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Friday, April 29, 2005


Turkmenistan bans libraries

From the International Relations and Security Network:

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.

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