When the opportunity arose to travel to Turkmenistan and cover the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, I didn't need much convincing. It's not often you get to visit one of the most closed countries in the world, one run by regime that watchdog groups describe as one of the most repressive in the world.
Little did I know that my four-day visit would end with $3,000 of the organizers' money burning a hole in my pocket. But more on that murky development later.
Of course, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have concerns about traveling to Ashgabat. The Reporters Without Borders' 2006 World Press Freedom Index lists Turkmenistan as having the third-worst press freedom conditions in the world, behind North Korea and Burma. I also read that Turkmen citizens had endured a raft of confiscatory measures to help raise the (conservatively) estimated $5 billion needed to pay for this relatively obscure 10-day multi-sports tournament.
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