Saparmurat Niyazov - Presidency - Internal Affairs

Internal Affairs

One of the earliest acts of the president was to abolish the death penalty and guarantee various human rights to the people. Press freedom under Niyazov's leadership was much criticised as it was with other former Soviet central Asian states. Turkmenistan's media constantly doted on the president and helped build his cult of personality. In May 2000, the government revoked all Internet licenses except for the state-owned Turkmen Telecom and in June 2001 shut down all Internet cafés. By 2005 there were 36,000 Internet users in Turkmenistan, representing 0.7% of the population.

In March 2004, 15,000 public health workers were dismissed including nurses, midwives, school health visitors and orderlies. In February 2005 all hospitals outside Aşgabat were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment. According to the paper Neitralniy Turkmenistan physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath. All libraries outside of the capital were also closed, as Niyazov believed that the only books that most Turkmen needed to read were the Koran and his Ruhnama.

In January 2006 one-third of the country's elderly had their pensions discontinued, while another 200,000 had theirs reduced. Pensions received during the prior two years were ordered paid back to the state. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan strongly denied allegations that the cut in pensions resulted in the deaths of many elderly Turkmens, accusing foreign media outlets of spreading "deliberately perverted" information on the issue. On March 19, 2007 Turkmenistan's new president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow reversed Niyazov's decision by restoring pensions to more than 100,000 elderly citizens.

In December 2008, the new president also made changes to the national anthem, the chorus of which referenced Niyazov.

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