Intimidation of Turkmen civil society activist

Brussels, 3 February 2012. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is concerned about new acts of intimidation against a well-known Turkmen civil society activist and calls on the Turkmen authorities to ensure her protection.

As reported by Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR), earlier today Natalia Shabunts found a bloodstained sheep’s head outside the door of her Ashgabat apartment. This comes the day after she gave an interview to Radio Azatlyk, the Turkmen Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where she expressed her views about the upcoming presidential elections in Turkmenistan, as well as other issues related to the current situation in the country. Earlier this week, in the evening of 31 January, Shabants discovered that a cross had been drawn up in white powder on the doormat outside her apartment. Both incidents appear aimed at intimidating Shabunts, who has not refrained from criticizing the Turkmen authorities on democracy and human rights issues in her own name, despite the risks this it entails for a Turkmenistan-based activist. Among others, she has published numerous articles on TIHR’s website.

The environment for civil society is extremely repressive in Turkmenistan and civil society activists, contributors to Radio Azatlyk and others who speak up on political and social problems in the country are highly vulnerable to harassment by security services. A number of other recent cases of harassment are described in a joint TIHR and IPHR briefing paper, which was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee this week.