In Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index, Turkmenistan has consistently been among the lowest-ranking countries (between 177 and 180) since 2015. In 2023, Turkmenistan was ranked 176th out of 180 countries, between Syria and Iran. This shows the totalitarian nature of the Turkmen regime, as well as the complete absence of democracy, civil liberties, and independent media in the country. In the annual Global Expression Report, published by the human rights organisation ARTICLE 19, Turkmenistan came third from last, behind only Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report, Turkmenistan ranked third from last, behind Syria and Sudan, and ahead of North Korea. The report highlighted the acute problem of online censorship. 

Despite the elections held in 2022 (whereby Serdar Berdimuhamedow succeeded his father Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow to become President of Turkmenistan), as well as elections to the Mejlis (the Turkmen parliament) and local authorities in 2023, no positive changes can be seen in the country’s political situation. On the contrary, political scientists, journalists and analysts note the strengthening of repressive measures to suppress political and civil freedom, and exert total control over the internet and information as a whole, as well as attacks on émigré bloggers and critics of the government. Alongside this intensification of repression, analysts have observed increasing levels of nepotism, cronyism, and corruption among state officials and law enforcement personnel, and tighter control over information. Additionally, the cult of personality surrounding the Berdimuhamedow family has deepened. 

Negative trends related to socio-political life in Turkmenistan continue, namely: the concentration of power in the hands of the president’s family, the persecution of political activists, and the oppression of women. These trends are evident in this report by the US Department of State, published in March 2023. 

The practice of the government concealing information from its own population, as well as from the global community, became particularly apparent after a nationwide census was conducted from 17 to 27 December 2022. The authorities responsible for carrying out the census reported the results to the Berdimuhamedows in June 2023, but these results were kept hidden from the public.  

On 26 March, elections for deputies of the Mejlis and members of local councils (Gengeshes and Halk Maslahaty) took place in Turkmenistan. Voter turnout was reportedly 91.12%. Meanwhile, local sources reported that these elections did not actually generate any interest among the population. Students and public sector workers – contrary to the law in Turkmenistan – were forced to vote. Meanwhile, The Commonwealth of Independent States Mission stated that the Mejlis elections in Turkmenistan were “free and open”. 

The difficult socioeconomic situation, coupled with rampant corruption and legal injustice, along with a sense of hopelessness and a lack of prospects, have led to an increase in emigration from the country. Both indigenous Turkmen and specialists from leading industries have begun to leave Turkmenistan, alongside other ethnic groups.  

Surveillance over citizens has intensified, especially for those included on the list of so-called “unreliable individuals” and their relatives, as well as individuals visiting foreign embassies and institutions. The fear among government officials at any level, who tend to operate on a policy of “making sure nothing goes wrong”, often leads them to introduce new prohibitions and restrictions. In 2023, for example, authorities prohibited Turkmen students and schoolchildren from celebrating their graduation to strengthen control over young people, even in their free time. 

In January 2023, authorities released a number of bloggers and civil activists from prison after they had been sentenced to various custody terms on fabricated charges. In reality, they had been arrested because they openly expressed their grievances through independent media and online, sharing stories of persecution and violations of their civil rights. On 12 December 2022, in honour of Turkmenistan’s Day of Neutrality, activists Khursanai Ismatullayeva, Seryozha Babaniyazov and Dmitry Medvedev were pardoned. 

The cult of personality surrounding Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow continued to grow in 2023. Berdimuhamedow was given the official title of “national leader of the Turkmen people”. Serdar Berdimuhamedow became president following rigged elections. Another relative, Batyr Amanov, was appointed to the position of Deputy Prime Minister for the Fuel and Energy Complex. Batyr Amanov is the brother of Serdar’s sister-in-law, Guldjahan. 

Independent observers were particularly concerned by the Turkmenistan authorities’ intensified efforts to restrict access to the internet in 2023. Online resources were blocked, opposition and human rights websites were hacked, and attempts were made to take down negative information about both Turkmenistan and the ruling regime.

There was also an attempt to delete a two-year-old post on the X (formerly Twitter) account. Additionally, the Turkmenistan authorities sent complaints to TikTok regarding content on its platform. In April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan held a roundtable discussion on the topic of combating fake news and the “imposition of foreign values”. Journalists from national and international media outlets, embassy press attaches, and experts in information policy were invited. 

2023 was marked by a record number of cases of online resource blocking. From 16-17 July, Wikipedia was blocked once again. The website had previously been blocked for a short time in 2019.

In Turkmenistan, approximately three-quarters of the world’s IP addresses are blocked. In July 2023, the website published a list of hosting sites, providers and services blocked in Turkmenistan. The Cyber Security Service continues to disable greater numbers of networks.  This is done, in particular, in order to make money: services such as adding an IP address to a “white list” (a pre-authorized list of e-mail addresses held by an Internet service provider, subscriber or other e-mail service provider.) are in high demand and sell well.  

On 28 July, a message appeared stating that access to the internet via TOR bridges, designed to bypass blocks, had been restricted in Turkmenistan. This was preceded by a brief surge in demand for one of the few remaining methods to freely access the internet. In Turkmenistan, the ICQ messenger app was blocked and authorities began to arrest individuals who assisted users in installing VPNs. reported that for subscribers to TurkmenTelecom and the mobile operator Altyn Asyr, this messenger service does not open without a VPN. The world’s most popular instant messengers, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, and Viber, have long been blocked in Turkmenistan. For a long time, citizens used IMO messenger. However, this has now been partially blocked. In 2022, ICQ, one of the world’s earliest messengers, purchased by a Russian company and modernised in 2020, gained popularity in the country.

Since 16 June, television access via so-called “card sharing” has been blocked in Turkmenistan. This illegal method previously allowed people to watch Russian TV channels and access video services for a small fee. Currently, users in Turkmenistan cannot watch channels via the 80th (Express) and 13th (Hotbird) degrees. People also lost access to Radio Azatlyk‘s broadcasts. 

At the same time, authorities began summoning local bloggers for “talks”,  particularly those active on social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. They were, and continue to be, pressured to only post positive content about Turkmenistan on their feeds, with the threat of imprisonment being used as blackmail. 

Despite this, the authorities deny online blocking and censorship occurs in the country. Rovshen Annaberdyev, the Head of the Department of International Organisations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied accusations of online blocking and the obstruction of independent media activity during the 137th session of the UN Committee on Human Rights in Geneva.

Authorities also stated that bloggers and activists Kasymberdy Garaev and Omruzak Umurkuliev, whose fate has been a concern for human rights defenders over the past year, are currently “at their registered addresses”. 


In 2023, there were 8 cases where the authorities resorted to physical measures against journalists, bloggers, activists, and citizens who expressed their opinions publicly and/or through independent media outlets. 

  • In July, in a collective appeal, political prisoners reported to Dmitry Shlapachenko, the UN representative in Turkmenistan, that four political prisoners – Allamyrat Korkhanov, Murat Dushemov, Nurgeldy Khalykov and Murat Ovezov – serving sentences in the Lebap region, are being subjected to torture and psychological abuse by prison staff and are in need of medical assistance. Nurgeldy Khalykov is being held in the worst conditions. At night, officers stop him from sleeping. Sleeping is not permitted in the colony during the day, so, when Khalykov does fall asleep, prisoners assigned to watch him call the wardens, who assault him. Khalykov has been held in solitary confinement several times. Shlapachenko did not respond to the complaint and refused to comment on his inaction to an independent publication.
  • In July, Zarina Akhtyamova, an activist from Turkey, published a video statement in which she detailed how consular employees in Istanbul assaulted Turkmen bloggers and civil activists who arrived at the consulate with a letter addressed to the President of Turkmenistan. 
  • On 4 June, around 10 of the most politically active citizens from Turkmenistan were assaulted by guards at a deportation centre in the Turkish city of Kayseri. A breach of meal procedures may have prompted the incident. Earlier, in April 2023, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights also reported incidents of Turkmen citizens being assaulted in deportation centres in Turkey. According to observers, the mass detention of Turkmen citizens in Turkey and their subsequent extradition began after the conclusion of a “secret deal” between Turkmenistan and Turkey. Through this deal, Turkmenistan hopes to become a member of the Organization of Turkic States. In exchange, Turkey has promised to take steps to deport Turkmen citizens who are illegally residing in Turkey, particularly bloggers and activists who criticise the Turkmen regime on social media. 
  • On 13 February, in the Lebap region, a house belonging to the brother of Turkmen political activist Alisher Zainullin, who is currently living abroad, burned down in suspicious circumstances. His brother, Rinat Zainullin, was badly burned. Around 8:40 PM, employees of the Ministry of National Security arrived at the house of the Zainullin brothers’ grandmother in the city of Dostluk, in the Dovletli district of the Lebap region. Among them was a local employee named Ahmet and several others from the provincial administration. They asked about Rinat’s current whereabouts. His family replied that he was away at his country house. At 22:00 PM, there was a huge fire at the house. Neighbours managed to pull Rinat, who was unconscious, out of the building, after which an ambulance took him away. Alisher Zainullin maintains that this attempt on his brother’s life was the work of the Ministry of National Security. In Turkmenistan, authorities putting pressure on activists’ relatives is a common method of silencing critical voices abroad. 

One death was recorded in 2023: 

  • In Ashgabat, on the night of 4 October, the popular blogger, performer and comedian Muhammed Mammedov was killed. Around 02:00 AM, the 30-year-old was returning home with a friend. Several people violently attacked Mammedov near his home. The assailants then took him into his own apartment and put him in bed. The following morning, Mammedov’s body was discovered by his father and young son. 

There was one incident relating to the disappearance of an activist and blogger in Russia: 

  • On 8 December, it was revealed that Turkmen activist and blogger Malikberdi Allamyradov had disappeared in Russia. Prior to this, he had not been in contact with anyone for four days; traces of a struggle, as well as blood, were found in his apartment, and the wires of the security cameras at his house had been cut. Allamyradov, who ran the Allamyradov YouTube channel, previously studied at a university in the Republic of Kalmykia but had more recently been hiding in Moscow. He knew that the Turkmen authorities were looking for him. Radio Azatlyk published a video about Allamyradov’s activities less than a month before this incident. In 2021, Allamyradov staged a one-man protest in Elista against the restrictions Turkmen banks imposed on foreign university students intending to convert currency. Russian police detained him, but the court later acquitted him, recognising that he had not violated any rules for staging protests. It later turned out that Allamyradov had been forcibly taken to Turkmenistan. The Turkmen special services coordinated their actions with the Russian FSB. 


It has been reported via open sources that in Turkmenistan, in 2023, there were at least 7 cases of legal action taken by law enforcement and other government bodies against bloggers, activists, and citizens expressing dissent on social media or through independent media outlets:  

  • On 20 March, the Spanish online publication El Español reported that a Turkmen citizen, who was wanted in their homeland for engaging in “anti-state activities”, had been arrested in Spain. The detained individual’s name was not disclosed, but the accusations Turkmen authorities brought against the individual suggest that he may have been engaged in public protest or had been criticising the ruling regime in Turkmenistan. On 23 March, courts ruled to keep him in custody until the issue of extradition was resolved. On 31 March, the appeal was rejected, with the appellate body declining to assess whether there was “minimal observance of human rights” in Turkmenistan. 
  • On 19 May, opposition video blogger Farkhat Meymankuliyev, also known as Farhat Durdyev, was detained in Turkey. He was subsequently extradited to Turkmenistan. Durdyev is one of the most vocal critics of the Turkmen regime. He began releasing videos on YouTube in 2020 that soon became popular. Durdyev used his own sources and spoke about events taking place in Turkmenistan. He showed viewers copies of documents and videos from Turkmenistan and became famous for his harsh presenting style, using profanity towards Turkmen officials, including the Berdimuhamedows. Following his arrest, Durdyev’s YouTube channel was deleted. In the notorious Zhitnikova cellars (a Ministry of Internal Affairs temporary detention centre), prisoners are regularly subjected to physical abuse, and the password for his account was likely obtained through torture. Durdyev’s fate in Turkmenistan is unknown. He has likely joined the list of people who have disappeared without a trace in recent years. According to some sources, the blogger was sentenced to 22 years in prison. According to others, he was sentenced to 18 years. 
  •  In June, it was revealed that several Turkmen citizens who made a video about a traffic police officer who groundlessly accused them of assault were arrested for 15 days. The official reason for their arrest was not stated, but the administrative case brought against them was undoubtedly due to the video being posted online.
  • On 12 July, it was reported that Turkmen blogger Rovshen Gylyjov was placed in a deportation centre in the Tuzla district of Istanbul. The details and reasons for his detention are unknown, but most likely, the blogger and activist fell victim to the crackdown on immigrants in the country. 
  • On 6 September, in Istanbul, Serdar Durdylyev, an activist from Turkmenistan, was detained for violating the terms of his visa. On 15 October, he was transferred to the Tuzla deportation centre, meaning that he may soon be deported to his homeland. In 2018, Durdylyev helped set up a community of Turkmen students in Turkey, which was previously led by Omruzak Omarkuliev. He was also active on social media. His fate is currently unknown. 
  • On 4 December, Radio Azatlyk reported the arrest of its former correspondent Khudaiberdi Allashov. According to those close to the journalist, several police officers burst into Allashov’s house in the city of Köneürgench and dragged him into a waiting car. Radio Azatlyk also learned that, several days before his arrest, Allashov was summoned to a police station in Köneürgench, where he was beaten and tortured via electrocution. Later, it became known that Allashov was detained for 15 days. Prior to this, in 2016, he and his relatives were detained and subjected to violence. This was allegedly due to them taking part in drug trafficking, but was actually a punishment for providing information to Radio Azatlyk.

In 2023, one incident related to an individual being prevented from leaving the country was recorded: 

  • On 17 November, at the airport, Turkmenistan migration service employees deliberately damaged the passports of independent journalist Soltan Achilova and her daughter, preventing them from leaving the country. On the evening of 17 November, they were scheduled to fly to Geneva, where Achilova was to be presented with an award. In 2021, she was one of three finalists for the Martin Ennals International Human Rights Defender Award. Due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, 2023 was her first opportunity to fly to Switzerland and receive her prize. Achilova had also planned meetings with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organisation Reporters Without Borders and students from a number of universities. 


In 2023, as in previous years, Turkmen security forces increased pressure on the relatives of émigré activists speaking out about the regime. It is worth noting that not only activists’ actions but also those who leave comments online are monitored. One blogger reported that his parents in Turkmenistan were summoned for questioning by the Ministry of National Security and told that they would face punishment if their son did not delete YouTube videos criticising the Turkmen authorities. The blogger’s name has not been disclosed for security reasons. 

In February, civil activist Dursoltan Taganova, who lives in Turkey, reported that the police tried to recruit her young son in the Lebap region of Turkmenistan. Taganova is known for her social media presence, particularly on TikTok, where she regularly interviews young people about human rights for Turkmen citizens. Her live streams regularly attract hundreds of listeners, sometimes up to 500 people, causing concern among Turkmen authorities. Before 2024, her 12-year-old son, Firuz Taganov, a 6th-grade student at secondary school No. 19 in the city of Turkmenabat, was invited to the office of head teacher Haitgul Dzhumaeva. Two men were waiting for him in the office. They began asking about the boy’s mother, whether his mother telephoned him, sent him money, etc. At the end of the conversation, they suggested “becoming friends.” By this, Taganova notes, they meant agreeing to give them information about her periodically. Taganova claims that “after these men visited, the head teacher began to scold Firuz and threatened that, if he were stubborn, she would hand him over to the police. After these “conversations,” she says, Firuz was extremely upset. He only decided to tell his family about what had happened in early February, at least a month after the threats from the head teacher began. 

This is not the first time Taganova has been attacked. She is regularly threatened and abused online by people using pro-government accounts. In the past, she has been threatened with death. On a number of occasions, humiliating fake footage has been posted online, allegedly of Taganova. Recently, a fake channel was created in her name, which featured her personal phone number. 

In December, the Turkmen authorities, through the State Committee for Television, Radio Broadcasting, and Cinematography, responded to an investigation by Turkmen.newsGundogar and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project regarding the Berdimuhamedow family’s secret privatisation of the new Aesthetic Medicine Centre in Ashgabat. They complained to YouTube about the video investigation, alleging that the material had been distorted and was “propaganda of hatred and violence against citizens of Turkmenistan”. YouTube responded, saying that they consider the use of state television footage to be “fair use” and do not intend to delete the video. 


Two cyber-attacks were recorded in 2023: 

  • In February, the Chronicles of Turkmenistan website was unavailable for two weeks due to a large-scale attack on the hosting server. On 3 February, a ransomware attack was carried out on the servers of the site’s hosting company. A large number of servers turned out to be encrypted. To unlock them, hackers demanded a ransom of just over two bitcoins (around $23,000). 
  • In August, a week after the publication of an article about the main internet blockers in Turkmenistan, the website was subjected to a large-scale DDoS attack using infrastructure from the American company Rayobyte, which deals with online marketing and SEO but also provides proxy server services. The website was unsuccessfully attacked using a chain of Rayobyte proxy servers, presumably to make it difficult to trace their origins.