President Saparmurat Niazov has added public libraries to the long list of things banned in Turkmenistan - a bitter blow to many in the Central Asian republic who say their last window on the world has been slammed shut. Turkmen have grown used to living without opera, ballet, cinemas, and even circuses - all forbidden by Niazov - but they say his decision to close all libraries cuts especially deep.
Various NGOs including Human Rights Watch and the International Helsinki Federation have protested the late February decision by Niazov - known as Turkmenbashi, or father of all Turkmen - to shut down the libraries. His explanation at a meeting of cabinet ministers was simple, “No one goes to libraries and reads books anyway.” Also problematic appears to be the fact that most literature in Turkmenistan’s libraries is printed in Cyrillic. Since 1996, schools have been teaching in a Latin-based alphabet. Only the national library appears to have escaped the purge, so, according to Niazov, it can house new Turkmen literature as well as historical texts. The president said any more libraries are unnecessary as most books that Turkmen need - many written by Niazov himself - should already be in homes, workplaces, and schools.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
Support the Belarusian cartoonists
Third Way, the Belarusian organisation whose members are being prosecuted for producing satirical cartoons about Lukashenka,
have set up a web page where you can make a donation via PayPal. The group urgently
need money for their legal defence and operating expenses. Please give what you can today! Read more
We are continuing to focus our efforts on the Belarusian prisoner of conscience Mikhail Marinich.
We are campaigning for him to receive proper medical treatment, to be permitted to see his family,
and ultimately to be released from prison pending a review of his case. You can help by distributing
our factsheets and letters.
Members of these groups have joined our blog to share their views and experiences.