Cotton harvest to be done earlier for Independence Day
by Vladimir Rozanskij

President Berdymukhamedov wants the harvest in by 27 September rather than late October. Production is run Soviet-style. Ordinary Turkmen are exploited during harvest, children included. Any opposition, including abroad, has been silenced. Turkey backs the Turkmen regime.


Moscow (AsiaNews) – In order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s independence with great “labour victories”, the country’s President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has ordered that cotton ripen early so that the precious fibre can be harvested one month ahead of schedule and be available for offering on the altar of the celebration of 27 September.

The president’s decision was announced in early August at an extraordinary meeting with the heads of the regions and the various local administrations. The authorities were called to give an account to the president of the work done so far in growing cotton, potatoes and other farm products, but also of the effectiveness of the technologies used.

To make “independence”, i.e., national autarchy effective, Berdymukhamedov instructed his officials to provide the population with the necessary supply of vegetables and all kinds of local produce all year round. Above all, the president stressed cotton’s strategic importance.

Khronika Turmenistana reports that the cotton harvest usually starts at the beginning of September and the assessment of the government cotton plan is presented to the Arkadag (Protector), a title reserved for Berdymukhamedov, in late October or early November.

But this is a special year in which farmers have had to face, among other things, drought, as well as poor equipment, a throwback to Soviet times, when Central Asian republics were exploited as "cotton granaries” to meet the production levels set by the Gosplan, the Soviet Union’s almighty State Planning Committee.

Generally, the Gosplan developed unrealistic plans designed to show the world the superiority of its system. This led to phoney financial statements, double-entry bookkeeping”, corruption, bribery and related criminal shenanigans.

In the Arkadag’s Turkmenistan, cotton is king, despite accusations by many observers and human rights groups that the authorities practice “cotton slavery”. To boost production, public employees, their spouses and children, are forced to pick cotton.

As a result, many Western companies have stopped buying Turkmen cotton to protect the reputation of their bran, while ordinary Turkmen are too afraid to protest, concerned about angering the president and his cohorts, made up largely of his relatives and faithful servants.

According to international agencies, freedom of expression in Turkmenistan is barely higher than that in Syria or North Korea. What is more, the government used the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to further restrict information about the real state of the country.

Currently, the virus is spreading across the country with a frightfully high cost for the economy. Yet, President Berdymukhamedov describes Turkmenistan as “homeland of prosperity” with no traces of COVID-19.

Some protests have been reported outside the country, but the Arkadag is not losing any sleep over them. In Istanbul, Turkish authorities have detained “young people of Turkmen origin” for protesting. More generally, anyone opposed to the regime living abroad can expect to see their family pay a price for their activism.