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Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights


Human rights activists called on the authorities of Turkmenistan to reconsider the doctor's case

Human rights activists called on the authorities of Turkmenistan to reconsider the doctor's case

To the Ombudsman of Turkmenistan Yazdursun Gurbannazarova

To the Prosecutor General of Turkmenistan Batyr Atdaev

To the Minister of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan Ovezdurdy Khojaniyazov

To the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Turkmenistan Guvanchmyrat Ussanepesov

Copy: To the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Austria;

To the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Belgium and Netherlands

November 23, 2021

Khursanai Ismatullayeva, archival photo file of convicted doctor Khursanai Ismatullayeva

Dear Sirs,

We are writing to you, on behalf of the undersigned human rights organizations, in the case of the doctor Khursanai Rakhmetovna Ismatullayeva, a resident of the city of Ashgabat. As described later in this letter, Kh. R. Ismatullayeva was arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and sentenced to a long prison term for her attempts to obtain justice in connection with her illegal dismissal from a perinatal clinic, and for her seeking help from foreign organizations.

Description of events:

Dr. Khursanai Rakhmetovna Ismatullaeva is a graduate of the St. Petersburg Medical Pediatric Academy. She worked as a pediatrician in the Ene Myahri perinatal center (Gokdepe city, Akhal province) until 2017. In July 2017, the doctor took a two-week vacation to travel to St. Petersburg for treatment. When she returned to work, she found out that she had been fired on the day of departure for absenteeism. Moreover, in the dismissal order, signed by Annamurat Khanov, the acting head doctor of the hospital, two weeks of vacation of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva were indicated as the dates of absenteeism. The document also stated that the basis for dismissal was the leader's "own initiative" ("Meniň görkezmäm"). However, according to the Labor Code of Turkmenistan, this cannot be a legal basis for dismissal. Ismatullayeva appealed to the Association of Trade Unions of Akhal province, which ordered her to be reinstated in accordance with the requirements of the Labor Code. However, the union later changed its position and refused to support the woman. During the trial, which was held with procedural violations, the court rejected the complaint of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva about illegal dismissal. Ismatullayeva appealed the court's decision, but the Supreme Court of Turkmenistan left her complaint without consideration.

The dismissal of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva, in fact, was a punishment for her professional integrity and independence. So, she openly opposed the “manipulation” with diagnoses in the hospital, due to which money was “pulled” from patients for operations or other paid procedures that were not necessary. Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was constantly arbitrarily withheld money from her salary for refusing to comply with management's demands for paid services, which she considered contrary to her professional obligations. While working at the perinatal center, Kh.R.Ismatullaeva filed a complaint with the court about withholding money from her salary. The management of the clinic was also dissatisfied with the fact that Kh.R.Ismatullaeva refused to participate in mass events - chare during working hours, believing that her time was more important for patients.

After her dismissal, Kh.R.Ismatullayeva could not find a job in her specialty, and at least five times she managed to get a job as a doctor in various medical institutions through the labor exchange, but each time after a few days she was fired without explanation.

After appeals to the court and other state bodies did not help Kh.R.Ismatullayeva to achieve justice and restore her job, she turned to independent foreign media for help. On November 16, 2020, the information portal “Turkmen.News” (Netherlands) published [1] a story about her struggle for justice.

On July 15, 2021, the case of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was voiced at an online discussion organized by members of the European Parliament on the topic «Suppression practices in Central Asia: voices of human rights defenders». The very next day after the discussion, that is, on July 16, 2021, Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was detained: policemen and men in civilian clothes took her away from home in an unknown direction. For 14 days Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was kept without contact with the outside world, and her relatives did not have any information about her whereabouts. In the end, the relatives managed to find out that she was in the police detention center of Bezmein region of Ashgabat city, from where she was subsequently transferred to the detention center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on Asudalyk street.

As it became known, a criminal case was initiated against Kh.R.Ismatullayeva under the articles “fraud”, “forgery of documents” and “ill-treatment of a person in a dependent or helpless position” (228, 218 and 114 of the Criminal Code). The crimes were allegedly committed against an elderly disabled person whom she had previously cared for. At the trial, which took place on September 7, 2021, Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was found guilty on the charges against her and sentenced to nine years in prison. Serious doubts arise about the trial of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva, especially in connection with the fact that the lawyer who was chosen by her did not defend her. All the lawyers, contacted by members of her family before the trial, refused to take on Kh.R.Ismatullayeva's case, referring to the involvement of "superior structures" in this case. We also fear that Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was subjected to torture and ill-treatment in pre-trial detention in order to force her to “confess” to the charges against her. In addition, the development of cases against Kh.R.Ismatullayeva give every reason to believe that criminal charges were brought against her for daring to fight for her rights and drawing attention of international community to her situation.

On July 22, 2021, four MEPs who organized an event at which the case of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva was discussed the day before her arrest, made statements [2] in her support. They stated that they “deplored in the strongest terms the injustice done to Dr. Kh.R.Ismatullayeva” and “her repeated detention”. They called on the Turkmen authorities to secure her immediate and unconditional release and bring those responsible for her persecution to justice. They also called for a transparent investigation into the illegal dismissal of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva and for ensuring her right to freely carry out her professional activities. On November 16, 2021, four members of the US Congress addressed an open letter to President Berdimuhamedov in which they called for the immediate release of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva, stating that her arrest and conviction «create a negative image of Turkmenistan in the world» [3].


Based on the information provided in this letter, we urge you to take the following action regarding the case of Dr. Kh.R.Ismatullayeva:

Office of the Ombudsman:

1. Organize monitoring of the place of deprivation of liberty where Kh.R.Ismatullayeva is being held in order to ensure the standards of maintenance, nutrition and access to medical care.

2. Demand from the relevant state bodies effective measures to ensure the observance of the rights of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva, provided for by international and national legislation, as well as to hold officials accountable for violations of the rights to which she was subjected both before and after detention.

Ministry of the Interior:

1. Guarantee Kh.R.Ismatullayeva, who is in prison, to be treated in accordance with international human rights standards.

Attorney General:

1. Conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the lawfulness of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva’s detention, her conviction, on the one hand, based on unsubstantiated accusations, and, on the other hand, the result of proceedings that do not meet international fair trial standards, as well as any violations of her rights in detention, ensuring bringing to justice the perpetrators of these violations.

2. Conduct a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the legality of the dismissal of Kh.R.Ismatullayeva and bring to justice those responsible for violating her labor rights in order to ensure the possibility of her unhindered reinstatement at work and carrying out her professional activities.

Supreme Court:

1. Ensure the immediate review of the criminal case against Kh.R.Ismatullayeva in a process conducted in full compliance with national and international fair trial standards; remove unsubstantiated charges from Kh.R.Ismatullayeva and immediately release her.

Thank you for Your attention to the issues raised in this letter.


Tajigul Begmedova, Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Bulgaria)

Vyacheslav Mamedov, Democratic Union of Turkmenistan (Netherlands)

Timur Misrikhanov, Association of Independent Lawyers of Turkmenistan (Netherlands)

Ruslan Myatiev, Turkmen.News (Netherlands)

Farid Tukhbatullin, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (Austria)

Brigitte Dufo, International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)

[1] See the link https://turkmen.news/turkmen-doctor-seeks-justice/

[2] See the link http://austrevicius.lt/assets/Laiskai/STATEMENT-regarding-arrest-of-doctor-Ismatullaeva-in-Turkmenistan.pdf

[3] See the link https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/durbin-leahy-brown-malinowski-urge-president-of-turkmenistan-to-release-countrys-political-prisoners

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