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Google and Opera appear to have been blocked in Turkmenistan — or have they? neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores the mix of censorship, incompetence, and terrible infrastructure that constitutes the “shoddy omnipotence” of government digital control, and why this is both a source of distress and hope.
The Turkmenet may be very small and very young, but it’s certainly developing at a remarkable rate, and not always in ways that can be clearly said to be good or bad. neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores the rise of hacking in this new space and its particularly Turkmen flavor.
According to official Turkmen news sources, around 100,000 fist grade students have received brand new Lenovo laptops at the start of this school year. Although neweurasia is unable to confirm this, if true — and Annasoltan thinks it likely — this is an incredible development for the country. “This is truly an ambitious project on the part of the Turkmen government,” she writes.
Farid Tukhbatullin, head of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR), of which the Chronicles of Turkmenistan (chrono-tm.org is the press service, has sent the following statement to journalists: On 18 July in the morning the website of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” was hacked. The website has been operating for about six years. Throughout these years it has posted thousands of articles, news casts and photos from Turkmenistan — the country where it is extremely difficult to obtain unbiased information. During the days when the arms depot explosions occurred near Ashgabat, our website remained the…
neweurasia has been contacted by an individual who claims to have accessed the Chronicles of Turkmenistan, the news site of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, and published part of their subscription list.
neweurasia continues to explore the aftermath of the Abadan explosion and the ways Turkmen are resisting the official line. The “Alternative Turkmenistan News” is an e-mail newsletter claiming 1300 recipients among a wide cross-section of professional Turkmen society. It’s a perhaps surprising example of the continuing utility of the e-mail in our new era of rapid social media. neweurasia’s Schwartz reports. “The impression one gets is actually of a very active and fertile secret world of electronic samizdat-like communications,” he writes. “Call it ‘e-zidat” or ‘Turkmenizdat’.”
Is neweurasia’s Schwartz, much less neweurasia itself, accurately representing Turkmenistan? If so, who gave them the right? Schwartz responds to criticisms from an anonymous Turkmen reader, exploring the dynamics of Turkmenistan’s “marginal” geopolitical status, the dynamics of social media, and even religious faith. “I won’t mince words,” he writes. “My credibility is indeed subject to real debate.”
First e-witness spoke again. Cannot confirm his statements but he was cited by Annasoltan. He has spoken again today: “I escaped death at the last moment, running away and making an accident with my car, but the car is nothing. [The bomb] fell 15,20 meters close to me. I was almost dead, all the people were covered in blood, they didn’t escape, they all died, there were no survivors to come out from there.” When asked where the bombs and rockets fell, he answered: “They fell everywhere.”
The still-mysterious explosion in Abadan was met with logic and courage by everyday Turkmens who were able to get online. neweurasia’s Annasoltan recounts both the struggles and discoveries of the Turkmenet during the crisis, including an important eyewitness account and the many netizens who were willing to challenge the official version of events as well as comfort and calm each other during a moment of terror.
Recently, there’s been a blossoming of Turkmen social websites and Facebook groups, and the activity therein has been incredible. neweurasia’s Annasoltan thinks she sees the opportunity for a new strategy of engagement with the people of her isolated nation. “The way to engage the Turkmen people and to get them to think critically about their society may [now[ require talking with the population rather than at them,” she writes.