This nation claims it hasn’t had a single Covid-19 case. Activists say that is a lie

This country claims it hasn't had a single Covid-19 case. Activists say that's a lie


Or a minimum of, that is what the central Asian nation’s secretive, authoritarian authorities claims.

But impartial organizations and journalists and activists exterior Turkmenistan say there’s proof the nation is battling a 3rd wave which is overwhelming hospitals and killing dozens of individuals — and warn the President is enjoying down the specter of the lethal virus in a bid to take care of his public picture.

Ruslan Turkmen, an exile from Turkmenistan and editor of the Netherlands-based impartial information group Turkmen News, mentioned he has personally assembled the names of more than 60 people who he claimed have died of Covid-19 contained in the nation, together with lecturers, artists and docs.

Turkmen mentioned he has verified all of the recorded deaths with well being data and X-rays, revealing extreme lung harm and medical therapy in step with coronavirus victims.

“Instead of accepting it and cooperating with the international community, Turkmenistan decided to stick its head in the sand,” mentioned Turkmen.

The Turkmenistan authorities didn’t reply to Source’s requests for remark.

How it unfolded

As Covid-19 unfold around the globe at the beginning of 2020, Turkmenistan insisted it had no instances, whilst bordering nations reported skyrocketing outbreaks.

Iran, with which Turkmenistan shares an extended land border, has reported one of many world’s largest Covid-19 outbreaks with almost 5.5 million whole instances, in response to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“You look at what’s happening at other countries in the region and how different could Turkmenistan possibly be?” mentioned Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

According to the web sites of the British and Australian international ministries, all flights into Turkmenistan are at present suspended and solely Turkmen residents are allowed to enter the nation.
Turkmen mentioned his sources in Turkmenistan started contacting him about instances in round May 2020 — about the identical time Covid-19 was spreading around the world. He mentioned the primary messages he obtained talked a few “weird lung disease, flu-like” which was affecting many individuals.

“It was at least 40 degrees Celsius outside (104 degrees Fahrenheit) — not a usual flu season,” he mentioned.

In June 2020, the US embassy within the capital, Ashgabat, issued a heath alert warning of “reports of local citizens with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 undergoing Covid-19 testing,” and being positioned in quarantine for as much as 14 days.
The Turkmenistan authorities instantly referred to as the assertion “fake news.”
A WHO mission to Turkmenistan in July 2020 didn’t verify any coronavirus infections contained in the nation however did say it was involved about “elevated numbers of instances of acute respiratory infection and pneumonia.”
One WHO official mentioned Turkmenistan ought to act “as if Covid-19 was circulating.”

By then, the state of affairs was uncontrolled, in response to Turkmen. The authorities suggested residents to take weird public well being measures, resembling consuming a selected sort of spicy soup.

In January this yr, Turkmenistan introduced it had permitted Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to be used within the nation. Then in June, the World Bank agreed to lend $20 million to the Turkmenistan authorities, largely for well being amenities and development, as a part of a program to “prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by Covid-19.”

As just lately as Tuesday, President Berdymukhamedov mentioned the efforts of the worldwide group in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic have been “insufficient,” though he didn’t point out the state of affairs inside his personal nation.

“The pandemic has exposed serious systemic failings in the international response to this challenge,” he mentioned.

‘Turkmenistan is burning’

Despite Berdymukhamedov’s claims that his nation his Covid-free, the fact inside Turkmenistan is starkly completely different, in response to impartial journalists and activists.

Diana Serebryannik, director of Europe-based exiles group Rights and Freedoms of Turkmenistan Citizens, mentioned her group had heard from contacts within the nation that hospitals there are at present struggling to take care of the inflow of instances.

Serebryannik mentioned Turkmen docs from her group who have been now dwelling abroad have been in contact with their former colleagues within the nation, permitting them to seek out out the true state of affairs and supply recommendation.

She mentioned docs inside Turkmenistan had informed her each oxygen and ventilators have been laborious to come back by within the nation, therapy was costly and deaths from the virus could possibly be within the hundreds.

“Turkmenistan is burning, it’s burning with Covid … Sometimes they do not even accept patients to the hospital, they just send them home,” she mentioned.

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According to Serebryannik, the official explanation for demise in these instances will not be listed as Covid-19 and even pneumonia — as a substitute medical certificates file a separate situation, resembling a coronary heart assault, she mentioned.

When well being staff have tried to talk up in regards to the actuality on the bottom, they’ve been pressured into silence, according to non-profit Human Rights Watch.
Inside the nation, freedom of the press and impartial scrutiny will not be allowed — Turkmenistan was ranked 178 out of 180 countries and territories on Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index, simply above North Korea and Eritrea.
Turkmen residents who peacefully criticize the federal government have confronted extreme punishments, in response to Human Rights Watch, together with experiences of torture and disappearances.
Foreign residents have additionally been affected by the Turkmenistan authorities’s coronavirus denials. In July 2020, Turkish diplomat Kemal Uchkun was admitted to hospital in Ashgabat with Covid-like signs however was refused permission to evacuate to his residence nation, in response to the journal of Asian Affairs.
According to the BBC, X-rays despatched to Turkish hospitals by Uchkun’s spouse have been confirmed to indicate evidence of Covid-19.

The journal of Asian Affairs mentioned Uchkun died on July 7. His official explanation for demise was coronary heart failure.

Most just lately, Turkmen mentioned he had confirmed the demise of a 61-year-old Russian language and literature trainer, who had been in hospital since August, according to Turkmen News.

Undermining the rosy image

Multiple authoritarian governments around the globe have introduced their Covid-19 outbreaks and obtained worldwide help, together with China, the earliest nation affected.

So why is Turkmenistan so insistent that it has nonetheless not seen a single case?

Both Turkmen and Serebryannik mentioned it was right down to President Berdymukhamedov who, as a dentist by occupation and former well being minister, had positioned nice emphasis on successfully governing the well-being of his individuals — a minimum of in precept.

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov remotely addresses the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in a pre-recorded message on September 21, 2021.

Serebryannik mentioned Berdymukhamedov, 64, wished to look like a savior to the nation, and a powerful world chief, by conserving Covid-19 out.

“Turkmenistan is a country where everything in the garden looks rosy … you have those marble, state of the art (health facilities) equipped with German, French, Japanese, whatever, equipment,” journalist Turkmen mentioned.

Admitting the presence of a lethal virus would undermine the idealized picture the President has created and depart Berdymukhamedov open to criticism — and probably to being held to account.

“It would be someone’s failure, someone would have to bear responsibility for that and who has the ultimate word for that? The President,” Turkmen mentioned.

There has been no indication but that Turkmenistan is getting ready to reverse its place and admit to having Covid-19 instances contained in the nation, however Serebryannik mentioned she believed the federal government must ultimately.

She mentioned there had simply been “too much death.”

Human Rights Watch’s Denber mentioned worldwide organizations interacting with Turkmenistan, together with WHO, had an obligation to be sincere with the world in regards to the state of affairs contained in the nation.

“At a certain point you have to say at what cost are you protecting that presence (in the country)? Are the measures you’re taking to protect your relationship … undermining your core mission?” she mentioned.

Denber mentioned in a worldwide pandemic, with many outbreaks linked throughout worldwide borders, nations had an obligation to supply correct testing and proper public info.

“We’re all interconnected,” she mentioned. “When one of us fails, we all fail.”

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