05/31/2021, 10.14
TURKMENISTAN
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Ashgabat, the cult-like mourning of the president's father; women honour his mother

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The official mourning period for Malikguly Berdymuhamedov, father of president Gurbanguly, has just concluded. State officials and company executives are required to shave their heads and wear the takhja, the national headdress. Women forced to wear long shawls with black braids. Anyone who does not comply is fired. The president's mother, Ogulabat Kurraeva, exalted as a weaver, despising sewing machines.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On May 28, the 40 days since the death of 88-year-old Malikguly Berdymuhamedov, father of Gurbanguly, the president of Turkmenistan, were observed. 40 days are the official period of mourning for a deceased loved one, a tradition dating back to Soviet times (borrowed from the Orthodox Church).

By decree, all state officials were aggregated to this tradition, but also the managers of the main private companies: all were forced to shave their heads and wear the takhja, the Turkmen national skullcap (photo 2) until the end of mourning throughout the northern province of Lebap on the border with Uzbekistan, where the deceased resided.

After his father's death, the president retired for a week, without appearing in public or on television. He did not even participate in the " Turkmen racehorse and sheepdog" festival on April 25, an anniversary he instituted and which is very dear to him. His son Sardar (and vice-president) presided over the ceremony and received gifts and condolences on his father's behalf.

Also in the velayat of Lebap all the women who work in public offices, especially in schools, were forced to wear long shawls with black braids, always as a sign of mourning. Black is the colour of mourning in Turkmenistan, with the president travelling in black cars, instead of the flashy ones he is custom to use.

In fact, before the paternal mourning, black cars were banned across the country. In schools in the area, directors warned that men caught in public without takhja and women without shawls would be immediately fired.

The provisions for mourning have also been observed in the other velayats of the country; in Mary, all the dining halls were closed for several days; in Farap marriages were banned for a week; In various cities, fundraisers were held for commemorative funeral ceremonies. Representatives of all ethnic minorities were gathered throughout the province of Ashgabad, who expressed condolences wearing their national costumes (photo 3). The main fundraising for funerals was extended to the entire month of May and beyond, if necessary, despite the deep crisis in the country's economy.

Official collections are nothing new, on the contrary they are a usual practice of the Berdymuhamedov presidency. They also take place regularly for less noble reasons than the presidential funeral: for "environmental protection", "cotton picking", "buying bicycles" (the president's great passion), "buying portraits of the president" and various other causes indicated by the head of state.

The death of Gurbanguly's father, the main figure of the family, also led to the elevation of the "personality cult" of the president's mother, Ogulabat Kurraeva (photo 4). In the last week of May an exhibition was opened in Ashgabad, repeated in various other provinces, dedicated to artifacts and fabrics such as kurtka, a wedding dress and woolen socks, made by Kurraeva, inviting all the women of the country to imitate her mastery. A large state banquet was even organized on May 21, chaired by Serdar Berdymuhamedov, in honor of his grandmother's weaving skills. Sewing machines were criticized during the banquet, urging all women to engage in manual work of cutting and sewing.

The country awaits the publication of the book promised by the president on the life of the mother, a model of morality for all women and the entire people. Several songs have been dedicated to Kurraeva, such as "she who brought our hero into the world". The president's son, grandchildren, and even other family members were in turn proposed to popular veneration, as examples of industriousness and virtue to be imitated.

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