In September 2000 Akbibi Hemrayeva (d.o.b. – 29.04.1978) started her employment with the personnel department of the Customs Service of “Turkmenistan Airlines” at Ashgabat International airport. Some time later, due to the forthcoming celebration of the next Independence anniversary, Akbibi got a promotion – she was appointed a senior inspector of the personnel department, and, afterwards, on 28 September 2003 – a senior inspector of the Cargo Transportation department.
Ms A.Hemrayeva reports: “At work I had a reputation as a being an independent minded person and I could not refrain from making comments on the deteriorating situation in Turkmenistan. I took all possible steps not to make an oath of loyalty to president, as, for Turkmens, it is considered to be blasphemous to wish anyone, especially yourself, “let my hand be paralyzed, let my tongue be numb, let my breath stop”. Some of my colleagues blamed me for not being a true patriot of Turkmenistan. Others thought I was insane. At first my superiors threatened me and then, as was there usual practice, accused me of taking bribes. Some of my colleagues stood up for me and even signed some evidence affirming my innocence.
On 25 February 2004 Akbibi Hemrayeva was sacked from her job. On 27 February 2004 the information about her was handed over to the office of public prosecutor and a criminal case was brought against her. Having learnt this fact, Akbibi Hemrayeva left the country on 3 March this year and claimed asylum in Turkey.
Currently the case of Ms Hemrayeva is in the hands of the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan authorities are accusing her of the following three offences: falsification of documents, bribe-taking, bribe-taking with a group of people. The ‘group of people’ included the employees, who stood up for her (junior technical staff). As a result, they were all sacked from their jobs. Being afraid of the repressions, these people had also to leave the country for Uzbekistan. Ms Hemrayeva believes that she might be at risk of up to 15 years of imprisonment.
Akbibi also told us that after she fled the country, security services started harassing her relatives. They were not allowed to talk on the phone. MNB agents as well as the staff of the public prosecutor’s office came to see her six brothers and their families daily and put them under psychological pressure. They are threatening at least to sack them. They insist that unless Ms A.Hemrayeva returned by the beginning of June, she would be on the list of ‘wanted’ people.
We hope that the Turkish authorities to whom Ms Hemrayeva appealed for protection are informed that Turkmenistan is ‘well-known’ for its egregious human rights violations, lack of transparent legal proceedings, convictions of innocent people and use of increasingly brutal and inventive means of torture. It is also well-known that Turkmenistan authorities are intolerant to any dissent and fabricate cases in order to persecute critically minded people.
Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation
11 june 2004