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Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

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Turkmenistan intends to conduct a population census. What should we expect?

Turkmenistan intends to conduct a population census. What should we expect?

On October 10, at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, the head of the State Committee on Statistics D.Amanmuhammedov reported on preparations for the upcoming population and housing census from December 17 to 27.

They will “recount” both residents of the country and foreigners. Data will be collected by specially trained personnel using four separate sheets.

The questions are divided into two categories: socio-demographic and housing.

This is the third census since the independence of Turkmenistan. The first one took place in 1995, as a result, the population was 4 million 481 thousand people. The second was in 2012, but no population data was published.

Thus, Turkmenistan does not publish official statistics on the country’s population, and since that time Turkmen people have lost the right to real statistics. International organizations have long criticized Turkmenistan for this. Apparently the country's leadership has decided to get rid of them like annoying flies, especially since the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will assist them. One can argue a lot about why UNFPA “dirty” its name by providing yet another assistance to an authoritarian country mired in the deception of world society or whether this is incompetence. We are interested in whether the upcoming census will be transparent?

Below is the opinion of economist Annadurdy Khajyev:

- Even if the results of the current census are announced, it is difficult to believe in their veracity, since Turkmen statistics are often riddled with false, unsubstantiated, and sometimes falsified figures. This began in the first years of independence.

Back in early 1993, a dispute arose between top government and local officials about the real population size, since the amount of funds allocated for food card expenses depended on this. After a letter from the head of the State Statistics Committee of Turkmenistan, Beki Annaev, to the government, the main arbiters in this dispute were Deputy Prime Minister Valery Otchertsov and President Saparmyrat Niyazov. This became public knowledge, including publications in foreign media. In April 1993, in the «Moscow News» newspaper, Turkmen historian and publicist Shokhrat Kadyrov published an article “Lies in enrichment,” in which he cited facts of falsification of the population. Later, he touched on this topic in the book “Secrets of Turkmen Demography,” published in 2009. What it looked like? On February 22, 1993, B.Annaev sent a letter to V.Otchertsov, where he wrote: “Information on the population size provided to the decision-making bodies by the regional mayor's offices, regions, cities for the allocation of funds for goods have significant discrepancies with the data of state statistics bodies... - the reason is further explained data discrepancies - ...the figures are based on data from food cards, which indicate the size of the family. However, as facts show, the numbers in them are usually overestimated, which objectively cannot reflect the real picture of the population - and a conclusion is given based on real statistics - ... the population of Turkmenistan as of January 1, 1993 was 3,904.6 thousand people."

On February 24, 1993, V.Otchertsov sent a letter of B.Annaev, accompanied by his own note, to the President of Turkmenistan S.Niyazov. The essence of the note is short: do not believe the professionals from the State Statistics Committee, but believe the local mayors and house management employees who claim that 4.2 million people live in Turkmenistan. As we can see, the difference is 300 thousand people. Further - more, on the accompanying letter the president puts a resolution: “Comrade Otchertsov. What are you waiting for? It should have been published in the press of the republic long ago. The data has been distorted for 10 days. This is after my instructions. S.Niyazov.”

Since that time, in all reports, Turkmenistan began to indicate the figure of 4 million 200 thousand people.

Please note that the country did not celebrate the birth of its 4 millionth resident. Typically, in world practice, such dates are widely advertised and celebrated. Ashgabat would never miss such an opportunity to promote itself. What happened? It’s all very simple: by falsifying data, the leadership of Turkmenistan missed this period (between 1992 and 1993). In addition, by falsifying population figures, V.Otchertsov and S.Niyazov covered up the massive embezzlement of officials of a lower rank.

By the way, it was during this period that the most massive migration of non-indigenous people to other CIS countries was observed.

That is why it is difficult to believe in the veracity of not only the statistical data of 1993, but also the official data of the 1995 population census. The chain continues. Today, the official data of the upcoming population census will still be based on the falsification of data in 1993.

The state system is so much rotten that there will always be Khlestakovs in the localities, looking for profit in everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “counters” draw whatever they want for no reason or for a bribe. And if not the counters, then the country’s leadership will do it for them.

In addition, the new figures will not take into account the mass of Turkmen migrants who have been abroad for years. Turkmenistan does not give information how they will be “recounted”, because many of them are not registered with the consulate, bypassing it “out of harm’s way”, but they will be taken into account according to registration is the same as taking into account “dead souls”.

Or, why rewrite foreigners? Isn’t it easier for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to keep records of issued visas and border crossing points, because according to the authorities, “mass digitalization” is taking place in the country?

By the way, official Ashgabat promises to conduct a census using digital technologies. Here is one more reason for you to boast about “new progress”. Previously, the e-government and digital technologies promoted by official Ashgabat turned out to be mere bragging. Let us just remember the constant crowds of hundreds of Turkmen citizens in front of consulates or at ticket offices at Istanbul airport.

You may ask: what is all this idea for? The answer is simple, in order to show the whole world that there are no poor people in the country or those who are fleeing abroad from the “age of prosperity and abundance.”

Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

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