I admit it, there are too many portraits, pictures and monuments. I don’t find any pleasure in it, but the people demand it because of their mentality.
With Saddam’s execution late last month there is one political event that many people may have overlooked that took place only a few days earlier on December 21st, 2006. The president of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Why is this important you ask? Well Niyazov was what I would imagine, an entertaining leader. Think Qaddaffi without the meds. This is a man who renamed the months and days of the week after his family members. His legacy reads like an email you might get with “wacky fun facts” as the subject line.
Here are the highlights:
* In April 2001, ballet and opera were banned after Niyazov felt they were “unnecessary … not a part of Turkmen culture”.
* In 2004 it was forbidden for young men to grow long hair or beards.
* In March 2004, 15,000 public health workers were dismissed including nurses, midwives, school health visitors and orderlies and replaced with military conscripts.
* In April 2004 the youth of Turkmenistan were encouraged to chew on bones to preserve their teeth rather than be fitted with gold tooth caps or gold teeth.
* In April 2004 it was ordered that an ice palace be constructed near the capital. (In December 2006 an article in the UK’s Sunday Times revealed the ‘ice palace’ to be an ornate ice skating rink.)
* In 2004 all licensed drivers were required to pass a morality test.
* In 2004 it was prohibited for news readers to wear make-up.
* In February 2005 all hospitals outside AÃ…?gabat were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment. All rural libraries were ordered closed as well, citing ordinary Turkmen do not read books.
* In November 2005 physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath.
* In December 2005, video games were banned as being too violent for young Turkmen to play.
* In January 2006, one-third of the country’s elderly had their pensions discontinued, while another 200,000 had theirs reduced. Pensions received during the prior two years were ordered paid back to the state. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan strongly denied allegations that the cut in pensions resulted in the deaths of many elderly Turkmen, accusing foreign media outlets of spreading “deliberately perverted” information on the issue.
* In September 2006 Turkmen teachers who failed to publish praise of the Turkmen leader would remain at a lower payscale or be sacked.
* In October 2006 Turkmenistan claimed to have set free 10,056 prisoners, including 253 foreign nationals from 11 countries on the Night of Omnipotence. Niyazov said, “Let this humane act on the part of the state serve strengthening truly moral values of the Turkmen society. Let the entire world know that there has never been a place for evil and violence on the blessed Turkmen soil.”
* The Turkmen words for bread and the month of April were changed to the name of his late mother, Gurbansoltanedzhe.
* Car radios, lip-syncing, and recorded music are all prohibited.
* Video monitors are required in all public places.
* Dogs are restricted from the capital city due to unappealing odour.