Will Kazakhstan Admit Turkmen Human Rights Activists to OSCE Meetings in Astana?
Turkmen human rights activists are concerned they will not receive visas to travel to Astana for events related to the summit of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights reported, citing a statement from the Russian Memorial Human Rights Center.
Memorial is one of the participants in a parallel NGO conference of civil society organizations to be held November 28-29, before the official summit December 1-2 in Astana.
Annadurdy Hajiev, co-founder of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights based in Bulgaria, is reportedly being denied entry to Kazakhstan. With only days remaining before the third and final OSCE review conference in Astana and subsequent parallel meeting, he has not yet been granted a visa to Kazakhstan.
"We are getting the impression that Kazakhstan is deliberately dragging out the issuance of visas to obstruct my participation in conferences in Astana," Memorial quoted Hajiev as saying.
"Without a visa, the airline has thrice cancelled my preliminary reservation on a flight to Astana. The same is happening with my reservation for a hotel," he said.
Kazakhstan, currently the chair-in-office of OSCE, has come under fire from NGOs for refusing to facilitate the registration of Turkmen activists when Turkmenistan objected to their presence at OSCE review meetings in Warsaw and Vienna.
Western diplomats protested at the Warsaw and Vienna conferences when the OSCE secretariat barred Turkmen NGOs after objections from the Turkmen government delegation. Eventually several were seated, including Hajiev in Warsaw and Farid Tuhbatullin, head of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) in Vienna.
Hajiev had informed the Kazakh delegation at the OSCE review meeting in Warsaw in October that he planned to attend the meetings in Astana in November, and got a negative response. "Are you sure of your security?" a Kazakh diplomat who name was not provided was quoted as saying.
At a meeting of the Turkmen Security Council on September 30, President Berdymukhamedov urged his intelligence agencies to step up the war against "those who defame our democratic law-based secular state and try to disrupt the unity and solidarity of our society."
Soon after, Tuhbatullin, received death threats which resulted in the Austrian government providing some police protection at his home and office. Amnesty International and other human rights groups protested the threat, and last week the International Social Ecological Union called on the European Union not to sign a trade agreement with Turkmenistan until the human rights situation improved, citing the threat against Tuhbatullin and other activists.
Earlier, Turkmen officials had said privately at OSCE meetings that a condition for the participation of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in the OSCE summit, and cooperation in the consensus declaration, would be Kazakhstan's prevention of Turkmen activists from participating in OSCE meetings.
Nurmuhammet Hanamov, founding chairman of the Republican Party of Turkmenistan in exile who obtained asylum in Vienna, and Hajiev, who had received refugee status in Bulgaria, were initially both denied admission to the OSCE review conference in Warsaw October 4. Eventually Hajiev was admitted, but Hanamov was barred on the grounds that he allegedly took part in an assassination attempt on past Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov in November 2002. Under OSCE rules, NGOs can be denied registration to meetings if they are found to have used or advocated violence or terrorism. No evidence has been provided for the Turkmen government's claims.
The deputy foreign ministers of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan met last week to discuss the summit, but no public remarks were made about the barring of the dissidents from OSCE meetings.
Memorial says that two other unnamed Turkmen activists who tried to take part in international NGO meetings in Kazakhstan last month were also denied visas, possibly as a diplomatic nod by Astana to Ashgabat's concerns.