Dictator of the Week

August 28, 2007, 2:53 AM UTC


Saparmurat Niyazov 1940 — 2006
President for Life of Turkmenistan

From Wikipedia::

“Niyazov ruled as an authoritarian leader, notorious in the Western world for the cult of personality he established around himself in Turkmenistan… He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk, on the Caspian Sea, Türkmenbaşy, in addition to renaming several schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and his immediate family… Erika Dailey, a specialist for the Open Society Institute, said the education system under Niyazov indoctrinated and brainwashed young Turkmen through the Ruhnama, a national epic written by Niyazov… Niyazov first placed copies in the nation’s schools and libraries but eventually went as far as to make an exam on its teachings an element of the driving test.

Presidential decrees

As President-for-Life of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov issued many controversial and unusual decrees:

* In April 2001, ballet and opera were banned after Niyazov felt they were “unnecessary … not a part of Turkmen culture”.[15]
* In 2004 it was forbidden for young men to grow long hair or beards.[15]
* In March 2004, 15,000 public health workers were dismissed including nurses, midwives, school health visitors and orderlies and replaced with military conscripts.[16]
* 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.[17]
* In April 2004 it was ordered that an ice palace be constructed near the capital.[18] (In December 2006 an article in the UK’s Sunday Times revealed the ‘ice palace’ to be an ornate ice skating rink.[19])
* In 2004 all licensed drivers were required to pass a morality test.[20]
* In 2004 it was prohibited for news readers to wear make-up[21]
* In February 2005 all hospitals outside Aşgabat 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.[22]
* In November 2005 physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath.[23]
* 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.[24] 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.[25]
o (Note: On March 19, 2007 Turkmenistan’s new president Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow has reversed a decision of his predecessor by restoring pensions to more than 100,000 elderly citizens..[26])
* In September 2006 Turkmen teachers who failed to publish praise of the Turkmen leader would remain at a lower payscale or be sacked.[27]
* 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.”[28]
* The Turkmen words for bread and the month of April were changed to the name of his late mother, Gurbansoltanedzhe. [29]
* Car radios, lip-synching, and recorded music are all prohibited.[30]
* Video monitors are required in all public places.[30]
* Dogs are restricted from the capital city due to unappealing odour.[31]”

The world has marvelled, shuddered and died under the heel of impressive and in some cases entertaining dictators for millennia. This is the first in a series these very special chief executive officers.

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