziyoda Ruzimova, an ethnic Uzbek woman who lived in Turkmenistan, married an ethnic Turkmen in 1994 and had four children. In order to attend public school in Turkmenistan parents must register their child's birth with the government. Ruzimova did not register her marriage or her children's births at the time. When she tried to get a marriage license in February 2006, she says the government of Turkmenistan brought her and her children to the Shovat border post and turned her family over to Uzbek border guards. Ruzimova says her family had no money but the border guards gave her 1,000 soms (USD $0.85). "Then they called a taxi to take us [to my grandmother's home]." At the border the Uzbek guards kept her family on a grate where they slept. "For the children, they provided a piece of fabric; the children got a mattress, but I slept on the cement."
Mahmud Tangriberganov, head of the Gozovot village council, expressed opposition to Turkmenistan's policies, saying, "These are our relatives; these are Uzbeks. And they say that because you are Uzbek, you must leave. Why didn't [the authorities] register their marriages, the births of their children? They could have asked them to pay fines and that way they could have kept the families together, but they didn't do that."
The region around the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border is known as Khorezm to Uzbeks and Dashoguz to Turkmen. Copies of Niyazov's Ruhnama and the Turkmen flag are located at the entrance of every mosque and Russian Orthodox church. Believers must touch the Ruhnama prior to entering the building. In 2006 the government replaced ethnic Uzbek imam-hatybs with ethnic Turkmens in Dashoguz. Uzbeks comprise over 50% of the population of Dashoguz. Norwegian human rights activist Igor Rotar said, "Historically, in the Soviet times for example, most imam-hatybs in this region were [Uzbeks]. But now most of [them] are Turkmen. This is a problem because local Uzbeks complained that Turkmen imams have no good education and prefer that imam-hatybs [are] Uzbeks." In the Kunya-Urgench district in Dashoguz Uzbek imam-hatybs were not allowed to work at Islamic cemeteries and holy sites. All sermons are required to begin with a praise of Niyazov.
- Central Asia: 'Fathers are crying in Turkmenistan, and children are crying here' EurasiaNet
- Turkmenistan: State Interfering In Religious Life Of Ethnic Uzbeks RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
- Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Turkmenistan
- Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Turkmenistan, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/TKM/CO/1 (2006).
- Ethnic Russians' situation in Turkmenistan still "lamentable" - paper
- About the situation at schools in Turkmenistan.
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- The Uzbeks of Turkmenistan: Potential for Conflict?
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- Keeping up the pressure: Former POC Farid Tukhbatullin's campaign for change in Turkmenistan
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