One of the main responsibilities of the deputy of Turkmenistan’s Trade Minister and Consumers’ Cooperation is searching for pretty young Turkmen girls and hiring them as waitresses though in practice the girls will have to render totally different services.
Naturally, a deputy minister does not personally run across the country in search of potential waitresses. This work is being done by his subordinates in the organizations under this Ministry. In reality, the girls who are found and approved for waitresses positions will have to satisfy the sexual needs of high-ranking guests from Iran, Turkey, the Arab Emirates and other states. The information used for this article was collected over a long period of time, so we will start with the history.
In 1998-1999 in Ashgabat as well as in all Turkmen velayats selections were made of young girls, mostly schoolgirls of senior grades. A former school teacher from the city of Atamurad says: «During the lesson the then khyakim`s deputy of the velayat with a group of people came into the classroom. The girls were asked to stand up and the visitors examined them, quietly exchanging impressions. One time I heard them saying: «That one might suit». They wrote some notes in their notebooks and then invited the girl to go to the school principal’s office». When asked by the teachers what the girls were being selected for, the school principal answered: they will work as secretaries and personal assistants in the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministries and state departments and even in the Presidential Apparatus. Various privileges in terms of residence registration in Ashgabat, prestigious and well-paid jobs and guaranteed entrance to universities were promised to the parents in order to make them let their daughters go. Meanwhile here and there in Turkmenistan rumors were spread that Turkmen beauties were being selected not just for work but first and foremost to satisfy the desires of those in power. In Tazabazar (presently S.Niyazov`s village) in the north of the country one of the local girls who went to Ashgabat for a similar contest set herself on fire upon her return back home. She was allegedly used as a sex slave by one of the high-ranking officials and did not manage to outlive the disgrace. This incident happened in 1999. In 2001-2002 several girls who had been selected in this manner in 1999 and «worked» for 2-3 years entered the Turkmen State University. Letters of recommendations forwarded to the admission office were confirmed with the official stamp and a signature of the deputy Manager of Affairs of the President Aleksandr Zhadan. The methods of selection have altered over time. Commissions no longer attend schools. The aim has also been changed: nowadays the girls mainly serve foreign guests and apparently bring in a good income to those who arrange the process. As of today, the selection criteria are as follows. A girl should be under 23, above average height, slim, with long hair, light-skinned, good-looking and necessarily (!) of Turkmen origin. Directors of shops and restaurants belonging to «Turkmenbakaleya», «Turkmenjuvelirtorg», «Turkmenintorg», «Turkmenknigotorg», «Тurkmenkultbythoztorg» (recently dissolved) and several other organizations under the Trade Ministry are also involved in the search of girls who fit the aforementioned requirements. The ads on the doors of these shops and restaurants announce waitress vacancies. Due to the fact that there is mass unemployment in Turkmenistan, especially among women, such ads appear very odd. In crowded public places in Ashgabat men and women look for girls who meet the aforementioned criteria and offer them the waitress jobs. Also, «enlisters» reportedly go to the regions in search of suitable girls. The following story was told by a young woman called Maral who presently works as a prostitute in the capital: «Four years ago I graduated from school and dreamt of entering the Pedagogic Institute in Lebap where I come from but a two year work experience is required for enrollment at the university. So I came here and was offered a waitress job. I was very happy. A young man took me to the personnel division of the «Turkmenbakalea»`s office. Before the interview, I was taken to the shop and bought a fancy Turkmen dress which cost a lot of money, shoes, and French make-up. I was instructed to dress up and to come again the next day. When I arrived, I was taken directly to a large building which turned out to be a ministry. We went to the room of the deputy minister. I was very scared but the people accompanying me calmed me down; as they explained it was a usual practice there. The deputy minister said no word; he just looked at me carefully and told the women who came with me: «she suits us, commence the recruitment process». The same evening I was taken to the Akhal Hotel in Berzengi in the outskirts of Ashgabat. At first I was taken to a room where there was a doctor or a nurse, I did not understand exactly. I had a blood test and a smear. I was asked if I had ever had any diseases. Then I was taken to a hotel room and ordered to wait. After two hours of waiting, I came out onto the corridor and saw a young man at the exit. I asked him who I should speak to about when I would start working in the restaurant. He demanded that I go back to the room and said that I would be given another job. Only at this moment did I start to have doubts and suspicions. I tried to go out of the hotel but was stopped… And then an Arab entered my room. It was, of course, disgusting and humiliating. After him there were many other foreigners. I could do nothing else but get used to my new situation. I was rather well paid and given expensive presents. Anyway, it was better than to be without a job. But then I started gaining weight and they threw me out. As they say, I became «a played out woman». It should be added that before they sent me away a man, allegedly from the MNS, talked to me and warned that if I ever told anyone about what I had been doing, I would be imprisoned for prostitution». The Mizan Hotel which is located not far from the Akhal Hotel also specializes in serving foreign guests. It also has a medical worker who is always on duty equipped to make quick blood and urine tests. One of the employees of the Ashgabat-based restaurant «Medjnun» which is also in the «girls recruiting business» described the process as follows: «If you manage to find a suitable girl and she is ready to work as a waitress, you take her to your boss and the latter (if he also considers the girl pretty) takes her to the personnel division of the superior body where she is once again assessed. Unfortunately, most of the girls are sent away. Out of the 7 girls I brought only 1 managed to reach the personnel division and I don’t know if she got any further or not. Of course, I can guess what these girls are needed. None of the waitresses of our restaurant meet the requirements of our management. I feel sorry for these girls but if I stop bringing my boss candidates for waitresses, I will be dismissed». According to the information available, each division of the Trade Ministry and Consumers’ Cooperation annually recruits between 30 to 40 girls as waitresses. Some of them later go abroad. The further process was also discovered. When a girl is taken to some organization, for instance, to «Turkmenbakalea» and she meets the requirements of the management, the head gives her a certain sum in cash for the purchase of clothes and make-up. This money is nowhere recorded. Then the head of the organization or the personnel division takes the girls directly to the deputy minister S.Karadjayev. He is the final authority that decides on whether to hire the girl or not. If Karadjayev orders that the girl be hired, she is officially recruited as a waitress in due form, i.e. she has to fill in papers about her relatives going back several generations, write down her personal history, have her photo taken and determine a monthly wage, normally 1500000 manats per month. It remains unknown whether the girls actually receive this money but the records of salary payments are regularly filled in. Indeed, most of the girls do not guess what they are going to do. Furthermore, not all accept it the way Maral did. Unfortunately, there are cases when young girls disappear without a trace. «The girl of our neighbor, a beauty, disappeared about 2 years ago», says a resident of Ashgabat. «She was so happy to get a job but disappeared right on the first day. When the daughter did not appear at home, the mother started looking for her turning to all authorities for help. But one day she was driven somewhere by a car and when she returned she was not herself. Since then she never talks about her daughter and it seems that she is slowly going mad…» At the same time, there are plenty of girls who want to get such a job even with the knowledge of what they are going to do. Some girls are even ready to undergo plastic surgery in order to be recruited. For the girls who have no profession or education there is simply no job in the country. And this job is in any case better than going on the streets waiting for local men under the influence of drugs or alcohol who are moreover not rich, say some girls. Many delegations from friendly countries arrive to Turkmenistan on the eve of the state holidays and the «enlisters» become more active. After official ceremonies and gala dinners the guests go to their hotels. There the festivities are continued in the company of young pretty waitresses. One can only guess how many lives of young and pretty Turkmen girls are being destroyed during the celebrations of each state holiday. As a whole, the following picture emerges: this so-called business involves the Trade Ministry, the Ministry of National Security and the Health Care Ministry. It might be that the latter is not engaged at the ministerial level but it does take part on the level of directors of the hospitals who send their personnel to the hotels and provide them with all necessary medical equipment. The task assigned to the MNS is allegedly to keep the curtain of secrecy over the whole business. And the Trade Ministry performs the main work – it supplies the girls. Since none of these ministries are subordinated to each other, it can be easily concluded that the overall process is being controlled by someone else at a higher rank. Previously, this work was allegedly supervised by the Manager of Affairs of the President Redjep Saparov who was dismissed and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment last summer. Instead of an epilogue In late October a women who was driving girls of senior school age to Ashgabat in four mini buses was detained by the border guards in the Dashoguz velayat (the entire velayat is a border zone). The girls were from the Gubodag and Kunyaurguench etraps. Their parents were told that the girls were going there to learn to dance. Due to the absence of necessary documents they were not allowed to go out of the velayat and the case was forwarded to the police. Following the incident on 2 November President S.Niyazov dismissed the head of Turkmenistan’s State Border Service lieutenant-general O.Soltanov on the grounds of «alcohol abuse and arrogance». He was replaced by a graduate of Schepkin Theatre School Bairam Alovov. Supposedly as a person connected to art Alovov should have a better understanding for those girls wishing to learn the art of dance than his predecessor in the chair of the main country’s frontiersman.