Turkmenistan declares the fight against bribery and corruption as a government priority, and local television broadcasts demonstrative “flogging” of officials at various levels. Is the issue resolved?
This is what the Turkmen people who contacted us say (for security reasons, we do not indicate their names).
45-year-old Turkmen from Bayramaly, father of a student:
«In order to send my son to study in Russia or Turkey, I began to issue him a foreign passport. They demanded a bribe of $3,000 from me, allegedly because the issuance of new foreign passports in the country is currently suspended».
THF – In your opinion, what is the reason for the suspension of passport issuance?
«You know that a visa regime with Turkey has been introduced since September 2022, this is the first thing. Secondly, we have to pay a bribe at all levels, only then can everything be processed on time. At every step you come across the arbitrariness of officials. The other day, my wife went to the migration department of the city of Bayramali. There they demanded a certificate from her - confirmation from the Ashgabat municipality that my son was going to study in Turkey. When asked what kind of certificate it was, and what the Ashgabat municipality had to do with it, she was told: “They will explain it to you there.” And then they hinted that for $3,000 you would get a new passport tomorrow.
Overall, this is a very expensive undertaking. To confirm that your son has been accepted into the institute, you must pay $50. For a visa stamp in your passport – $500. But the most difficult thing is to pass the control of migration services at the Ashgabat airport, I know that there you will have to spend money again, otherwise they may not let you board the flight. Therefore, it is better to find an intermediary in advance and give bribe to the right person. Otherwise, under no circumstances will they let you through».
Migrant worker Bahar confirmed that cases of extortion are becoming more and more numerous: «My son had to go abroad to study. We prepared all the necessary documents, but on the day of the flight we encountered an obstacle in the form of the migration service. Extorting a bribe from him, do you know what they asked him: “On what street is the educational institution located, where are you going to study?” A person is going to study for the first time, he has not been there yet, how does he know such details? In the end, they asked him to put $50 in his passport, took the money and allowed him to fly. He had 250 dollars with him, and after leaving he called me and said, I was ready to give them everything I had, just to let me out!»
Here is the story of another citizen of Turkmenistan, M.:
«My son came to Turkmenistan for 50 days and during this time he had to obtain a passport. He paid $250 just to submit documents out of turn. He was told that the passport would be ready in 2 months. I had to give another 300 dollars to speed up the process. That’s how, for $550, he managed to renew his passport in 20 days.
Then, at the airport, customs officers gutted all the luggage. Having found nothing illegal, we found fault with the kovurma (national dish) and flatbreads that he was carrying for me. The son said: “Well, take it for yourself.” Then one of the customs officers offered to pay off for 200 manats, and he himself put the food back in the luggage. That is, it was not a matter of products, but simply, taking advantage of their official position, they extorted a bribe from their son.
In 2019, I wanted to take my daughter with me to Turkey for treatment, she is disabled, she had all the medical documents, but she was not released. Every time I try to take her out, they demand a bribe of 2,000 - 3,000 dollars».
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights