The time in Ashgabat has passed very quickly and I am already back in Istanbul waiting for my connecting flight to Zurich. It has certainly been a strange place to be. I really have experienced what “Law and Order” means when put into action.
But it has another side as well. To move freely in the country is almost impossible. Even citizens of Turkmenistan have to always carry internal passports. Although invited by the Government and UNICEF, our passports had to be not only stamped coming in (and getting out), but also required additional stamps indicating that the diplomatic protocol was observed.
Another characteristic of secluded and authoritarian states is the personality cult which is well and alive in Turkmenistan. It was certainly cultivated by the first president Saparmurat Niyazov, generally referred to as Turkmenbashi, leader of the Turkmen. He wrote the book Ruhnama which has to be read in all schools, universities and government offices. Apparently, new governmental employees are tested on the contents of the book prior to being hired.
Certain internet sites are blocked; you cannot access Facebook, Twitter or Youtube while in Turkmenistan. It is not allowed to take pictures of any public buildings, like the building of the ministerial cabinet. Since I am now already in Istanbul, I can publish the picture I took very early this morning while driving to the airport.