Skippy R's picture
05.05.2008 | Comments(9)

Turkmen Tales

Let's hope this marks the final chapter in the story of Saparmurat Niyazov, the "Father of All Turkmen," who was absolute dictator of Turkmenistan for 20 years until his death in 2006.

The new ruler, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, ordered the rotating golden statue of Niyazov removed from the center of the capital, Ashgabat, to stand beside a highway near the edge of town with tacky billboards and other roadside curiosities.

The new president also restored the former calendar, which had been changed by Niyazov to name the months after himself, his mother and other family members.

A friend of mine-- an aid worker-- lived for a while in Turkmenistan several years ago, and came back with hilarious but also disturbing stories about this guy. That's when I started to notice reports in the press of his harrowing antics.

He banned ballet, gold teeth and recorded music; he ordered the construction of a lake in the middle of the desert and a ski resort on the snowless foothills of the Iranian border.

Using oil revenues, he undertook massive building projects to glorify himself, including a theme park --"The World of Turkmen Fairy Tales"--based on his country's folk tales, and made his book, a "spiritual guide" called the Ruhnama, compulsory reading for students, workers, and well... everybody.

I guess the books (and the old calendars) are now being used to heat people's homes as the country claws its way back into the 19th century.

The new administration isn't exactly all sweetness and light, though. Turkmenistan has promised to amend its Religion Law to become more liberal, but the majority Muslim population still can't leave the country for the haj to Mecca.

And on April 11, officials from the local Religious Affairs Department and the secret police, raided a Bible class held by the Greater Grace Protestant church in a private flat in the capital.

Pastor Vladimir Tolmachev told Forum 18, a human rights watch organization, he was warned that the church was not allowed to teach its own members without permission from the government's Religious Affairs Committee (even though that conflicts with its officially recognised Charter). Officials told Tolmachev further warnings could lead to the church's registration being stripped from it, rendering all its activities illegal.

The church has no building of its own and has already had to move its services ten times this year, the report said.

This is definitely not fertile soil for a prosperity-gospel church.

More posts at www.wittenburgblog.com.

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Comments(9)

Process Deist | 11:13 pm on 5/05/2008

So, this is not much different from the era of the 1920's in rural East Texas. The prevailing groups were the Fundies who alligned with the Baptist name and the Ku-Klux-Klan.
My Grandmothers, gave me oral history about how God loved the world so much, he almost beat parts of it to death.
Bigots and Idiots will always find supporters. Just lead, follow, or get out of the way.

budda | 09:55 am on 5/06/2008

Followers of bigots and fundys, no matter the philosophy or culture, are motivated in large part by fear. My sister is an uber-evangelical and I have a close friend who is a militia-member, anti-government, serious conspiracy guy. Two very different belief systems, they can't even communicate with each other, but the motivation in both cases is fear. If you "Be Not Afraid" and "Fear Not" the attraction to these reactionary groups loses its effect.

mountainguy | 09:53 pm on 5/12/2008

you're just alright... fear is, along with thirst of power and money, the biggest motivator (in a negatively way, off course)

that calvinist doug | 03:38 pm on 5/06/2008

Just got off the phone with Rev. Wright; he told me that the GD American Gov. Inc. set this whole madman dictator thing up. I believe him because his intentions are pure.

SRebbe | 04:43 pm on 5/06/2008

all that's missing is a good snake kit and some cheesy bumper stickers.

Josh C. | 08:52 am on 5/07/2008

Honk if you love Saparmurat Niyazov

Droslovinia | 11:57 am on 5/08/2008

If he got to name the months after his family, can I name the days of the week for mine?

But seriously, it's always interesting to hear stories about places where the gospel is actively being suppressed, as opposed to the "I'm persecuted because they won't let me force children to read the Bible and persecute fags" stories. We have a rich heritage of people who went out on a limb for the cause of Christ, and in the midst of all that craziness, it's good to hear that the story goes on.

mountainguy | 09:52 pm on 5/12/2008

agree with you. There are christians who are being really persecuted, but a lot of fundies in USA pretend to make us weep because the rest of the world is not like them (and they call it "persecution").

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