Turkmenistan Closing Door on Foreign Donors?

has long sought to limit outside cultural influences, going so far as
to ban opera and ballet for a few years. Now, President Gurbanguly
Berdymukhamedov wants to choke off the influx of foreign money into the
Central Asian state.

Under a presidential decree issued in January, the text of which was
recently obtained by EurasiaNet.org, Berdymukhamedov ordered the
creation of a state commission to supervise all foreign-funded “projects
and programs,” as well as place strict controls on outside money
granted to “legal and physical entities” in Turkmenistan. The decree
covers all forms of non-governmental organizations, including religious

If implemented in its entirety, the decree would enable the
government effectively to take financial control of all forms of
non-profit activities in the Central Asian state. It also provides the
state with a legal instrument that it could use to starve
non-governmental organizations of funding.

Berdymukhamedov’s decree — awkwardly titled “On State Registration
of Foreign Projects and Programs of Gratuitous Technical, Financial and
Humanitarian Assistance and Grants” — promises to create a nightmarish
experience for “foreign states, international organizations, financial
institutions, foreign companies and foundations, public associations …
religious groups and religious organizations” that seek to fund projects
in Turkmenistan, or give grants to local individuals or entities.

In addition to the creation of a state commission for the
“coordination and control of activities for state registration of
projects and programs,” Berdymukhamedov ordered the creation of a state
registry of all types of foreign donors. Those foreign entities wishing
to be officially listed in the registry will have to go through a
confusing process involving the ministries of foreign affairs, justice,
finance and economy and development. A plethora of state agencies,
including the Central Bank and State Customs Service, will also have
roles in supervising bank accounts and wire transfers.

The decree does not specify a date for full implementation of the
measures specified in it. Nor is there publicly available information
about whether the state commission, as well as procedures outlined in
the decree, is already operational. Those charged with implementing the
decree included Deputy Prime Minister Annamukhammet Gochyev, Foreign
Minister Rashid Meredov and State Security Minister Yaylym Berdiyev.

An addendum to the presidential decree makes it clear that
Berdymukhamedov worries that foreign money could be used to weaken his
authoritarian grip on Turkmenistan. A provision in the addendum
effectively prohibits outside funding for any type of activity deemed

“All types of foreign assistance, as well as goods, property, cash
and other funds received for its implementation, cannot be used to
prepare and conduct elections, referenda, recall of a deputy, organizing
and conducting assemblies, street marches, demonstrations, protests,
sabotage (the cessation of work), training, dissemination of propaganda,
for the purpose of political parties, as well as for conducting
training sessions for the public and other types of political and
advocacy activities,” an English translation of the Turkmen text states.

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