31 December 2008 |

Turkmenistan: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2008


The situation of IDPs in Turkmenistan can only be reported with minimal confidence due to government control of IDPs, the lack of access of humanitarian organisations and the extremely limited freedom of information in the country. The government does not release statistics on the number resettled and does not allow humanitarian organisations to conduct surveys. Information on the extent of internal displacement is also limited by total state control on media, curtailed freedom of speech and the near absence of civil society. As a result, the numbers of IDPs are unknown and the little information that exists is published by civil society outside of Turkmenistan. 

The former President Saparmurat Niyazov used forced resettlement as a means of oppressing people viewed as disloyal to his regime and to force ethnic minorities to integrate into Turkmen life. People were also forcibly resettled to make way for urban development projects and to develop land elsewhere. These relocations were achieved through presidential decrees issued in November 2002 and January 2003, and in 2008 displacement continued as part of the redevelopment of the capital Ashgabat. 

While it is not known if IDPs in rural resettlement villages have adequate housing, food, water and sanitation, it is clear that many have not received compensation for property confiscated by the government and are worse off than their non-displaced neighbours. In some cases this is because they have not had formal documentation since Turkmen independence from the USSR. IDPs’ letters to government on these issues have gone unanswered. 

The current government has not acknowledged any responsibility for the situation of IDPs, supported solutions such as local integration or offered compensation for lost property in line with international standards. International humanitarian organisations face limited access and bureaucratic obstacles which limit their ability to confront the government on its treatment of IDPs and other vulnerable groups.