In the photo: Khamida Babajanova.
On April 3, 2023, Yakutjan Babajanova, 73, was not allowed to leave Turkmenistan as part of a group of pilgrims to perform the small Umra Hajj. Despite the purchased ticket, paid taxes, the availability of the necessary documents, the woman was not allowed to board the Ashgabat-Istanbul flight. From Istanbul, the group was supposed to go to Saudi Arabia.
This was reported by her daughter, a Turkmen migrant in Türkiye, Hamida Babajanova, born in 1975, a native of Kunya-Urgench city, Dashoguz region.
“Everyone got on the plane, but they stopped my mother, looked at some list and banned the flight. My mom spent $2,000 to arrange this trip to Mecca and Medina. She was reimbursed only for the cost of the ticket, but due to the arbitrariness of the authorities, she lost an amount equal to 10 average monthly salaries of Turkmen citizens, Hamida told human rights activists.
I am sure my mother was banned because of my critical statements, since for several years now I have been speaking on various Internet platforms expressing my own opinion about the regime of the first President S. Niyazov and the current regime of the Berdimuhamedovs.”
Since the spring of 2021, Hamida Babajanova began to distribute photographs from Turkmenistan on the Internet, confirming the socio-economic difficulties faced by ordinary people, talking about violations of their rights.
“My relatives Firuza Babajanova (born 1984), Dilfuza Babajanova (born 1984) and Umar Babajanov (born 1976) helped me in this. After that, they received a call from the 6th police department of Dashoguz region and invited to the police. My relatives refused, demanding to send written notices. The next day, 4 police officers arrived, two in civilian clothes and two in uniform, and took everyone away in a car. Fearing phone checks, my relatives left their phones at home. Upon learning of this, the police turned the cars around, returned to our house and forced us to take our phones.
The police began to ask them about me: did I go to Russia, was I fair-haired, did I send money to my relatives? Hamida continued. “I don’t know how they were treated by the police, but after interrogation they stopped sending me photos and videos of the real life of their fellow villagers.”
After the travel ban, relatives of Yakutjan Babajanova went to the migration service. There they were promised that the elderly woman would be “allowed to leave on April 23rd”.
In early March, at a session of the UN Human Rights Committee, an official Turkmen delegation tried to convince those present in the hall that Turkmenistan respects all the constitutional rights of citizens, which is not true in practice.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights