If there is one thing to be learned from recent United Nations Human Rights Committee hearings on Turkmenistan it is that Turkmen officials do not make very good actors.
No matter how hard they tried to convince the outside world that they care about human rights, Turkmen representatives appearing before the committee failed to deliver convincing performances.
Human rights groups characterize Turkmenistan as one of the world’s most repressive states. At the same time, the country’s dismal rights record tends to be downplayed in its bilateral dealings with Western nations, including the United States, largely because Ashgabat possesses abundant reserves of natural gas, and is strategically situated on Afghanistan’s northern border.
The UN committee hearings March 15-16 thus represented a rare occasion when Turkmen officials had to publicly account for their country’s behavior.
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Ashley Cleek contributed reporting for this article.