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Two Straightforward Questions

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A commentary on a recently published in UN Chronicle magazine article by President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov, "Strategic partnership in the name of ideals of peace and humanism" was about to appear that a flurry of reports from Russia forced us to absolutely change emphases and to focus on the Turkmen leader's statement from the above-mentioned article on the most live issue of the day.

Quoting Saparmurat Niyazov, "Although terrorism has many faces, its nature is always the same and based on doctrinaire egoism externalized by its carriers in an extreme degree of evil, intolerance and cruelty. Terrorism recognizes no borders and nationalities and has no affinity with any religion or culture. That is why the fight against terrorism should be conducted by joint efforts of the entire international community."

And now it is the right time to recall the stand that Turkmenistan has demonstrated both domestically and internationally over the last years that is alleged to have "skipped" the fight against terrorism.

September the 11th, 2001. Right after this tragic date President Niyazov put forth an idea on the establishment of the international anti-terror center with extensive powers under the auspices of the UN. Its prime responsibility would be comprehensive (international) coordination of efforts on the global scale, not by a group or a block of countries and free of ideological bias or political likes, to effectively counter terrorism.

Starting approximately the end of 2001 - beginning of 2002, Turkmenistan has been actively engaged in the work, behind the scenes for quite obvious reasons, with partner-states, including Russia and the U.S., and specialized international bodies on preventing, identifying and neutralizing potential terror threats in the region.

This work has turned into specific actions with the launch of anti-terror operation by the coalition forces in Afghanistan. During a visit to Ashgabat by the then chief of the Central Command of the U.S. Armed Forces, General Tommy Franks, early in the fall of 2002, both sides agreed to consolidate and coordinate their efforts in the fight against international terrorism, drug trafficking and on ensuring border safety. It was not by coincidence that the U.S. State Secretary Collin Powel specifically noted Turkmenistan's contribution to the efforts of the international community in this direction in his letter to President Niyazov.

A visit to Ashgabat by the then Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Rushaylo, in the beginning of 2003 confirmed that both states were united in their understanding of the nature of international terrorism as phenomenon, and were ready to jointly combat it.

Unfortunately, not everything was done to ensure safety of the state. On November 25, 2002, a group of international terrorists, including at least four citizens of foreign states, carried out an armed attack on a motorcade of the Turkmen president. There was made a classic attempt of terror attack on the life of the head of state with a view to forcefully change the constitutional system of Turkmenistan. The bloody end was avoided thanks to a lucky coincidence and professionalism and courage of officers of the power yielding agencies. It was a serious and visual lesson for a state that used to live stable, peaceful and level life.

After the events of November 25, 2002, the leadership of the state took steps to counter terrorism in a tough and effective manner both on legislative and organizational levels. The Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan passed a number of laws providing for more severe punishment for committing terrorism. Turkmenistan introduced temporal entry restrictions for certain categories of foreign citizens and tightened a passport-visa regime, increased security measures in airports, railway stations and sea and river ports of the country. Video cameras were installed in places of public gatherings in big cities (squares, parks and markets) by decision of the authorities. Indeed, all these measures caused certain inconveniences for people, and there were made certain mistakes as a result of unnecessary bureaucratic "zeal". And, as a matter of course, these measures taken by the Turkmen leadership aroused a gush of choral wail in "democratic" press and the so-called "human rights" organizations and, unfortunately, not only within these structures. "Hearings" in the Russian State Duma held a few months ago and attended not only by "sympathizers" of the terror act of November 25 but also by its immediate participants, who by the will of fortune had not been apprehended, can hardly be called other than cynical. They demanded not only "humane" treatment for terrorists but also a state defence and protection for those with Russian passports and even their extradition to Russia. I wonder, what would the Russia reaction be if a group of terrorists with Turkmen passports gunned a motorcade of President Putin, let's say, somewhere in Kutuzov avenue, and the Turkmen Mejlis then held similar "hearings" and presented them as defenders of democracy and, moreover, demanded that they should be released from the Lubyanka jail? This is the first question.

It is true that terrorism recognizes neither states nor nationalities. It is truly a doctrine externalized in an extreme degree of evil, intolerance and cruelty. And here we have another question. What would mothers of Ossetia's schoolchildren, relatives of those killed in the blast near Rizhskaya metro station and in the crashes on Moscow-Sochi and Moscow-Volgograd routes say now about "undemocratic" measures taken by Turkmenistan on fighting terrorism?

7 September 2004

Internet newspaper Turkmenistan.Ru