The Migration Service seizes personal phones, interrogates, humiliates and threatens.
We were contacted by a Turkmen woman living in Turkey, who in 2004 married a Turk and gave birth to two children. At her request, we do not disclose her name, but she decided to make her story public, because she still cannot forget the rudeness, threats and lawlessness that she had to face in Ashgabat.
“In early 2020, my passport was expiring and I went to the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul to apply for an exchange. They refused me there and said that I needed to go to Turkmenistan. In February 2020, I, with one of the kids, went to Turkmenistan.
At the Ashgabat airport, I witnessed how my fellow citizens were banned from leaving Turkmenistan for a period of 5 years ... But the migration service employees took me to a separate room and asked: “Why did you marry a Turk?” Then a middle-aged officer began to humiliate: “Couldn’t you find a Turkmen, why are ours worse? “They took a picture of me and began to interrogate me. When I asked why this was done, I was not given any explanation. They took my phone and started to check: all contact details, applications that I use, photos and personal correspondence. And they arranged an interrogation: where I met my husband, with whom I communicate in Turkey. I do not understand what they have the right to interfere in my personal life?
In Turkmenistan, I immediately went to the Migration Department, where they demanded a $200 bribe from me in order to get a passport in 15 days. Otherwise, I have to wait up to two months. But I didn't agree. I went with the hope that within a month I would return to Turkey. In March, due to the pandemic, Turkmenistan closed its borders. I had to rent an apartment in Ashgabat, and go three to five times a week and check whether it is possible for people like me to fly to Turkey. In the Migration Department, I explained every time that my second baby remained in Turkey and I want to return to my family. I asked them to help. In the same situation, there are hundreds of women who are married to foreigners, they also returned to Turkmenistan to renew their passports.
We ended up in this situation only because the Turkmen consulates abroad do not want to work normally!...
For 7 months I went to the Migration Department, where an officer over 40 years old constantly treated us like second-class women. He threatened that we would never fly to Turkey again, that if they needed to, they would hand over our children to an orphanage and throw us out of the country. I was asked if any of my relatives participated in rallies and protests. If yes, who exactly? They threatened that if I did not answer this question, then I would never get to Turkey again. They said that they would take control of all my relatives up to the seventh generation. They said that with our protests we would disgrace Turkmenistan as well, and we ourselves were disgraced by marrying Turks. All this was said with anger. Particular hatred was shown towards Turkmen activists, labor migrants in Turkey.”
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights