Turkmenistan, Central Asia
Political Leader: President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov
Religions: Islam 91.8%, Christianity 2.7%, Other 5.5%
Persecution Ranking: No. 14
Number of Terrorist Groups: None Listed
Acts of Terrorism: 1; Casualties: 1
Percent of Corruption: 78%
% of People in Poverty: 58%
Turkmenistan, also known as Turkmenia, is a Turkic country in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the southwest, Uzbekistan to the northeast, Kazakhstan to the northwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Over 80% of the country is covered by the Karakum Desert. The center of the country is dominated by the Turan Depression and the Karakum Desert.
While the government of Turkmenistan strictly controlled access into and passage through Turkmenistan at official border crossings and along main roads, clandestine passage could not be eliminated because of the extended border through mountainous and desert terrain, as well as the small size and uneven quality of Turkmenistan’s border guard, customs service, and law enforcement agencies. The military-style counterterrorism unit with hostage rescue and explosives threat management capability was inaugurated in 2005. The government supported humanitarian assistance related to the U.S. War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The government entered the names of individuals and organizations on terrorist financing lists into its banking system.
Muslims make up 91.8% of Turkmenistan’s population, while Christians comprise only 2.7%. Turkmenistan government officials exert stringent security control over the country. The government strictly controlled religious expression, and radical or extremist forms of Islam were not tolerated.
Challenges for Christians:
Turkmenistan is ranked No. 14 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2007 “World Watch List.” The constitution provides for freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion. However, in practice the Government continued to restrict all forms of religious expression. The government prohibits foreign missionary activity and foreign religious organizations; however, the law does not restrict the worship choices of foreigners.
- Pray for the Turkmenistan government to continue its tough stance against terrorists.
- Turkmenistan has a single-party system and was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov until December 21, 2006, when he died of cardiac arrest. Presidential elections were held on 11 February 2007. Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow was declared the winner with 89% of the vote. He was sworn in on February 14, 2007. Pray that Berdimuhammedow would be saved.
- Persecution against Christians is on the increase―with leaders getting beaten up and any foreign Christians being forced to leave the country. Pray that Christians would stand firm in what they believe and speak out against injustice.
- Pray for freedom of religion in Turkmenistan.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, The World Factbook