Turkmenistan claims it hasn’t had a single Covid-19 case. Activists say that’s a lie

Or not less than, that is what the central Asian nation’s secretive, authoritarian authorities claims.

However impartial organizations and journalists and activists exterior Turkmenistan say there’s proof the nation is battling a 3rd wave which is overwhelming hospitals and killing dozens of individuals — and warn the President is taking part in down the specter of the lethal virus in a bid to take care of his public picture.

Ruslan Myatiev, an exile from Turkmenistan and editor of the Netherlands-based impartial information group Turkmen Information, stated he has personally assembled the names of more than 60 people who he claimed have died of Covid-19 contained in the nation, together with academics, artists and docs.

Myatiev stated he has verified all of the recorded deaths with well being information and X-rays, revealing extreme lung harm and medical remedy in step with coronavirus victims.

“As a substitute of accepting it and cooperating with the worldwide neighborhood, Turkmenistan determined to stay its head within the sand,” stated Myatiev.

The Turkmenistan authorities didn’t reply to CNN’s requests for remark.

The way it unfolded

As Covid-19 unfold around the globe at the beginning of 2020, Turkmenistan insisted it had no instances, whilst bordering international locations reported skyrocketing outbreaks.

Iran, with which Turkmenistan shares an extended land border, has reported one of many world’s largest Covid-19 outbreaks with almost 5.5 million complete instances, in response to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“You take a look at what’s taking place at different international locations within the area and the way totally different may Turkmenistan presumably be?” stated Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Based on the web sites of the British and Australian international ministries, all flights into Turkmenistan are presently suspended and solely Turkmen residents are allowed to enter the nation.
Myatiev stated his sources in Turkmenistan started contacting him about instances in round Might 2020 — about the identical time Covid-19 was spreading around the world. He stated the primary messages he acquired talked a couple of “bizarre lung illness, flu-like” which was affecting many individuals.

“It was not less than 40 levels Celsius exterior (104 levels Fahrenheit) — not a common flu season,” he stated.

In June 2020, the US embassy within the capital, Ashgabat, issued a heath alert warning of “experiences of native residents with signs in step with Covid-19 present process Covid-19 testing,” and being positioned in quarantine for as much as 14 days.
The Turkmenistan authorities instantly referred to as the assertion “fake news.”
The countries making dubious claims over Covid-19 -- and what that means for the world
A WHO mission to Turkmenistan in July 2020 didn’t verify any coronavirus infections contained in the nation however did say it was involved about “elevated numbers of instances of acute respiratory infection and pneumonia.”
One WHO official stated Turkmenistan ought to act “as if Covid-19 was circulating.”

By then, the scenario was uncontrolled, in response to Myatiev. The federal government suggested residents to take weird public well being measures, akin to consuming a selected kind of spicy soup.

In January this yr, Turkmenistan introduced it had authorised Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to be used within the nation. Then in June, the World Financial institution agreed to lend $20 million to the Turkmenistan authorities, principally for well being services and building, as a part of a program to “stop, detect and reply to the menace posed by Covid-19.”

As not too long ago as Tuesday, President Berdymukhamedov stated the efforts of the worldwide neighborhood in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic had been “inadequate,” though he didn’t point out the scenario inside his personal nation.

“The pandemic has uncovered critical systemic failings within the worldwide response to this problem,” he stated.

‘Turkmenistan is burning’

Regardless of Berdymukhamedov’s claims that his nation his Covid-free, the fact inside Turkmenistan is starkly totally different, in response to impartial journalists and activists.

Diana Serebryannik, director of Europe-based exiles group Rights and Freedoms of Turkmenistan Residents, stated her group had heard from contacts within the nation that hospitals there are presently struggling to take care of the inflow of instances.

Serebryannik stated Turkmen docs from her group who had been now dwelling abroad had been in contact with their former colleagues within the nation, permitting them to search out out the actual scenario and supply recommendation.

She stated docs inside Turkmenistan had informed her each oxygen and ventilators had been laborious to return by within the nation, remedy was costly and deaths from the virus could possibly be within the 1000’s.

“Turkmenistan is burning, it is burning with Covid … Generally they don’t even settle for sufferers to the hospital, they only ship them dwelling,” she stated.

A hermit nation ruled by an egomaniac: Is Turkmenistan on the brink of collapse?

Based on Serebryannik, the official explanation for demise in these instances isn’t listed as Covid-19 and even pneumonia — as a substitute medical certificates file a separate situation, akin to a coronary heart assault, she stated.

When well being staff have tried to talk up concerning the actuality on the bottom, they’ve been pressured into silence, according to non-profit Human Rights Watch.
Contained in the nation, freedom of the press and impartial scrutiny isn’t allowed — Turkmenistan was ranked 178 out of 180 countries and territories on Reporters With out Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index, simply above North Korea and Eritrea.
Turkmen residents who peacefully criticize the federal government have confronted extreme punishments, in response to Human Rights Watch, together with experiences of torture and disappearances.
Overseas residents have additionally been affected by the Turkmenistan authorities’s coronavirus denials. In July 2020, Turkish diplomat Kemal Uchkun was admitted to hospital in Ashgabat with Covid-like signs however was refused permission to evacuate to his dwelling nation, in response to the journal of Asian Affairs.
Based on the BBC, X-rays despatched to Turkish hospitals by Uchkun’s spouse had been confirmed to indicate evidence of Covid-19.

The journal of Asian Affairs stated Uchkun died on July 7. His official explanation for demise was coronary heart failure.

Most not too long ago, Myatiev stated he had confirmed the demise of a 61-year-old Russian language and literature instructor, who had been in hospital since August, according to Turkmen News.

Undermining the rosy image

A number of authoritarian governments around the globe have introduced their Covid-19 outbreaks and acquired worldwide help, together with China, the earliest nation affected.

So why is Turkmenistan so insistent that it has nonetheless not seen a single case?

Each Myatiev and Serebryannik stated it was right down to President Berdymukhamedov who, as a dentist by occupation and former well being minister, had positioned nice emphasis on successfully governing the well-being of his folks — not less than in precept.

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov remotely addresses the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in a pre-recorded message on September 21, 2021.

Serebryannik stated Berdymukhamedov, 64, needed to seem like a savior to the nation, and a formidable world chief, by protecting Covid-19 out.

“Turkmenistan is a rustic the place all the pieces within the backyard appears rosy … you will have these marble, cutting-edge (well being services) outfitted with German, French, Japanese, no matter, tools,” journalist Myatiev stated.

Admitting the presence of a lethal virus would undermine the idealized picture the President has created and go away Berdymukhamedov open to criticism — and doubtlessly to being held to account.

“It might be somebody’s failure, somebody must bear accountability for that and who has the last word phrase for that? The President,” Myatiev stated.

There was no indication but that Turkmenistan is getting ready to reverse its place and admit to having Covid-19 instances contained in the nation, however Serebryannik stated she believed the federal government must finally.

She stated there had simply been “an excessive amount of demise.”

Human Rights Watch’s Denber stated worldwide organizations interacting with Turkmenistan, together with WHO, had an obligation to be sincere with the world concerning the scenario contained in the nation.

“At a sure level you must say at what price are you defending that presence (within the nation)? Are the measures you take to guard your relationship … undermining your core mission?” she stated.

Denber stated in a world pandemic, with many outbreaks linked throughout worldwide borders, nations had an obligation to offer correct testing and proper public info.

“We’re all interconnected,” she stated. “When considered one of us fails, all of us fail.”

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