Some of you have been wondering more about Turkmenistan’s rejection of our Peace Corps group, and inquiring has anything to do with what’s going on in Iran. I’m not sure I can comment one way or another, but it has been interesting and illuminating for me to read up on Turkmenistan in the news lately, and also to talk to returned Peace Corps volunteers about their experiences in the country.
Here’s an excerpt from Eurasianet.org’s weekly news briefing on Turkmenistan:
“Although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a cordial meeting with President Gurbanguly during the General Assembly, in which she praised his educational reforms, and did not appear to protest the denial of exit permission to Turkmen students to study abroad, it seems to have had no effect. Ashgabat must have some other beef now with Washington, which still has no ambassador in Turkmenistan; suddenly, Turkmenistan authorities disinvited a group of 50 U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who had already been issued visas and were in orientation, preparing to start service this week in Turkmenistan. The U.S. group leader was unexpectedly told the volunteers’ work had to be postponed until 2010. Meanwhile, the Turkmen students blocked from study at AUCA are being rerouted in part to the American University in Bulgaria, but also a number are being directed to study in Russia. They face serious obstacles in this regard as well, as scholars in the humanities are being asked to take exams in the hard sciences for which they are not prepared, as well as a Turkmen history test, and a large percentage have failed. Their prospects for meaningful education at home are grim. This week, international specialists who attended a conference on literature in Dashoguz said they were unimpressed at the low level of Turkmen scholarship and the unwillingness to debate issues with peers, according to a report from the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights. They were also appalled to see school children turned out at 6:00 am to greet them all along their route, providing a glimpse into unchanging practices of government exploitation of children.”
More about the issue with Turkmen students here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jl4Awh4U6jqyntdYp4cx-MOsQH2gD9B4UECO0
Eurasianet.org is a great resource on Central Asia in general, and I would encourage you check them out for further information.