As a young Turkmen woman who was deeply influenced by interaction with Peace Corps volunteers in the 1990s, I was filled with a wide spectrum of emotions upon hearing about the Peace Corps’ departure from Turkmenistan.
Everyone who followed developments in the country suspected that the Peace Corps’ days there were numbered. To some, it was strange that the government of Turkmenistan dragged it out for so long. Even so, the late August announcement was sobering.
Reflecting on the Peace Corps’ legacy in Turkmenistan, some questions popped into my head: How effective was it in promoting democratization? How great a loss is its departure for the Turkmen people? How much did and could it achieve in the country where no decisions can be made without the government’s approval? And I’d really like to know how the US Embassy would substantiate its claim, as stated on its web announcement, that the Peace Corps’ programs “have been extraordinarily successful in terms of achieving its development and cultural exchange goals.”
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Guljemal is a pseudonym for the writer, a Turkmen citizen.