The Sultan of Suppression: Turkmenistan’s Head of State
Turkmenistan, a country that many understandably may have difficulty locating on a world map, received international media attention last week. The newfound publicity originated from megastar Jennifer Lopez’s trip to the former soviet-bloc territory, where she delivered what was evidently a first-class rendition of the song “Happy Birthday” to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
After being informed of Berdimuhamedov’s atrocious record on human rights, Lopez apologized, yet still held on to her remuneration, estimated at over one million dollars.
Consistent with most statist regimes, Turkmenistan’s decision-making jurisdiction lies in the hands of one individual: the 2nd President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
Born in 1957 in USSR territory, Berdimuhamedov went on to graduate from the State Medical School in 1979; shortly thereafter, he embarked on a career in dentistry. In 1997, he served in the Turkmenistan government as Minister of Health. Four short years later, Berdimuhamedov was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister.
Following the death of the 1st President of Turkmenistan, Berdimuhamedow was well-positioned to compete for the country’s #1 spot. Turns out, it wasn’t much of a competition at all; Berdimuhamedow was elected with 89% of the vote. Radio Free Europe described the election as “Neither Free Nor Fair”.
Since the first election of Berdimuhamedow, Freedom House has consistently ranked Turkmenistan’s appreciation of Civil Liberties and Political Rights on par with the tyrannical regimes of Somalia, Sudan, and North Korea, to name a few.
Berdimuhamedow breezed through his reelection campaign in 2012, receiving over 97% of the popular vote. Predictably, many were skeptical about these baffling results, including Russian analyst Azhdar Kurtov. He exclaimed that the elections are a ploy “to trick those people, and the rest of the world, into believing Turkmenistan has a political process”.
The Turkmen citizenry has been portrayed as having bought into a cult-of-personality mentality, one that closely resembles the North Korean’s attitude towards their “Dear Leader”. On a recent trip to the circus with his family, the crowd ecstatically received Berdimuhamedow in a manner closely resembling a clapping seal act at Sea World.
President Bedimuhamedow, who is an avid equestrian, was recently catapulted off of a horse during a race, causing him to face-plant into the soil. Consistent with the nation’s modus operandi, the government immediately shut down all forms of social media, worrying that the video would go “viral” and further humiliate their leader. The Turkmenistan press would later proclaim that Berdimuhamedow had won the race and graciously donated the proceeds to charity.