Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 

Be Glad we're not living in Turkmenistan

One aspect of my part-time occupations is to teach an adult current affairs class at Manchester Univeristy. Tomorrow I'll be doing a class on Turkmenistan. Relevance to UK? Not much except that study of such places reminds us, or should do, how fortunate we are to live in a relatively civilised and well ordered society in which human rights are well repsected. What about the terror bill? Yes, fair point, but in Turkmenistan there would be no such debate, President Niyazov would be delighted to bang up anyone suspected of muttering under their breath for several years and applying daily torture to discover what possible subversive things were being muttered.

The full briefing for the class will appear shortly on my companion site Politics Considered (which can be accessed via the link on this site), but the following aspects of Niyazov's rule might interest any leftish casual reader who thinks Blair is determined to turn us into a police state:

a) there is no opposition in Turkmenistan- such brave souls have either been locked up and tortured or driven out of the country.
b) Niyazov has festooned his country with statues of himself- the 'Turkmenbashi'-Father of the Turkmen. One has been plated in gold and revolves so that it constantly faces the sun.
c) He has written a huge tome called the 'Rukhnama' which children have to read for two hours a day. Familiarity with it is necessaary to acquire any state job or even to pass one's driving test. The true test, in my view, that a leader is bonkers, is when he writes huge tomes of apparent 'philosphy'e.g. Mao and Gadaffi.
d)Opera, ballet and any foreign service broadcasts are banned as unnecessary.
e) 60% of the population are either unemployed or living in poverty despite the fact that the country is oil and gas rich. Still not convinced?
f)To show just how ridiculous the cult surrounding the president has become, it is worth noting that he has renamed the month of January after himself with May and September renamed after his parents.

We must not forget the blessings we have. Blair may be untrustworthy and given to telling porkies but he is essentially a democractic politician and if we want to get rid of him we can. Niyazov was made President for life in 1999 by his handpicked bunch of crony ministers. The slightly wider concern arising from examples like this is that if left to itself, this is what the corrupting effect of power produces: an attempt by a ruler to turn himself into a living God. God preserve us from such madness.

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