07/02/2021, 10.06
TURKMENISTAN
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Missing children and Covid: two tragedies denied by the Turkmen regime

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Parent groups are organizing to protect their children. The police ignore the disappearance reports. The authorities do not want to give the country a negative image. The official numbers on the coronavirus never revealed. Obligation to wear a mask in public imposed only a few days ago.

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Panic over the disappearance of children is growing in Turkmenistan, following a series of rather sensational cases of violence against minors. In the capital Ashabad, groups of parents have formed to guard the streets and walk areas between their homes and the school; other families have chosen instead to send their children to relatives in the countryside. The authorities and the press have so far avoided commenting on the affair.

The notices of disappearances, in addition to the alarms on social networks, can also be seen in the many signs hanging on the streets with photos of even very young children; they are often located next to police stations and even on public transport. This plague is not new in Turkmenistan, and has recently resurfaced in a very worrying way.

According to Radio Azatlyk, which cites various local sources, several cases of violence against children between 10 and 13 years of age, sometimes hospitalized in very serious conditions, also occur every day in the medical centers of the Turkmen capital.

In addition to the problem of street hildren, often in search of food in shops, markets or simply some compassion, the presence in Ashabad of one or more serial paedophiles is being hypothesized. According to local sources, some surveillance cameras have also filmed them. Many parents accuse the police of inertia.

A story reported from a few days ago in Azatlyk spoke of passers-by witnessing two children forced into a car as they screamed. The scene took place in broad daylight in Ashabad, near Oguzkhan Street. The witnesses were schoolmates of the sixth class (therefore around the age of ten) of the two boys.

The drama of the disappearance of the children is not limited to the capital Ashabad; several cases have also been reported in Mary, the fourth largest city in the country, where the police continue to ignore requests from parents for help. The authorities do not intend to disseminate information in this regard, in order not to feed panic and not to endorse a negative image of Turkmen society. The problem of missing children is very serious worldwide, even in the most advanced Western nations, and Turkmenistan does not intend to become part of these statistics.

Despite the worried visits of various World Health Organization delegations since summer 2020, the regime of Gurbangul Berdymuhamedov does not even want to reveal the numbers on the spread of Covid-19. After the last check at the end of June, the authorities introduced the obligation to wear a mask, with very severe restrictions in the velayat (province) of Mary.

Berdymuhamedov himself chaired a meeting of the Emergency Committee for the fight against the "ghost virus". The mask, however, was imposed on the grounds "of the increase in dust in the air", which would generally favor infections, without naming the coronavirus. A special team of policemen in civilian clothes has been set up in Mary to monitor the use of outdoor protection.

The controllers stop the cars to force drivers and passengers to keep the mask on even in the passenger seats, despite the scorching heat of these days and the absence of air conditioning. At first, the population was advised to fight the virus by smoking the local harmala, a variant of the Syrian rue. Unlike the disappearance of minors, now the authorities seem to be very concerened about Covid, so much so the immenent launch of the vaccination campaign seems likely.

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