Fifteen years ago, Ogulsapar Muradova, Annakurban Amanklychev, and Sapardurdy Khajiev were arrested on charges of espionage and sentenced on trumped-up charges to 6 and 7 years in prison.
O. Muradova, her brother S. Khadzhiev and activist A. Amanklychev were first detained and charged with espionage, and then charged and convicted for illegal possession of firearms.
Note that at first the authorities accused them of “espionage”. Prosecutor K. Atajanova and President S. Niyazov publicly announced this. The names of foreign correspondents and employees of the embassies of France and England were also mentioned. All this was shown on state television. Thus, the authorities wanted, firstly, to intimidate civil society, and secondly, to punish the activists as severely as possible. But they failed to fully implement their plan, as human rights activists and embassies denied this blatant lie. As a result, the clause on “espionage” disappeared from the indictment.
In 2006, O. Muradova died behind bars a few days after a politically motivated trial.
After the release of a documentary film about Turkmenistan produced by the French company Galaxie-Presse (Turkmenistan: welcome to Niyazovland), it became clear to everyone that the charges against the activists were fabricated, that the Turkmen authorities tried to portray the activists as “spies” or “enemies”. All their 'guilt' lay in their civic activism, they did not violate any law, but simply helped French journalists to show the realities of everyday life,” - the Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty notes in a report dedicated to this day.
The Turkmen regime tried in various ways to avoid dialogue on this issue. But journalists, activists, human rights activists and lawyers were able to prove that the accusations were unfounded. As a result, in 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee found the government of Turkmenistan responsible for the torture and death of human rights activist O. Muradova.
“We finally have authoritative acknowledgment of the Turkmen government's responsibility for the horrendous torture and death of Ogulsapar Muradova,” - said Rachel Denber, Europe and Central Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch.
“Muradova was not a politician or an oppositionist. How did she come to human rights, and then to cooperation with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty," - Tajigul Begmedova, Head of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, answers this question:
“She was one of those people who cared when they faced human rights violations. As a student, she actively participated in student movements. Then she took part in the women's council, the trade union. At one time, she even headed the trade union committee at the place of work on a voluntary basis. I know that she sent material about the dissatisfaction of hundreds of women about the demolition of houses in the village of Keshi. She sent us information about the harsh conditions in prisons and about people who were illegally convicted. For example, according to the events of November 25, 2002. Also about the lawlessness that began in the Ministry of Education, when the country switched to 9-year education. Since Muradova was a brave woman, she was able to help many people: she gave the right advice, helped to draw up a complaint correctly, and indicated where to turn. She appealed to the OSCE and the embassies of developed countries in Ashgabat, urging them to work effectively.
Question: What else can you say about Ogulsapar, her children, like-minded people? For example, what kind of education did they have?
Ogulsapar's children were also arrested when the «trio» was arrested. Muradova, her children, brother Sapardurdy and their friend Annakurban are Turkmen citizens with higher education. None of them fell to their knees, confessed to what they had not done, did not apologize on television and did not write a guilty article for official newspapers, as it is customary in the country. Nobody.
Question: The position of these activists can be understood: if you have not violated the law, then why should you apologize? If prosecutors and officers of the Ministry of National Security instead of the Law bow to the command from above, then why should someone else take their blame? They were not the kind of people who hide in corners at the sight of iniquity. And this means that these brave, active citizens are Turkmen heroes. The UN made a decision on Muradova in 2018. It was also decided that Khajiev and Amanklychev were convicted unlawfully. Next step?
T. Begmedova: It is never too late to restore justice. Now the authorities must identify and bring to justice all those involved in the death of Ogulsapar.
Indeed, if it is a democratic country, then the government should justify them, rehabilitate and compensate them. But the Turkmen regime does not have the strong political will to do so. It is because of such examples that Turkmenistan is called a dictatorial regime. Precisely because the regime cannot admit its mistakes.
Question: What advice can you give to current activists?
T. Begmedova: We should take an example from such brave people as Muradova. If most of us were like this, the dictatorial regime would not take root.
And now there are brave guys, girls, we need to support them, teach them to defend their rights. This is not an easy task, there are all sorts of obstacles. Despite this, we must not deviate from the right path.
There is no need to look back at those who work for the dictatorial regime, who are hostile towards their homeland, or at those who believe in them, at the "mankurts", illiterate slanderers. In the end, they harm themselves. And we must go our own, clean way.
Question: How do you know who is who?
T. Begmedova: The Turkmens say: "The lazy bull is not fed." Read, analyze, learn. Now there are a lot of opportunities, such as the Internet, Google. You don't have to wait for someone to present you with a ready-made democracy. If you really want to help your country, homeland, the younger generation, at least don't interfere with the activists, this will already be your contribution. Now most young people have started using the Internet. These people have been accustomed to watching Arkadag shows for years, so they believe and subscribe to any sites, channels that engage in deceit and slander. Now for them it is something new, interesting. But little by little they began to know the truth. This is what gives us confidence and strength. As you can see, there are new groups, new names, and this is a normal process. This is a page in the new history of Turkmenistan, and we must keep our heads high without losing our dignity.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights